Kara Freeman, CIO of the American Council on Education, outlines the IT career journey to the C-suite. [Titled "Think Like a Leader" in the print edition.]
Associations Now: How can someone in a mid-level IT position make the move to senior management?
Freeman: One of the first things I would suggest is that they first have a strong foundation in their technical skills, because that's what launches you. You need to ensure that you're doing your own job well before you're thinking of moving. And then as you move up and you have a broader perspective on things, it becomes important to focus on what some people call the soft skills.
What are some examples of those skills?
You have to be able to explain what you need from a budget perspective to the others around the table as you're having strategic conversations on where technology needs to go in your organization. You must be able to explain the very technical things to folks who may not be as technical as you.
When should someone start thinking about a move into a leadership role?
You can be a leader at any level in an organization. If you focus on it from that angle—that no matter what role you're currently in, you can be a leader in that particular organization in that particular role—you start to take on a different perspective on things. You begin to communicate or interact with others in a different way when you start to see yourself as a leader.