Career Advice: Positioning Yourself for Big Promotions

Chad Long, information systems division chief for the U.S. Coast Guard, also answers questions on shaping one's career, moving into security, and the comparable merits of certs in project management and business analysis.

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader Chad Long

Title: Information systems division chief

Company: U.S. Coast Guard, Elizabeth City, N.C.

Long is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com.

I've spent the last five years working for a big consulting outfit. Prior to that I was in network security. I began my career 12 years ago as a software developer. Ultimately I would like to be a CIO. What should my next step be?

I would suggest as a next step a team lead or management position in the IT field. CIOs must understand many elements of information technology, such as network security and software development, but it is paramount that they are able to lead people. When you become a team lead, you will get the opportunity to help people through difficult technical problems and communicate results to management. In a management position, you will master the art of setting performance goals for your teams, presenting results to senior leadership and resolving personnel issues. Managers who are able to produce results and have a strategic view to problem-solving usually compete well for senior positions in the organization that will ultimately lead you to a CIO position.

I've been in desktop support for a couple of years, since earning my BS. I've lately developed an interest in security. What should my first steps be to make this move?

It is often difficult to move from one area of the organization to the other without experience. If I was in your position, I would attack the challenge on two fronts: work experience and education. From the work experience side, I would talk to my supervisor about potentially completing some cross-training with the information security branch in your organization. If they have heavy workload periods, I would do my best to make myself available to the security team, even if this was in a volunteer capability. From an education perspective, I would look into the Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP) certificate. While learning the certificate material and building up your work experience, you make yourself more competitive for an open security positions in your organization.

I've been a system analyst for four years and now am considering pursuing certifications in project management and business analysis. Does this seem like a reasonable course to take?

I believe that certifications in project management and business analysis are very different career paths. Getting your PMP, a common project management certification, will give you the skill set to organize complex projects with a focus on cost, schedule and performance. A different skill set is required for a business analysis certificate, which is much more about being a liaison between the stakeholders and the IT solution. If you are deciding between the two, I believe that the project management certification is much more valuable because it can potentially open up career opportunities outside the IT field. In general, your desire to pursue either certificate and continue your education will likely be a positive move for you professionally.

Read more about it careers in Computerworld's IT Careers Topic Center.

This story, "Career Advice: Positioning Yourself for Big Promotions" was originally published by Computerworld .

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