Career advice: The skills for 2010

Jessica Carroll

Title: Managing director of information technologies

Organization: United States Golf Association, Far Hills, N.J.

Carroll is this month’s Premier 100 IT Leader, answering questions about skills, leadership and sticking it out in IT. If you have a question you’d like to pose to one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to [email protected].

With the new year beginning, what skills do you think will be most valuable to acquire in 2010? Adaptability, an understanding of the evolving cloud environment, and the ability to listen to the needs, initiatives and obstacles across all areas of your organization will be key. To succeed in technology, you need to do more than understand the mission of your company; you need to understand where and when to apply emerging technologies to help drive forward the most critical goals. In 2010, it will be pivotal to lay the groundwork for long-term cloud strategies for your organization. Use of the cloud, as an offset to traditional data centers, will become a standard over the next few years. The question that each IT leader needs to answer is where this new business tool fits and how to adapt it to effectively enhance your company’s work processes.

What have been your best lessons on leadership? The best lesson was probably one of the most painful to learn: You cannot expect to be an IT leader by simply keeping the network running and your end users happy every day. The role of IT is far more intricate than that. It is significantly important to see your organization as part a much larger picture, with technology as the catalyst to move forward corporate initiatives. You have to see the long-term vision and be able to encourage the changes needed in order to implement these initiatives by working closely and, most significantly, working in step with all levels of staff companywide.

2009 was a rough year for me, with pay cuts and constant worry about layoffs. Thankfully, I’ve survived so far, but I sometimes wonder whether there might be a less stressful way to make a living. My problem is that I love technology. What keeps you going in IT day to day? I am motivated by the constant and ever-changing challenge of technology. While most of the time IT is indeed a stressful career, it has its intellectual satisfactions, and probably the greatest of those is anticipating problems before anyone can see them coming. Last year, the economic situation, in all of its awfulness, also afforded a chance for us to get creative. It forced us to think differently to solve problems more efficiently, and it opened everyone’s mind to trying new technologies. A great example of this at our organization was the need to cut travel costs to the bare minimum, and yet still provide rich outreach to all of our constituencies. Our IT group had already established use of the cloud as an interactive business tool, and with online services for live presentations and meetings, self-paced online education, and collaboration via Web portals, we were able to seamlessly answer the needs. It’s solving just these kinds of problems that make working in technology so rewarding.

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