IT: Your Friendly Neighborhood Strategic Business Partner

Posted on December 18, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Executive Job Search, Job Market Trends, Job Search Tips, Personal Branding | Tags: , |

strategic business partnerWe’ve been witnessing a major transition in the role of IT in most organizations from service provider (or resident “firefighter”) to strategic business partner for some time now. Or at least we have been witnessing a lot of “talk” about this transition.

The reality in many organizations, particularly smaller shops, might be more that IT is now strategic business partner AND service provider, which means that tech job candidates need to showcase both skill sets. (Here at ITtechExec, we have been encouraging our IT clients to understand that they aren’t just there to solve computing problems; they need to combine their tech knowledge with business vision.)

Nevertheless, the general consensus is that in 2014, IT as your “friendly” neighborhood strategic business partner will manifest itself through the use of all kinds of new and “hip” titles (let’s face it, the easiest way to look like you are making a transition is to change a job title!).

Here are some we have come across and that will ramp up throughout the new year:

  1. Business Intelligence Analyst: Now, this title isn’t exactly new, but it is generally new to the IT arena now that big data is driving focus on business intelligence.
  2. Director of IT Infrastructure: The idea behind this title is strategic visioning, advising CIOs (or whatever title they will be going by soon) on such things as the best networking and cloud-based technologies for your organization.
  3. Chief Knowledge Officer: Although there seems to be a lack of agreement on exactly what this role entails, generally speaking, it is a subject matter expert in the company’s industry that also has expertise in technology [you know, a little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing :-)].
  4. Technology Solutions Engineer: This title is the very essence of the transition in IT for this role is meant to look at all kinds of business problems and produce various options, using technology, to solve them.
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Does Your Career Hinge on Perception or Reality?

Posted on December 17, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Job Market Trends, Personal Branding, social media | Tags: , |

IT careerI was having a conversation with someone in the telecommunications field the other day, and she was telling me that she has a new director for her department. Within minutes of starting their first one-on-one meeting, the director quickly explained that his leadership style was based on perception over reality.

What he meant was that how a direct report was perceived by his or her staff/peers mattered more to him than the reality.

In other words, he went on to say, he didn’t really care if you thought you were good. He only cared whether others thought it too. He didn’t really care whether you just thought you were direct. He only cared whether your directness hurt someone else’s perception of you.

I’m not sure whether this is a new tool in the corporate leadership arsenal, or just unique to this dude, but it led to an interesting discussion about perception versus reality when it comes to our careers.

Does Your Career Hinge on Perception or Reality?

In the case of my telecom friend, her new boss was setting the ground rules. He wanted her to know that if he received a complaint about her management style from her staff or peers, he was going to believe it. And, essentially, it was up to her to fix it…even if the complaint was based more on the perception of one person or a couple of persons than on reality. (I have no idea what his plan is if some people say one thing about you and others disagree. I guess he will rank your reviews, much like Amazon and Google do. Congrats…you get 3 out of 5 stars!)

As a personal branding strategist, I think I “get” what he is saying. It is what a lot of social media/content marketing people are saying…you need people to like you (even if those people aren’t very good themselves)…because if they don’t like you, then you’re not good…even if you are. (If a tree falls in the forest, blah, blah, blah.)

Of course, after they say this, causing you to run all over the Internet begging for “likes” and “shares” so your Klout score will go up, they then say, “but just be yourself. Be authentic.” Isn’t it wonderful?

Can anyone say “it’s the confusing world of the 6th grade all over again?”

(When my telecom friend was telling me about this meeting with her new director, I did wonder whether this is how he parents his children: “If all the kids are saying you’re a loser, son, well, then that just must be true. It’s up to you to fix it.”)

In the case of this director, and apparently in the online personal branding world of today, perception is the reality.

Now, some might argue, that it has pretty much always been true. But with social media and the “branding” strategies being touted, it seems to be more acute.

Of course, my friend was a bit unsettled by this conversation (which I would assume was the new director’s point). [I really wished she had asked him whether this was the same standard by which she should judge him, but alas, she did not. :-)]

In his defense, he obviously cares a lot about “cultural fit” and is letting everyone know that he is placing that high on his list. And I’m guessing he picked up this strategy at some recent leadership conference, where it sounded so…smooth.

But, like most of these things, the truth comes out in the “reality” of the strategy in application, not in the “perception” of the theory.

It’s really nice to say that how a person is perceived by co-workers or across social media “says” something true about him or her. I mean, if a lot of people are saying it, then it must be true, right? (Yeah, kind of like how mob rule and mutinies are always “right” and “true.”) So, the argument goes, by being more sensitive to these perceptions, you are going to help create a better “culture” where people want to recommend you and work with you.

The problem, however, is that when these same directors and personal branding “experts” make these statements, they also somehow believe that the end result is going to be real, authentic.

In other words, the “experience” will be more authentic once everyone spends their every working second worrying about what everyone else thinks about them…er, what?

And of course, our businesses will thrive…our careers will soar…and we will just be so happy to work in a setting where perception is the reality. Right?

Hmmm. It is a pickle. But does it have to be?

Wouldn’t it be better to create a culture (corporate or otherwise) built on authentic, imperfect people who are considerate of other people’s perceptions of them but not consumed by them?

I mean, this way, you would really know whom you are working with? Results would matter more than likeability?

Yes, being recommendable or referable is a great thing, but do we only recommend people we like? I would much prefer people to recommend someone who is really good and can “show” it, not someone who goes around playing the perception game.

Sadly, however, most people like to play games.

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In 2014 Tech Job Market, Ignorance Is Not Bliss

Posted on December 10, 2013. Filed under: Career Management, Programming, Software Development, Technical Infographics | Tags: , , , |

ProgrammingIn my last couple posts, “Why Our Programming Knowledge Needs an Upgrade” and “Now That Techies Are Cool“, I have been emphasizing the need for basic understanding of programming that has quickly become  a requirement for all staff (tech and non-tech alike) at many tech companies. As I mentioned in those posts, you don’t necessarily need to become an advanced programmer, but you should be able to talk the talk. In other words, ignorance of what it takes for engineers and programmers to build the back end of a project by the sales team or marketing staff is no longer acceptable. For example, if a client asks how long a project build is going to take, it helps to understand something about the challenges involved in coding that type of project before you answer, and it helps to know what  makes your company tick…literally.

Getting Educated

With so many tools out there, finding resources to help you get better acquainted with the various programming languages should not be difficult. The infographic provided here by is a great example. Dabbling in Python would be a great place to start. Learning about APIs would be another.

Figure Out What Isn’t Working

Who knows…maybe brushing up on your knowledge of computer code will even help you on the personal branding/career management side. With the plethora of job openings in the tech industry, and a shortage of talent (aka “a shortage of talent that the companies want”), it pays to listen to what they are asking for, despite whether you have hands-on tech experience or not.

So fix the errors. Take a course. Learn the lingo. Speak Geek.

About Stephen—-

Stephen Van Vreede is not your average IT/technical résumé writer. He provides career strategy and concierge job search solutions for senior (15+ years) (ITtechExec) and up-and-coming (NoddlePlace) (5-15 years) tech and technical operations leaders. Stephen and his team focus on building simplified, targeted, and certain career move campaigns, be it an external search or an internal promotion. He is co-author of UNcommon with career development leader Brian Tracy (check out his exclusive offer). Contact Stephen directly at or send him an invite at To see whether Stephen and his team are a good fit for you, take their free (and anonymous) 1-minute compatibility quiz, Is the ITtechExec Approach a Good Match for You?

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