Career Counselor

Looking for executive IT career advice? Our resident experts answer your questions about senior level career advancement, change, education, strategy, and more.

Recent Answers: Question:

I recently obtained a position as a support unit manager. Eventually, I'd like to become a CIO. I have a degree in technology management, but Im unsure what my next course of action should be regarding my education. Should I obtain some type of certification or pursue an MBA in MIS? Do the market/corporations weigh certifications or master's degrees more heavily?

Answer:

Most people would tell you that MBAs are more valued than certifications. However, to move up the career ladder to CIO, depending how far away you are, there might be some certification courses that are helpful. That being said, there is no substitute for an MBA from a good school, although executive MBA programs have been growing in popularity. These are often condensed versions of MBAs and are becoming recognized as highly valuable.

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman Biography


Question:

Earlier this year I managed a team of 127 people with a budget of $10.8 million. Now, with a new "flattening" of the organization, I manage eight people and a budget one-tenth of what I managed in 2006. The senior management says this is "good" for my career. I don't believe it. Should I get out now or later?

Answer:

To be the most marketable you can be, you need to have direct experience managing a large staff as well as the ability to manage in a matrixed environment (which means managing people who do not report to you). Effectively managing matrixed environments involves building trust, creating a common vision and influencing people to move in a particular direction. I don't mean for this to sound like a cop-out, but only you can decide when it's time to move on, bearing in mind that you need to have both direct and matrixed management experience.

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman Biography


Question:

Currently I am pursuing a career in the civilian sector after spending seven years in the military as a communications officer. (I'm due to separate in six months.) I have had many high-visibility leadership positions in the military and have a very diverse background: I've held such jobs as a software engineer, help desk supervisor, and a director of technology for a 150-member unit. What is the best way to get into the civilian market and get what I am worth?

Answer:

I would try to target companies that do work with the government, which will see your military experience as an asset. Some management consulting firms such as EDS and CSC are good examples of private-sector companies that have big contracts with the government. Companies that sell products and services to the government, such as Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon, are also good bets. Those companies would more easily relate to your background and would value it more than others.

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman Biography


Question:

I have close to two years of IT experience and hold a bachelor's degree in computer engineering. I am planning to get an MBA. What concentration in MBA (marketing, information systems, e-commerce, etc.) should I pursue for a successful path to CIO?

Answer:

Concentrations in marketing, finance or information systems are all good options. I would pick an MBA program that has a good reputation for being well-rounded and that has professors with real-world business experience. Many programs have strong concentrations in specific areas, so be sure to find out what these concentrations are so that you can ensure you are getting the best program possible and one that suits your interests.

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman's biography


Question:

I am fairly new to the IT industry and have been working as an application developer for the past two years. I would eventually like to become a CIO and I would like to chart out my career path to that end. How do you suggest I pursue this goal? I am hoping that I can reach a CIO position within the next 12 to 13 years. How should I approach this next 12 to 13 years? Do I need more technical experience? Should I make a switch now to a business analyst role or something more strategic? Could you help me chart a career path according to the number of years you suggest I work in a given position (for instance, two years as a developer, two years as a business analyst or in a strategy role, two years as a project manager, three years in a management role, four years in a senior management role and then CIO)?

Answer:

While there is no set formula for what constitutes an ideal career path, most CIOs I know and have recruited have had approximately 15 to 20 years of IT experience. At least 10 of the 20 years have been somewhat technical, another 10 years have been focused on project management and departmental management, and within these 10 years, there has been a strong concentration in applications development and/or ERP planning and implementation. Todays CIOs tend to have had more business analyst and project management experience than they have had in infrastructure (e.g., network engineering, data center operations, capacity planning and IT security). There seems to be slightly more value placed on business knowledge and understanding business processes. One additional piece of the puzzle on becoming a CIO is to have an MBA from a good school. This is a great complement to an undergraduate degree that might be quantitative.

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman's biography


Question:

I am a 35-year-old senior IT manager with 16 years of experience in IT. I'm ready to take my career to the next level as a director or VP. My problem is that I look a lot younger than 35, and older executives on first impression view me as a youngster or a recent college grad. How can I confront this issue?

Answer:

The best way to confront this issue is to bring up the years of experience youve had early on in a conversation. This will help establish the fact that you have some seasoning. Your behavior and conversational skills will also need to support that you have some seasoning and depth of character that come from real-world experience. Another consideration is how you dress and carry yourself. If you want to look more mature, then you should mirror the style and look of executives who have another 10 years under their belts. The bottom line is, if you look and act the part, someone will likely give you the role.

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman's biography


Question:

I have been in IT management for 20-plus years and have spent the last 15 as the senior IT exec in three separate organizations. I have top-level experience in the manufacturing/distribution, higher education and, most recently, newspaper industries. I have devoted most of my time over the last few years to shrinking my staff and doing more with less. I am concerned that the last seven years I've spent working with older technologies and in a shrinking IT environment may not look good to potential employers. Is this a valid concern? In addition, my current employer has recently gone through a buyout and the local senior management has changed. Consequently, a flurry of my peers in other divisions have departed. I am concerned that I will be forced out as well.

Answer:

I believe your experience with shrinking IT environments, which includes reducing your staff, controlling your budget and doing more with less, is considered very normal for how CIOs are operating across the nation. Therefore, I do not think that your resume will be perceived as diminished or less impressive. It is important, however, that you be able to demonstrate that you were able to deliver services at a high level and satisfy your customers. The days of having large staffs and budgets are over, except for the top 500 companies in the world. Most IT shops are utilizing some form of strategic sourcing for services, thereby reducing the IT staff. With regard to having worked with older technologies, if you are a CIO-level person, the specific technologies used are not as important as the value you were able to provide with the tools that you had. Business people (hiring managers) are looking for bottom-line results and are less preoccupied with the specific ERP solution you picked.

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman's biography


Question:

I do not share the conventional wisdom that you must stay at your job for at least two years or more. I have been a very successful CIO. People recognize my talent and reputation and have actively recruited me to take on more challenging roles. My compensation and responsibilities have expanded in the process. What are your thoughts? Will this catch up with me one day?

Answer:

Most of my clients expect a new CIO will spend at least three to five years with them. Oftentimes, there is substantial restructuring or building that has to take place or merger and acquisition activity that requires planning and then a multi-phased implementation and integration plan. While you no doubt have gained valuable experience, the typical expectation by the hiring executives is for longer tenure. Perhaps there are situations or industries where the pace of change is very rapid and you can accomplish a lot within two years. However, for large, diverse, global companies, even planning and managing a successful enterprise-wide ERP implementation takes at least three years!

Posted On: March 15, 2007

Answer to your question provided by Beverly Lieberman, president of Halbrecht Lieberman Associates, Inc., an internationally recognized executive search firm based in Westport, Conn. that provides retained executive search services across multiple industries while specializing in information technology.

Beverly Lieberman's biography


Question:

I was just offered a VP of technology position for an online company. Prior to this I was at the director level. My new boss called me today to see if I had any questions. I want to make a good first impression—what types of questions should I ask?

Answer:

Some questions to ask include: 1) What are your boss key objectives? Knowing them will help you align your work with his/hers. 2) What is the most important goal/initiative you should work on in the next six months? 3) What things can you do to ensure you are successful? 4) Are there any barriers or political issues you need to be sensitive to? 5) How does your new boss like to manage? Does he/she like to have one-on-one meetings; does he/she like status reports, and if so, what form and format?

Posted On: February 7, 2007

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