A-Teams of IT: How to build a crack strike force

Your mission, if you choose to accept it: Build a crack special ops team ready to tackle the toughest IT assignments

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Even then, every infrastructure grunt these days needs to be a little bit of everything: virtualization virtuoso, cloud connoisseur, mobility maven. The ability to wear multiple geek hats is essential, says Bob Cuneo, CIO of IT recruiters Eliassen Group.

"Within each technical discipline individuals must be multifaceted and dexterous in their ability to handle a wide range of assignments," says Cuneo. "For example, a network engineer must be able to handle architecture, as well as configure and manage switches, routers, firewalls, load balancers, WAN accelerators, spam, Web filter, proxy appliances, and other similar devices."

They also need to be experts at change management, says Joe Tait, director of IT at NMS Labs, a clinical toxicology lab, and a chapter board member of The Society for Information Management.

"The most important part of infrastructure revolves around change management," says Tait. "At NMS we mostly try to follow the core parts of ITIL. Someone once said 85 percent of the problems you encounter in technology result from someone making a change to something. You want someone who does things in a structured way, pays attention, and keeps careful logs."

IT A-Team personnel No. 5: Coding genius

Development demigods who can write a Perl script or hack JavaScript in their sleep are essential to any IT special-ops team -- bonus points if they can do it upside down while dangling from a helicopter.

Here the challenge is to find someone who mixes the requisite coding chops with a measure of humility, says Minco's Adriana Zona.

"You want the genius guys who aren't arrogant," she says. "They want to impress you, so they do in an hour what would take standard developers a week. But the most important thing is they don't challenge you. You don't even have to explain what you want or provide a document. They just complete the job."

Though extremely rare, the humble coding genius can be found via word of mouth, says Zona. She also weeds out the arrogant ones by asking prospective employees to rate their skills on a scale from 1 to 10.

"A good developer will never say 10," she says. "Technology changes so rapidly no one can possibly know everything. But the arrogant ones will. And a nonhumble developer will destroy your department."

If your strategy is to buy what you need rather than build it, you gotta have someone on the software side who knows what solutions are available and how they fit into the larger business needs, says Archibald.

"My bias is toward someone who understands basic database and software principles, can evaluate software, and works well with vendors," he says. "They need to be able to apply that software to a business problem and tie it back into the company's strategic architecture."

IT A-Team personnel No. 6: Usability wonk

No mission can be considered a success if it results in a fix nobody uses. Here, a usability wonk is key. After all, if you can't get people to use your in-house development projects, you might as well have invested that money in "MacGruber."

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