Thought Leadership: Prepare for Professional Development

Professional development is important in any line of work. For IT, it is imperative to continue honing your skills and acquiring the right knowledge that sends your career on an upward trajectory going forward.

Ellis Holman, project manager of the SHARE PDEV Project, and Jim Willette, program officer of the EDC Program, discuss the importance of The Professional Development Project and how SHARE San Jose attendees can leverage a roadmap for professional development at the event. 

SHARE: Please discuss the idea of ‘mainframe in the digital age,’ and how professionals in this field must be actively preparing for this evolution.

Willette: The mainframe remains the backbone of larger companies and industrial leaders — this is largely because of its extreme reliability and performance when dealing with normal business information processing. One of its principal evolutions is the steady decrease in support staff. It is becoming less labor-intensive to run, improving on its already good economic effectiveness. Another change is the need for the mainframe to “play well with others.” There are many other platforms that perform well for specific tasks, analytics being one that come to mind. They are all part of the same IT ecosystem, and share both data and results. The challenge for those who are steeped in mainframe culture is to do the same. Professional development may take you there, and it can certainly start you on the way.

SHARE: Please discuss the ways in which SHARE as an organization provides resources that help professionals prepare for new challenges, new roles and new opportunities.

Willette: SHARE’s Professional Development Project endeavors to provide a wide spectrum of education for the experienced professional, as well as the person new to the IT world. We address topical issues such as the ‘graying’ of the IT workforce, both from the aspect of the individual and how they might want to prepare for life after IT, and from the organizational aspect of preparing the organization for retirement of key personnel and how to find and bring on-board new candidates. We also delve into social aspects of IT, such as the issues facing women in the IT workforce.

SHARE: Building off of the previous question, in what ways would you say that SHARE events in particular are one of the most valuable resources in this regard?

Willette: The Professional Development Project provides practical guidance to IT persons such as how one might prepare more effective presentations, and how to perform basic project management. We also try to address the real problems that some IT personnel may encounter when they find they don’t have a job. We have speakers that help IT professionals prepare effective resumes and strategies to find new jobs. Sometimes those jobs aren’t in IT; we try to give the IT professional a different way of looking at life. For those who are looking for a place to grow in the IT world, we have initiated a ‘mini’ track titled, “So you want to be…” In this series we have experienced professionals who speak to how those in IT might wish to orient and grow their careers in a particular direction.

SHARE: How should professionals in this field be viewing the topic of ‘professional development’ in general?

Willette: You can view professional development as the acquisition of a set of “soft skills” that are every bit as important as the technical or “hard skills” that one normally associates with jobs in IT. Without them, professionals will be unable to get their work accepted or, sometimes, even noticed. Their advancement will be limited, and they may find themselves “stuck” in a technical track when they want to move up into management.  

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