As technology advances throughout the business world, the demand rises for leaders who can leverage management and technical skills. To succeed, managers in the tech industry must possess a unique combination of broad technical expertise, business acumen, and the ability to lead groups of people toward a common goal.
Despite the economy’s turmoil during the last year or two, the long term outlook for technical leaders is good. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts technical leadership to be a fairly stable sector over the coming decade. In its Occupational Outlook Handbook for 2008-2009, the BLS forecasts 2 percent growth during the period from 2006 to 2016.
The current hiring state for this sector of the job market also shows little movement. The good news is there hasn’t been the rapid decline in positions seen in other segments. On the other hand, broad growth isn’t occurring, either. Some observers predict a rebound in hiring will begin in late 2009. Says one: "Most companies are holding their staffing levels as tight as they can, but recognize that to grow and move out of the recessionary period and into a more robust economic recovery, they’re going to need some additional staffing, and in tracking what our recruitersÂ¿ clients are indicating, that seems to be coming later this year."
Even in a stagnant hiring environment, a few sectors show promise. Healthcare, green/clean technologies, biomedical device manufacturing, and the energy industry are all areas that currently have the revenue and need for leaders with expertise in increasing the bottom line through the use of technology.
Precisely because of the current downturn, one role in particular has begun to enjoy increased demand: The latest Regional Trend Talk report from executive search firm CTPartners says CIOs with business savvy are coveted as corporations focus on driving greater efficiency by leveraging technology.
Roles and Career Paths
Positions in technical leadership are involved in creating and executing business strategy and tactics within a company. There can be many variations on the titles, but they generally break down into three levels: managers, directors and, at the top of the food chain, officers/vice presidents. Some of more common titles and positions within the high tech world include:
The IT manager oversees the team that implements and maintains a company’s infrastructure. In smaller companies, this position is a jack of all trades, and may do a lot of day-to-day systems and network administration work in addition to leading a small team. This role may also oversee the companyÂ¿s internal help desk.
Software development managers are experienced developers who guide and coach teams that create a company’s software products. They’re tasked with removing any roadblocks to their team’s success and managing the time and resources available to meet scheduled deadline for software delivery. Quality Assurance managers are accomplished test engineers who leads and coordinate the team of testers that validate the software produced by the development group.
Tech support/help desk managers guide the support team in quickly and effectively resolving user issues. These may originate internally, in the case of a help desk manager, or externally in the case of a tech support manager.
The IT director is responsible for all infrastructure, and usually reports to the CIO. In smaller companies, where there isnÂ¿t a CIO, he or she usually fills the same technical leadership need. This position usually has direct reports such as the IT manager and help desk manager.
The director of software/product development is responsible for coordinating the teams that create and update the software products a company produces. The position may report directly to the CIO, CTO, or VP of software/product development.
The director of technical support leads the teams that support businesses software products. He or she oversees the call center environment where tech support agents respond to incoming issues from end users. The position usually reports directly to the CIO.
Officers and Vice Presidents
Chief information officers oversee the IT organization of their company. They’re responsible for planning and maintaining both the physical and network infrastructure of the entire enterprise. Individuals who reach this level of responsibility usually have years of technical experience, and have risen through the ranks of IT.
The chief technical officer stands at the top of the product development organization, and is . responsible for planning and maintaining the products a software company produces, as well as researching and exploring emerging technologies. CTOs generally have risen through the product development organization, and often have an engineering background. This position is more often seen in high tech companies than in other sectors, such as manufacturing.
The vice president of software/product development oversees the development and maintenance of a software company’s products. The position directs and coordinates the activities of all software teams, with the development managers usually being direct reports.
Skills and Qualities
- Excellent written and oral communication
- Keen knowledge of business administration
- Deep technical knowledge
- Leadership and team building skills