The new IT survival guide: How to thrive after the recession

In the 'new normal,' businesses want more than tech skills from their hires; here are the changes IT pros should expect

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In the old IT, where marketing would see a business opportunity and HR would see a way to hire younger, hipper employees, IT would see security threats and threats to job security. Larry Miller, who has headed IT for large retailers and legal firms, saw this conflict firsthand: "Our marketers wanted to use social networking like Facebook and Twitter; IT was afraid of it." Although Miller has been an IT hand for more than two decades, he comes down on the side of the new technology. "IT shouldn't get in the way of business. It should build it," he says.

Such "old IT" conservatism is being challenged from the top, says Cisco's Sterns. "CEOs read about [new technology] in the inflight magazines. They hear that they can get results for an eighth the cost and they ask IT why they're not doing it," he says. Sterns was referring to cloud computing (which is both a form of "bring your own tech" and a form of outsourcing), but the CEOs are of course bombarded with news about iPhones, Twitter, and the like and thus want to know why their companies are being left behind.

The acceptance of adopting new, consumer-oriented technologies and supporting the heterogeneity of "bring your own tech" won't happen over night, particularly at very large enterprises, but it's a battle that "old IT" will lose in the long run.

The value of soft skills
Not everyone who succeeds in IT leadership will have a résumé like Intuit's Lee -- and hard-core technical skills remain critical in many positions. For example, "everyone wants to use virtualization," says Sean Dowling, manger of recruiting for Winter Wyman, a technology contracting firm "Also at a premium are UI skills and the ability to take mobile apps across hardware platforms," he says.

But senior executives like Adam Rice, vice president of Managed Security Services for Tata Communications, says when he hires for high-level jobs he's looking for the "soft skills" as well, such as risk management, compliance, and the intangible "business acumen."

Intangible? Maybe, but Intuit CEO Smith explains how he wants his IT mangers to think: "When something goes wrong, the purely technical person tells management that the network was down for four minutes. But the business-oriented person says the network was down and 55,000 customers couldn't reach us, and our call center was backed up for hours." That's the "new normal."

This article, "The new IT survival guide: How to thrive after the recession" was originally published by Follow the latest developments in tech careers at

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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