Episteme

Mike's random thoughts and ramblings

The Talent Portfolio

A recent ComputerWorld Article on IT Leadership had this to say about advancing to a C-level IT position:

"While technology prowess is still important, it takes a back seat to leadership skills and solid business acumen... Many IT leaders still rise through the technology ranks, but the elevator doors now open exclusively for those who can effectively lead other people and who put business concerns first."

This skill diversity is something we have tried to instill in any of the people we have worked with, whether they are trying to manage their own careers or trying to hire a team. Unfortunately, it seems that one of the things that most people focus on is their technical skills - they think that having a strong set of technical skills is going to be enough to make them a leadership candidate. When talking to people who want to move forward in a technology career, the first instinct that they have is to work on getting a certification like the CISSP, CCNA, MCSE or something else. And when we see people trying to hire, they focus on the technical job description - "we need 6 years of Java programming experience", etc.

Unfortunately, that's a very limiting way of looking at it. Whether looking at my own career or looking to hire for a position, I have always viewed talent as a portfolio. And, as in stock investing, you want the portfolio to be tailored to the purpose - do you need growth, income, or stability?

In talent portfolios, I have always used the following model (another model was published in the May 2006 Harvard Business Review):

               - "Technical" Skill                - Integrated Thinking Skills                - Industry Knowledge                - Relationship Skills                - Company Specific Knowledge                - Weirdness Quotient

When considering a job, I always evaluate it in terms of the skill requirements in each of these areas. Note that "technical" skills aren't necessarily computer related - for example, in a marketing job, the "technical" skills are around designing campaigns, using marketing tools, copy writing, etc.

When you examine the needs of each of these for understanding either your next job or the hire that you're making, you will find that there are considerations that you haven't noticed - things you need to do in order to be successful that you would never have done when thinking only about the "technical" skills for the job.

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Michael Murray

Michael Murray