To keep informed, Caldwell reads industry publications and websites, attends conferences, networks with friends and colleagues, and participates in gatherings of IT trade and professional groups. "Being more aware and seeking to know where the market is and what companies are doing and what the trends are in the industry all drives back to help a person take charge of their own career," he says. "If you know what's happening today and know what will happen in the future, you can start planning out what training you'll need."
At Jacobs Engineering, IT staffers can join in regular monthly project reviews that are conducted on all active programs. "We talk about risks, requirements [and] stakeholders, and we opened up these project reviews to anybody in IT who wants to learn about that project," Carmody says. IT pros everywhere should look around their own organizations for similar opportunities.
Manage Your Skills Portfolio
One of the hallmarks of the organizations that Computerworld recognizes as Best Places to Work in IT, like Jacobs Engineering and BNSF Railway, is that they offer IT workers a variety of opportunities to broaden and deepen their skills through training programs, tuition reimbursement plans and mentoring arrangements. But such initiatives might be the exception rather than the rule; many IT employees say they are on their own when it comes to training to acquire new skills.
It's no secret that most corporate training budgets have been declining in recent years. But at the same time, technology is changing more rapidly than ever before. "It's just understood that every year you have to take up a new skill," says Johnson County Transit's Caldwell. "You never stop learning until you're dead."
Caldwell has paid for most of his own training, which includes multiple certifications. "The training money just isn't there with companies. It's really up to the individual to decide what they want to do with their career and how to drive it. You can't expect the organization to provide that career training," he says. To fill that gap, he has bought books, taken online training courses and networked with colleagues to learn new skills.
Another option is to find a mentor.
"Everyone seems to underestimate the need for a coach and mentor. You need one, both internally and externally," says Hamilton of Quicken Loans. "If I had to do it over, I would focus on that a lot more."