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The road to success: Tech leaders tell all

Paul Heltzel | March 29, 2016
To get to the top of the org chart, you'll need more than basic dev skills. Today's head honchos offer their wisdom on getting ahead

“Every individual is different,” says Gina Murphy, COO of TriCore Solutions. “Take advantage of on-the-job training, know what is being offered by universities, user groups, associations, and partners in your industry and leverage a vast array of learning opportunities. To reach the highest levels of management, leaders need to have experience with project plans and project management, the ability to prepare and manage budgets, to provide feedback to employees and interact with customers and prospects at all levels of the organization. Without a doubt you get exposure and experience on the job.”

Jeff Basso, director of SAP Fieldglass, SAP
“The technology industry re-creates itself every 18 months, so ongoing education is critical.” -- Jeff Basso, director of SAP Fieldglass, SAP

And while an MBA might not be necessary, at least one of our experts highly recommends finishing your undergraduate work. “From there, my best advice for those working in technology is to join user groups within your business industry,” says Jeff Basso, director of SAP Fieldglass. “Doing so will allow you stay up to date on trends, new strategies, and players in the field. The technology industry re-creates itself every 18 months, so ongoing education is critical.”

Like Basso, Joan Wrabetz, CTO of Quali, says academic work will help teach you how to keep learning.

“For me, my MBA was very helpful,” Wrabetz says. “The change in my way of thinking was pretty revolutionary. Engineers are taught to solve problems in a very particular way. This way of solving problems may not be the best way to approach business problems. Seeing the world from a nonengineering perspective was instrumental for me in learning how to be a manager and leader.”

Swimming with sharks

As you move up the ladder, you may wonder if you’re adequately prepared to deal with increasingly challenging office politics. Understanding how different people operate -- what they’re looking for and how to relate to them -- as you manage down and up is a skill that can be learned.

Joan Wrabetz, CTO, Qualijoan
“Seeing the world from a nonengineering perspective was instrumental for me in learning how to be a manager and leader.” -- Joan Wrabetz, CTO, Quali

“I’ve never been a very good politician, so I’ve had to really pay close attention to office dynamics and in particular, to other leaders who were much better than me at managing them,” says Axway’s Banks. “You can develop these skills by deliberately putting yourself in tough situations and asking to work on the hairiest projects. Throughout my career, I’ve decided to be fearless in my professional choices, and it’s always paid off even when it was extremely challenging and highly political -- whether it was taking over a stalled product line earlier in my career, building my first sales team at a fledgling cloud startup, or re-energizing dinosaur brands at large Fortune 500 companies. I’d advise anyone to try the path less traveled. They’ll often find a boot camp on office politics.”

 

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