How to put yourself in a better position for promotion

* Expert tips for strategic moves in your career

Welcome to the New Year! If getting a big promotion is on your wish list for this year, take guidance from some IT professionals I spoke to for a Network World story about how they made the leap from the data center to the boardroom. They all said that getting varied experiences in how business is run put them in a better position for high-profile roles.

If your ambition is to get a C-level job, experts say that gaining experiences in different parts of the organization -  not just IT - would help you more than sticking it out where you are and hope that the executive management notices how good you are at meeting deadlines. By getting out and meeting managers of the business units, you'd better understand their challenges - and gain a good perspective of the role that IT plays in the organization, the experts say.

Some companies have policies that move ambitious employees around different parts of the organization so that they can soak in different experiences and become leaders with broader perspectives. If your company doesn't do this, or if organizing lunch meetings with individual business managers is impossible, think about putting on technology seminars for non-tech employees. This is what one CEO I spoke to used to do when he was CIO.

The seminars would provide ideal opportunities for you to learn about the needs of the business and for you to present how certain technologies could address business users' challenges. Such proactive efforts would also get you noticed by the powers-that-be.

Another proactive effort that could take you places is to create an application that your company could sell to customers. One former telecoms company CIO I spoke to said he won the COO role at another carrier because he had initiated and developed a product that his employer decided to market. Business execs often view IT as a service but if you can develop and push through an idea that would make money for the company, that's a huge plus point.

You should also try and get onboard special projects teams, particularly if they are high profile collaborations that may not immediately relate to IT. You would be able to get a broader picture of how a business operates and be part of a team charged with solving a strategic problem.

Even moving within the IT group would help you in the long run. Susan Cramm, founder of executive coaching firm Value Dance, who served as CIO at Taco Bell and CFO at Chevy's Mexican Restaurants, says to prepare for a CIO role, IT pros have to learn the business of IT. That is, to understand where IT fits in terms of providing a service to the business and how IT vendors and service providers relate to that. In addition, moving around the IT organization would give you a better understanding of the different needs of businesses - from the immediate services offered by the help desk, to the business solutions offered by the software applications department, to the secure infrastructure offered by the networking group.

Read my story for more tips on how to branch out beyond the data center (see editorial links below).

Learn more about this topic

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Network World, 12/20/04

Ways to break into business

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The changing face of CIOs

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