Eric Bloom is an author, trainer, speaker, coach and entrepreneur, with a focus on technical and leadership training in information technology. He says that while many techies may not need management training, many find it valuable to develop business skills to supplement their technology skills—and unlike technical skills, which can be quickly learned immediately before they’re needed, business skills and leadership skills need to be developed further in advance of when they’re needed.
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“Every class I teach … could all be changed to the same title, what Eric Bloom should have known in his twenties,” says Bloom. In college, as a student in a technical discipline, he was biased toward technical classes, and when he entered the workforce, he was biased toward technical roles.
And, like many technical professionals, he says his technical skills didn’t wholly prepare him with the skills to succeed as a manager.
“The power is in the training, the materials you’re learning and the skills and knowledge you’re gathering,” Bloom says of the Information Technology Management and Leadership Professional (ITMLP) certification developed by the Information Technology Management and Leadership Institute, which he founded and oversees as Executive Director. “The ITMLP teaches the business of IT.”
“We concentrate on those things that are special that an IT manager needs to know,” said Bloom, in addition to the business skills which are more typically covered by a business’s new manager training.
“If you’re an IT manager, you need to understand the business of IT and the management landscape. How do you drive innovation? How do you handle being a cost center manager?”
“It’s a base skill set for an IT manager to use directly, or to use with their peers to position themselves for success and upward mobility,” said Bloom.
Those taking the ITMLP certification are learning the mechanics of being a manager, said Bloom. On the other hand, the executive-level certification provides a stronger footing to move into executive management roles.
The Information Technology Management and Leadership Executive (ITMLE) certification, Bloom said, is “positioning people for anything in management.”
"You Can’t Just Be The Head Techie Anymore"
“I’ve said to CIOs of smaller organizations and to first-line managers that you can’t just be the head techie anymore,” said Bloom. “What you really want is a seat at the business table. If the first time you’re hearing about a project is when the business comes to you and says ‘let’s implement,’ you’ve missed the whole first part of the discussion.”
“As you move up the ranks, you become less hands-on and tactical, and more business and strategic. Everything you do, you have to think business first and technology second,” said Bloom.
Not Everybody Wants to Be CIO, Either
“There’s a lot of great techies who don’t even want to go on into management,” said Bloom. “Realistically, in most IT shops, your senior enterprise architect… they are in many cases worth as much or greater value than many of the VPs.” (Eric’s article on this in CIO about IT and technical fellowships is linked below under Additional Resources.)
Managing Content Delivery for Technical Learners
Technical learning is an “accelerant,” says Bloom, because so much of learning happens on the job, while doing the work. “For example, if I wanted someone to be learning Python, I might have them take a two-hour online Python class. But then, I’d put them in a live instructor-led class.”
“When you have a live instructor, it provides you a number of different types opportunities with the learner. A good instructor can answer questions about the technology. They’re not talking heads.”
“The instructor can jump around,” said Bloom, to introduce specific examples that are insightful and relevant to the individual learners, in a way that’s not possible in an asynchronous on-demand class.
Developing Management Skills is Its Own Challenge
IT and technical skills and management skills “come from different directions,” said Bloom. While technical skills are best trained “the day before they’re actually going to use it,” the same isn’t the case with management or business skills.
“Leadership skills, particularly for technologists, are a slower burn. The time to take the new manager training program is just before they come into management,” said Bloom. “Interpersonal skills [are] a much slower burn to internalize. You can’t take a class on influence on Friday and be an expert on implementing it on Monday.”
“Ultimately, if you move into the IT management ranks, when you’re first promoted to manager, not only are you at risk professionally, but so is everybody who reports to you. Because you’re in a job you don’t have a clue how to do—at least that was the case with me, because what happens usually is the best techie becomes the manager.”
“And as we know from sports, the best athlete isn’t necessarily a good coach.”
- 7 Ways to Foster IT Innovation – Eric Bloom at CIO.com
- IT Technical Fellowships: A New Path to the Top – Eric Bloom at CIO.com
- IT Management and Leadership Institute
- Information Technology Management and Leadership Professional (ITMLP) certification
- Information Technology Management and Leadership Executive (ITMLE) certification