Networking with peers isn't a science -- there is no right or wrong way -- but IT leaders who commit to fostering their networks of coworkers and colleagues online can benefit in myriad ways. Technology and social media will never replace face-to-face conversations. However, a well-built digital network of intelligent and influential peers can be invaluable for IT leaders who need to stay informed and connected with the issues and individuals that are key to their professional endeavors.
There's is no single, go-to network for CIOs and IT leaders, though LinkedIn is a popular option. Facebook may be the preferred place to connect for some CIOs because they're already logging in to the world's largest social network every day for personal interaction, while others may gravitate to smaller and more goal-oriented communities. Ultimately, technology professionals need to determine which sites work best for them, and then form their own habits and objectives.
Keys to strong peer networks
Diversity of thought and experience are the most important aspects of a professional network, according to Angela Yochem, CIO of logistics and transportation company BDP International. Yochem's network includes a variety of different colleagues, such as corporate executives, technologists, designers, board members, strategists, academics, entrepreneurs, writers and analysts. Yochem also says a well fostered and diverse network of peers helps her manage her career.
"My network is yet another window or lens through which to view the world," Yochem says. "The observations and engagements of people in my network enrich my perspective of events, and with that enhanced perspective I am more valuable to my business and my colleagues."
Jim Edmunds, IT director with civil construction and materials company Allan Myers, says professionals have to be social to foster a strong peer networks and reap the most rewards. Edmunds particularly values in-person conversations at various industry events, but he pays attention to what his peers are up to on various social media websites, as well. "You never know what interesting things you might learn from the people you meet and what they are up to."
Network with IT thought leaders and gauge the competition
Edmunds's networking goals are to make connections with thought leaders, validate career directions and identify his and his IT team's place in relation to the people and companies on the leading tech edge. "The connections you make help contribute to making an informed determination of your pace and place in regards to implementation of technology."
To keep his network organized and suited for his professional goals, Edmunds breaks peer groups into two major categories: software or technology, and role-specific events. Edmunds and other IT leaders connect on common ground around technology or software, but he also sees opportunity in the ability to share ideas and validate strategic direction. His network of peers from IT-related events is designed to help him connect and share ideas with a broad selection of different types of people from around the tech world.
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