Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader: Jim Fortner
The Procter & Gamble vice president answers questions about training on the cheap and giving input to a nontechnical boss.
The company I work for used to be very generous about training, but it has cut back severely. I can’t do it on my own, but I don’t want to be left behind in skills. What can I do? It is critical that you continue to invest in yourself. Do not let your company’s lack of funds be a barrier to advancing your career.
There are four types of training that do not cost much. First, many of the offerings on the Web present opportunities for real skills-building. The second option is distance learning, which is also generally accomplished through the computer. Third, local communities of shared interest can provide relevant training in technology, project management and even leadership. Finally, you can learn on the job by joining up with others outside your team so you can develop broader points of view. I have learned a lot over the years taking on different assignments and meeting with all kinds of people outside of my space.
Certifications are also important. They are visible signs that you are a learning employee, which every employer wants. For example, a certification in project management is a great asset.
The IT industry is alive and well in the U.S. The Digital Age is in the early stages, and having employees who have strong enterprise skills and who like to learn is invaluable.
I’m pretty much a tech guy. I wouldn’t expect to be anyone’s choice for a management role — too head-down, results-oriented. Still, I sometimes have what I consider to be good ideas for the larger organization. My manager (who is far less of a tech guy) hasn’t shown much interest in my input. I find that pretty irritating. What can I do about this? Let me commend your deep technical skills. Companies need IT leaders who are both technically and organizationally savvy.
Labeling yourself as technical tells others that you are not someone to involve in managerial and business issues. Begin professing that your passion is to improve business results. Next, build a relationship with your manager. As you get to know each other, you will appreciate each other’s diverse sets of skills, and he may open up and listen to your ideas. Finally, present him with ideas that are carefully thought through and that clearly show how he can drive further business value. Managers are not stupid; they want to look good, and they appreciate employees who make them look good.
If you ever pit yourself against your manager, you will lose. Since your manager is not much of a tech guy, you will need to talk less technology and more business benefits and business processes.