Career Advice: Making IT More Influential in the Business

AT&T CIO Thaddeus Arroyo answers questions on becoming am IT leader and acquiring skills for the future.

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Thaddeus Arroyo Title: CIO

Company: AT&T

Arroyo 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 think IT should be more influential in the business, but I don't know how to do that. Any ideas?

Innovation and technology go hand-in-hand, and innovation is essential to business growth. So to me, driving high-value innovation starts with a business-aligned technology focus. Operating at the center of their companies, IT organizations are often in an ideal position, with tremendous visibility into every line of business and every operating unit. This positions IT professionals to be influential partners who can recognize capabilities and who have keen insight into new ways to improve the customer experience and enhance or drive innovative market offerings. Utilize your unique set of capabilities, perspective and vision into the art of the possible to advance business-aligned innovation.

I have always been considered a natural leader, going back to my earliest school days. I'm in IT now, and pretty green. What technologies and other skills should I concentrate on to move toward a leadership role as my career progresses?

I was very fortunate early in my career to take on multiple technology and business leadership roles that exposed me to growth-oriented, innovative and transformative opportunities. These experiences equipped me with a broad perspective across many technology and business operation disciplines and also took me in the right direction in terms of requisite skills development.

If you aspire to a leadership role, I encourage you to take risks and step into uncomfortable positions, since those are the ones that produce the greatest growth and rewards. Move into roles that require you to stretch your knowledge and skills. Learn from both good and bad decisions and experiences, since these are valuable teaching opportunities. Take time to invest in your personal and professional growth. Stay current on technological trends and innovation in your industry. You may not see the results immediately, but personal development and direct experience ultimately determine the individuals that we become.

What are employers looking for in technical professionals these days? What specific skills, degrees and certifications are in most demand?

Degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are in high demand. When it comes to specific skills, business acumen is rising in importance, as the line between technology and business continues to blur.

But just as important for the next generation will be the skills to assemble services (versus building new services from the ground up) in relevant domains of the future, including cloud computing, cybersecurity, big data, adaptive application design, mobile computing, and iterative software development. Those who know how to utilize consumable "as a service" technologies to quickly assemble, iterate on, expand, and combine in ways that enhance market offerings or transform business processes will ultimately enjoy great demand. Along the way, many traditional IT roles like "software architect" and "IT analyst" will transform into roles like "cloud integration specialist" and "information insight enabler."

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

This story, "Career Advice: Making IT More Influential in the Business" was originally published by Computerworld.

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