Whatever your IT background or skillset, your work as a technical manager or specialist will never be just about technology.
Sure, your expertise in IT is invaluable, but often, what really sets you apart in this industry is versatility. That means a truly successful IT professional will possess a range of diverse skills, including those not directly related to IT. Among other things, an IT professional should be business-savvy, adept with technology, a strong communicator and a good leader.
Yes, it's a lot. That's why it's important to refresh your skills and develop new ones through ongoing professional development.
Luckily, professional development courses are plentiful. And if you work in a large company, courses may be offered internally, by your workplace. Failing that, many employers regard professional development as important enough that they're willing to pay for an employee's extra courses or training.
Not sure what to take? The following are key skills that every IT professional would benefit from developing or brushing up on:
Leadership and Management
For most of us, understanding how to effectively work with others and manage a team isn't second nature. Luckily, courses in leadership and management are abundant, and can prove extremely handy to an IT professional.
For one thing, it's quite common in the sector for individuals to be promoted into managerial roles without leadership training. Taking matters into your own hands and acquiring some formal training in team-leading, delegation, motivation, influence, coaching etc. will likely serve you as you progress in your field.
Further, IT professionals need to be able to effectively manage people, to maintain IT excellence without having to do all the work yourself.
I recommend courses that focus on personality type and working style, like the Myers Briggs personality assessment indicator or the Strength Deployment Inventory™.
In IT you will have customers in different areas of business who will likely be less detail-oriented than you (because IT professionals tend to be!) and you need to learn to present information in a way they can understand.
Understanding personality theory and, for management especially, knowing how to recognise and draw out people's strengths can both earn you respect and ensure greater efficiency for your team.
Love or hate it, technology is increasingly important, and likely plays a substantial role in your work. Learning to use different software, programmes and tools, and staying up to date with new developments will keep you current and competitive.
Particularly for the luddites among us, intensive or crash courses are often the best way to go in terms of getting a properly in-depth understanding of a computer system or tool.
And if you are technologically-inclined, consider the potential leg-up you could have by developing a niche in IT and management/leadership - something of a rarity.
Sales, marketing, operations
The clients you serve as an IT professional will inevitably be diverse, so staying up on all facets of business will prepare you to help any client in any industry.
Basically, by understanding the nuts and bolts of things like sales, marketing, manufacturing and the supply chain, you'll be able to provide better overall support.
Consider, then, taking a course on sales management, market research or supply and demand strategy.
Process/continuous improvement methodologies
Financial results are produced by business processes, so if you understand how to measure or improve processes, it adds tremendous value to your clients.
A course in a methodology like Six Sigma will stand you in good stead.
Supplementary courses are a great way to complement your existing skills or learn new ones.
If you don't have much spare time, or if your employer isn't willing to foot the bill for training, you can always check out online resources like webinars and industry conferences. Or, pick up books on relevant skills and squeeze in some extracurricular reading.
While all of this extra learning and professional development might seem like arduous extra work in the short-term, the perspective and qualifications you will gain could very well get you more business in the long-run.
So go forth and learn!
Jennie Marshall is a double award winning Learning Professional who joined QA in 2011 as a Learning Specialist in our Management, Leadership and Personal Effectiveness team. In her career she has enjoyed a variety of roles within different industries including Estate Agency, Imports and Exports, Financial Services, Call Centres, Utilities and Staff Unions.
In January 2014 she moved to a new role within the same department, as Head of Courseware Development where she was responsible for the overall quality, design, development, administration and coordination of our market leading courseware.
In January 2016 she then moved to a new role of Learning Consultant in the same team, where she now leads the design and delivery of innovative learning programmes linked to business / individual performance improvement for our customers.
She is a respect and trusted advisor within the team, and known for her experienced and dedicated approach to learning and development, with expertise including management, leadership and talent and training and facilitation developed within a variety of environments. Jennie has also supported our customers as a Product Owner on a secondment basis, using Agile methodologies to manage and deliver new learning products to their business. Her experienced was recognised in December 2018 when Jennie was awarded Chartered Manager (CMgr) status.
In her role she acts as lead consultant for a number of large clients and remains frequently involved with the development of various initiatives and programmes from graduate programmes to modular skills development journeys.
Alongside developing great learning products for clients, Jennie also works on refreshing the Management, Leadership and Personal Effectiveness curriculum and is a regular blog contributor on QA.com.
When not absorbed in course development, Jennie can usually be found in her garden, or involved in various pursuits through the Women’s Institute, where she is a Communications Secretary. She also features frequently on her local BBC radio station as a newspaper reviewer.
More articles by Jennie
Is it time we turned leadership on its head?
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick... Is Jack therefore an Agile leader?
Is an experienced adviser what you need in 2017?
Don't commit career suicide
Is this the year to steer your leader ‘ship’ on to a new course?
Technical skills will get you an interview, but effective soft skills will get you the promotion
Unconferences: Why not let 2018 be the year you find a new way to connect, learn and share in your business
Flex your mental muscles
Learning for life