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Keeping Up with the IT Exec Career Curve

By Pam Baker
May 13, 2011

You may be an IT manager or a member of the tech C suite, but unless you are genuinely conversant with today's tech trends, your career may not reach its full potential. Pam Baker overviews some relevant techniques.

Despite the changing role of CIO, one thing remains the same: the CIO is expected to be the king (or queen) of tech knowledge. It just will not do to be ignorant about a new technology the millennials are bringing to work, or slow to address the perennial "adopt or not to adopt" question in the C-Suite. Being able to champion one tech over another and achieve measurable, desirable results is a direct route to promotion.

It pays to stay ahead of the curve, but how, short of peering into a crystal ball, can you successfully predict what is coming next in the ever-changing fast-paced world of technology?

One of the surest ways to detect what technologies are coming next is to go directly to the R&D hubs. Regular visits to technology transfer offices at universities, labs and government offices will give you an early heads-up. Of course, those visits can often be virtual rather than physical as long as you know where to look.

You might want to begin my finding the technology transfer office at leading universities and simply asking what's new there. But some professionals go beyond this simple inquiry. For instance, Denise Beeson, a small business consultant and SBA loan advisor and an adjunct instructor in the Small Business Management and Marketing Departments at Santa Rosa Junior College, offers these sources as excellent predictors:

1. Federal labs are a good place to look for new technology developments since they receive the most R&D funding by the government. Try using the search engine at www.federallabs.org to see what's out there.

6. Review the technology "matching" websites like www.yet2.com.

7. See the Licensing Executives Society International, the professional organization for licensing and their matching technology website within their members site.

"It takes some time to investigate all the above" said Beeson, but the leadership and competitive advantage such early information brings is well worth the exercise. However, a wily-nilly foray into the interesting world of R&D can also result in confusion or distraction. To avoid this problem, it is important to predetermine which lines of technologies are likely to impact your organization and which are merely interesting to you personally.

"I do my best to keep up with NASA's emerging technologies, of which there are obviously many," said Linda Cureton, NASA's CIO. "But I am more focused on keeping my fingers on the pulse of IT-specific technology."

Read the rest about tech exec career trends at CIOUpdate.