by CIO Staff

Six Quick Projects for IT Career Advancement

Feb 11, 20087 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Want to move ahead? These simple tips will help you maximize your ROI on everything from management to hiring practices to job changes and more.

While researching 20 Things You Can Do In 20 Minutes to Be More Successful at Work, our staff found so many good ideas that we went over the number we set for ourselves.

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20 Things You Can Do In 20 Minutes to Be More Successful

So here are six more things you can do in just 20 minutes that can have a meaningful, positive effect on your IT organization, your career, your technology knowledge, your management skills and your relationship with the business.

In Praise of Praise

“IT has a lot of risky projects and activities, and many don’t go as well as planned,” says KeyBank CIO Steve Yates.

For many IT executives, that’s (unfortunately) an understatement. IT staffers are usually the first to hear about failures and the last to get credit for success. But CIOs can change that. “People work to be appreciated, not just paid,” says Yates. Expressing your appreciation isn’t about taking employees out to lunch or giving them bonuses (although the stomach and wallet are tried and true ways to employees’ hearts), but honesty from the boss, leavened with compassion, is the coin of the realm when it comes to rewarding reports. Yates suggests taking 20 minutes every Monday morning or Friday afternoon to write down your staff’s accomplishments—or lack thereof—from the last week. Then walk over and, face to face, thank the people who made good things happen or try to figure out why they did not.

“People want to know what’s happening and why,” Yates says. “Good performance feedback is a necessity.” Yates says people simply do not do their best when working for bosses they don’t trust.

Al Sacco

The Upside of Vanity

Eighty-three percent of executive recruiters use search engines to learn about candidates, according to an ExecuNet survey. Forty-three percent of recruiters have eliminated candidates for jobs based on information they found about the candidates online. So it behooves you to conduct regular searches of your full name on the Web to find out what if anything is being said about you, say Kirsten Dixson and William Arruda, personal branding consultants and authors of Career Distinction: Stand Out by Building Your Brand.

If you find negative information, Dixson and Arruda recommend trying to have it cleaned up or removed. “If you can’t,” they say, “add your own positive content alongside it and let readers draw their own conclusions.”

And while you’re messing about online, establish a profile on a social networking site. Sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Ziggs are excellent ways to create or expand one’s online identity and network at the same time, say Dixson and Arruda. “To get the most out of these sites, make sure your content is consistent across all of your profiles and matches your résumé,” they say.

Meridith Levinson

What Am I Doing Here?

Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog advises professionals on getting ahead in the corporate world with unusual candor. (One of her more popular posts is “Make life more stable with more frequent job changes.”)

Here’s Trunk’s advice for 20 minutes’ worth of activities to advance your career:

  • Decide what’s most important to succeeding in your job—and toss the rest. “If you feel like you’re being pulled in many directions, you haven’t figured out the most important people to pay attention to. You have to decide who gets your attention and how that fits into your priorities,” Trunk says.
  • Once you have your priorities set and clearly stated, let others know what they are, without apology. While a VP of sales has one job—sell—a CIO may have many masters spread across an organization, all seeking different things. That dynamic makes it all the more important to establish your agenda and make it known. “You have to be able to say, ‘I didn’t return your call because it’s not a priority,'” says Trunk. “‘Call another department.'”
  • Trunk believes in the look-honestly-in-the-mirror school of career coaching. Not everyone is meant to be an astronaut, or CIO or CEO. By this stage in your career, you’ve taken a personality test or two (think Myers-Briggs) to help you understand whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, a details person or a visionary. This is important when you feel you have hit a wall in your pursuit of advancement.

So assess your strengths, not just in performance, but in your character. Be honest. “The most valuable thing we do is to find work suited to our personality,” says Trunk.

Michael Goldberg

Encrypt Now or Regret Later!

The next time one of your employees or contractors loses a notebook PC and it turns into a horrific data breach and PR nightmare, what are you going to say to your CEO when he asks why you hadn’t encrypted the company’s notebooks? That won’t be fun, will it? So start investigating today’s more manageable and affordable encryption options.

“A lost PC without encryption is truly getting caught with your pants down,” says Forrester Research senior analyst Natalie Lambert. “However, you would be surprised at the number of businesses that have not encrypted their mobile devices.”

Price used to be a concern, but encryption technology has become practically a commodity item, Lambert says. For advice from CIOs who’ve already encrypted their mobile fleets, see “How to Lock Up Laptop Security.”

Laurianne McLaughlin

Open Source Your Management Meetings

You want your vendor to help you innovate and it’s just not happening. Maybe the problem is on your end.

Take a look at the invitation list for your IT management meeting. If all the e-mail addresses on the list have the same domain as yours, ask yourself: What’s the big secret? Why are you so insular?

If you want innovation, you want your vendors to be your partners. So open up.

Open up your e-mail meeting scheduler and add a key individual from each of your most important vendors. That will only take a minute or two. Use the rest of the 20 minutes to brainstorm other ways you can start to treat your vendors as if they were on your own team. “Invite them to an annual brainstorming session to hear ideas on how to radically improve things,” suggests P.V. Kannan, CEO of business process outsourcing provider 24/7 Customer.

If the vendors don’t accept your invitation, you’ll still have gleaned some very valuable information: Maybe it’s time to shop around for new partners.

Stephanie Overby

Buy the Pizza

Everyone knows the best way to get a programmer’s attention is to feed him. To encourage better communication and skill sharing among the development staff, set up a “lunch and learn” meeting.

Says Darrel Damon, a software QA consultant, “Invite a selected group of individuals into a conference room, have pizza or subs or whatever, and have a guest speaker talk about a hot topic.” This doesn’t need to be a lecture. Just a 20-minute Q&A session on a hot topic with presenter who’s a subject matter expert (SME).

Another variation on that theme, says Damon, is for the entire group to come up with a schedule. “Everyone is an SME on some subject,” he points out. Everyone gets a turn as speaker, bringing the group up to speed on a relevant issue, such as, “How to properly document a bug.”

Plus, adds QA specialist Brent Paine, if you buy the team pizza, “You’re sure to get them to stay at least an hour longer. Therefore, you’ve actually gained 1x-p (x being the number of workers minus p, the cost of pizza).” Depend on a QA guy to define metrics for success!

Esther Schindler