Four Secrets to Becoming a Rising IT Star

To make sure your climb up the career ladder goes fast and easy, you'll need to earn the trust of your colleagues and demonstrate your promotability.

By Diann Daniel
Thu, April 24, 2008

CIO — Success is not easy or simple. Even in the best of times, workplaces are fraught with changing conditions, political jockeying and limited room for advancement. And these are not the best times.

Yet some IT staff manage to get noticed—and in all the right ways. What are the secrets of their success? How do some IT leaders manage to shine?

Beyond the basics—energy, enthusiasm, passion for the work—four important behaviors can help catapult you to success, say CIOs and executive recruiters.

Be good to your end users.

First things first: If you want to get ahead, don't make people feel stupid. This advice can be especially important for IT folks, whose technical expertise can create a danger of doing just that.

"People outside of IT won't necessarily understand tech speak, so you need to present information in a manner so they understand technology and what it provides to the company," says John Murphy, CIO of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi, Miss. Murphy's ability to do so has helped him in the executive suite with other C-level colleagues. "I've been able to translate technical information to them in the manner they can understand and assimilate and in a way that shows the benefits to the big picture," he says.

Randy Jackson, CIO of the city of Surprise, Arizona
Randy Jackson, CIO of the city Surprise, Ariz., says understanding how techology fits into users' lives is key to creating innovative IT solutions.

Thinking hard about how to help someone else understand what you're saying may seem obvious for important presentations; doing it day in and day out may prove more challenging. But don't dismiss those small, cumulative interactions. "You develop an opinion about people over time," says Gerard McNamara, Managing Partner at Heidrick and Struggles, an executive recruitment firm. In those daily interactions lie many opportunities for you to distinguish yourself by your energy, enthusiasm, and likability. This way, when a more senior job opens up, the support to put you in the position is there—not just from your boss, but also from other senior leaders. "We're all human," says McNamara. "People pick people they like."

To make sure your likability quotient is high, focus on being open-minded, says Randy Jackson, CIO of the city of Surprise, Ariz. Make it a point to really listen to what someone is saying and process what you're hearing. Doing so conveys respect, and you also are likely to develop solutions you wouldn't have otherwise.

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