A Path To Leadership: Career Advice for the Journey [video]

min read

Higher education IT leaders give some helpful tips on advancing your career.

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Diane Butler: If I was giving advice to someone that was in the first one to five years of their career, I would tell them they need to find coaches, they need to find mentors, and they need to find sponsors, and these are three different types of people. A coach is someone that you can call up, and they're gonna help you get through a task. I have a coach, and recently I was needing some help with something I was trying to do at Rice, and so, usually it's on how to handle a problem or something, and so a coach is going to tell you what to do to get through that, so it's kinda, all right, this is what you need to do, and then you probably don't talk to the coach again until maybe you need that opportunity to be coached through another situation. A mentor is very different in the fact that a mentor is going to be a long-term, usually lasting, relationship that you build over time. You need lots of mentors, I mean, you need them in your personal life as well as your professional life, and I always say look for people that you admire. You'll be surprised at how many people that are perhaps further along in their careers that are happy to mentor you. Don't be afraid to find someone that you admire and ask them to be a mentor for you, especially if it's a position that you actually want to be, a CIO, or a chief academic technology specialist or whatever, but don't be afraid to ask someone to be a mentor. But if you're going to be, you need to be respectful of their time and you need to say, "Look, I would really love for you to mentor me, would you be willing to talk to me once a month, would you be willing to talk to me twice a year?" In other words, set the ground rules and then respect it, don't just assume that the mentor is gonna be happy that you can call them any time you need a mentor, because that's a little too much of someone's time. But if you set the ground rules and then you respect those ground rules, then there's hardly anybody out there that is not happy to mentor someone else. I have mentors and I'm also a mentor to several people. And then the last one, as several of us the other day we were actually talking about this, I can't remember where she read an article but she was talking about sponsors, and I'd never thought about it before but especially women in IT, there's not enough sponsors, and a sponsor is someone who's actually going to help you get to that next level, and so they're going to pass on those assignments to you or they're going to set you up and recommend you for things so that you actually can get to that next level. And I'd have to say that my current CIO actually is a really good sponsor, she knows I have a goal to be a CIO and so she's actually put some opportunities in front of me to get exposure to that at that particular level.

Allan Gyorke: Don't be afraid of running something that you haven't run before, so I remember at one point my previous boss, Cole Camplese, who's now the CIO at University of Chicago, we had this Teaching and Learning with Technology Symposium, and he was like I want to, you know, put this up at the next level, I want to make it bigger and better and everything. He said, "Allan, you're in charge of it," and I was like, I've never run a business before, "Okay, I'll do it." And, you know, I drew on a little bit of theater background that I had when I was in high school and said okay, how do we make this an event, like how do we get people excited about it? So, I just partnered with some people, and we had some crazy ideas, and we tried some things that we didn't know if they would work or not. But that's it. I mean, just pretend, pretend that you know what you're doing, fake it till you make it, but then also try to fill that in by reaching out to your network and finding some interesting people who actually do know what they're doing.

Stephanie Bulger: Don't play it safe. Take on a stretch goal, something that you think would be a little further reach for you. When my working with people, the people who would report to me, I would always give them stretch goals during their evaluation, and these were goals that they thought that they could not achieve, but I saw something in them that gave me the notion that they certainly could achieve that. These stretch goals help you develop skills, and they help you develop confidence, and I find that that's very, very important as people are developing, particularly in the first one to five years. I would also say to develop an expertise in an area. I find that developing an expertise is really critical to a profession, whether you move up in your profession or you stay where you are. I suggest writing about the expertise that you have selected: writing, speaking, publishing, networking, being part of the conversation in the area that you've chosen I think is very, very important. And I would also say in those first five years, follow up and follow through. I think that those are very, very important. I think it establishes your credibility in your profession and people can start to rely on you, and people will notice that as you develop in your skills and your abilities in those areas.

Carol Smith: Be that person who gets things done. Okay, so you need to know how to take challenges and take problems, deconstruct them, find a pathway, find a timeline, work with the team, and so being able to basically do things and execute on things and be known and become someone who can actually produce and produce outcomes is really important. Agility is about curiosity and it's about flexibility, and I think this is like, this very much relates to technology itself. I mean, technology changes, it's a cliché. Technology changes so rapidly, but technology changes because society changes it's because our students are changing, and in order for you as a leader in an IT field in higher education or anywhere, you have to be ready for the next thing and you have to be looking out past what you're doing right now to say, "What is the next thing, is it just coming at me or is it something I want to make?" And I think that curiosity and flexibility and being able to be nimble is very, very important for you to be most successful.

Brad Wheeler: Make yourself available. You know, show up for things where you can learn. Obviously, the common advice: network, be known, be a good, happy part of the team that draws people to you. When people exhibit those behaviors over time, generally nature takes its course and their careers advance.