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Tech careers: 3 ways to catch the wave

Beth Stackpole | April 9, 2013
Feeling left behind? Here's how to join the IT party in progress and be happier at work this year.

When AIG offered him a full-time position, he was quick to get on board. The good salary and generous benefits package were big draws, but what really sealed the deal were the chance to work with data center professionals around the globe and AIG's commitment to technology. "AIG places a huge degree of emphasis on IT and how it can be used to enhance the business," Scheible says.

In Jeff Fandl's experience, helping a business achieve its core objectives is key to long-term career happiness and success in IT. "When you start to get midlevel or senior in your career, you've got to get out from behind the desk and talk with business users," says Fandl, who in December 2012 took a job as director of IT infrastructure at Sanare, a maker of diabetes management products. "You need to understand what their pain points are and how you can enable them to solve their problems." Fandl says he previously did a stint at an IT outsourcing company, where he honed the client service and business skills that readied him for his next leap.

Refresh your skills -- again and again

Tech pros who want to take advantage of the IT upcycle need to identify any gaps in their skills and, if necessary, invest their own time and money in training to fill those gaps.

Fandl stays on top of hot IT issues and technologies by attending conferences and networking events. Jason Mathews, an IS manager at property management firm Keystone Management, attends online webinars and participates in online communities when he's off the clock. He sees learning as a continuous process. "This is one of those careers where the learning never stops or you'll be left behind," Mathews says.

Even if they aren't planning to jump ship, IT workers should look for opportunities to develop new skills within their own organizations, says Don Knepper, a veteran of more than 25 years at toy maker Tomy International. Knepper has held a host of back-end and front-end database administration roles at Tomy, and since 1997 he has been manager of information analysis -- an evolving role that allows him to pick up new skills all the time.

"We have a philosophy here of joint application development. The user community sees IT as a partner," Knepper explains. "Rather than telling us, 'This is what I need, go do the work,' they see us as providers of information and experts in how business processes work. I don't know if [a little extra money] in my paycheck would make me work any harder than getting a pat on the back from a co-worker in the business saying 'Thanks for helping me on that problem.'"


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