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The Grill: Maridan Harris, VP of IT at Philips North America

Mary K. Pratt | Jan. 15, 2013
Maridan Harris, vice president of IT at Philips North America, shares her ideas on how to build teams that enjoy work as much as she does.

Does that make people feel pigeonholed? We give a lot of opportunity for change and growth. People who want to move from one area to another can do that. When you're learning new skills, that's also a motivator to help you grow. And the more you get exposed to, the more you can decide what you want to work and focus on. But I don't think you can be everything to everyone. You have to learn how to do the things that are interesting to you and move up in that work. It doesn't mean you don't have breadth in your skills, but it does mean you have to have certain competencies.

You're in a multicultural, global organization with many layers. What skills are needed to be successful in moving across departmental levels? Open-mindedness is the biggest, and a willingness to learn. It's more attitude than anything else. You have to be able to put yourself out there, take a chance on something and be open to learning different things.

Can this be developed? You can't make anybody want to learn. But you can encourage it. You can be open to people making mistakes. We end every project with a lessons learned. You have to have the ability to make mistakes, learn from them and move on. Otherwise, you'll stifle all creativity.

What are the key skills an IT manager needs to be successful in this type of organization? You have to be someone who values the diversity and the creativity that comes from different viewpoints. You have to want a team that comes from different backgrounds, different places, [because] you want all these different ideas. And once you have that, you have to be open-minded. You have to listen, because each idea will lead to another.

How can IT workers aspiring to management cultivate these skills? It takes some risk. You have to decide you want to do it. You have to decide you're OK with putting yourself out there. It's like anything else: If you're not exposing yourself to some sort of risk, you're not exposing yourself to opportunity.


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