Career Advice: Grasping the Business

Starz Entertainment Vice president, IT Infrastructure & Operations Judy Batenburg answers questions on specializing in IT and becoming a leader.

Judy Batenburg, vice president, IT Infrastructure & Operations, at Starz Entertainment

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader Judy Batenburg

Title: Vice president, IT Infrastructure & Operations

Company: Starz Entertainment

Batenburg 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 am an IT manager who has been moved out into the business. I am now in daily contact with the people whose business activities I have always supported from a somewhat insulated position, and I am amazed at how little I understand about business itself. How can I quickly and effectively get myself up to speed?

First, congratulations on knowing what you don't know! That's the first step. I would suggest a multipronged approach. First, immediately start reading up on your industry. What are the trends, what forces are acting to change your industry, and what are the challenges? What is being said about your company and its challenges and opportunities? Next, take advantage of experts -- the ones you are working with right now, and/or ones in your network. Identify key approachable people in critical areas of the company and ask questions about how they see their role in the company -- what are their challenges? In general, people love to talk about what they do and the challenges they are facing. Offer to take someone to lunch in return for giving you a tutorial on the business. If applicable, identify conferences in your industry, and ask to attend. Identify someone within the business who can mentor you, and ask them for help.

After eight years in IT support and support management, I am not sure where to specialize. Any tips on the best area to get into right now?

The best place to start is to figure out what areas of IT excite and interest you. It doesn't matter if it's a great area of IT; if you aren't interested in it, you won't be happy. Talk to teammates and managers in other areas and find out what they do and if it sounds interesting. Some places to start are to look at industry trends -- big growth areas right now are social media, IT security, data management/big data, mobile and cloud. Take a look at job boards and see what skills are being advertised, or look at industry articles to see what skills they predict will be in demand over the next few years. Read what you can and talk to others. You will probably begin to gravitate towards something that really interests you.

I have always done everything I can to keep my skills up to date. I'm in my 30s now and interested in moving into more of a leadership role. What courses or training do you recommend for me?

Courses and training are great, but the best way to move into a leadership role is to take advantage of opportunities to show your leadership. These opportunities are usually all around you, but sometimes you don't notice them until you are ready. Volunteer to be the lead on a project or identify a project or function or service that needs to be done and is not getting done. Then do it. I hear people say, "When you give me the leadership position, I will be a leader." That's not how leadership works. When you show others that you are taking the initiative and showing leadership, then they will begin to think of you as a leader. If you are looking for help, there are some great books on leadership. I would recommend Colin Powell's It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.

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

This story, "Career Advice: Grasping the Business" was originally published by Computerworld .

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