Five technology skills for the global economy

Changing with the times demands acquiring skills spanning business barriers and cultural divides

IT pros hoping to climb the corporate ladder need to understand how technology integrates with core business functions such as finance, marketing, operations, and compliance issues. To get ahead in the emerging global economy, new expertise will also be needed. Here are five key skills to master.

Distance management:  If you think managing a team in the cube farm down the hall is a challenge, try doing it across 12 time zones. As teams become more virtual as well as global, IT managers will need to collaborate with colleagues in multiple locations, often working at different times of the day.

Independent thinking:  A geographically disparate workforce means more dispersed decision making. Lower-level managers must learn how to articulate a vision, communicate it to their teams, and figure out new ways to implement it, says Thomas Malone, author of The Future of Work: How the New Order of Business Will Shape Your Organization, Your Management Style and Your Life and occupant of the Patrick J. McGovern chair at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Creativity:  As mere technical know-how becomes a commodity, design and conceptualization skills rise in importance. "U.S. IT professionals need to constantly push the innovation and creativity envelope if they want to continue to lead the industry," says Yong Zhao, director of the U.S.-China Center for Research on Educational Excellence at Michigan State University.

Cultural sensitivity:  Do you measure objects in yards or meters, gallons or liters? If you ask co-workers in a meeting if they have questions, will anyone respond? Managers will need to understand how cultural differences affect communication and collaboration.

Language skills:  A familiarity with Chinese -- or any other foreign tongue -- may not be essential, but it's not a bad idea. Don't expect your vendors, your customers, or even your boss to speak flawless English.