Sep 20 2005

The Heart of IT: Talented People


Lee Copeland, Editor in Chief
Photo: Welton Doby III

We live in an age of technological marvels. The technology comes at us so fast that it's hard to keep pace—even for information technology professionals.


That's why IT professionals tend to take an analytical and methodical approach to problem-solving. It's an approach that makes great sense when coding an application or configuring a wireless network. And it's also an approach that works when it comes to plotting a career trajectory or cultivating a professional support network.


Yet most IT professionals don't take methodical steps to create reliable and strategic personal networks for themselves. BizTech recently surveyed 190 IT professionals at small businesses on whether they fostered mentor relationships early in their careers. About 54 percent said they had one or more mentors who provided career guidance, yet the remaining 46 percent said they didn't have anyone to turn to for mentoring. Combine that with the fact that IT shops at most small businesses consist of one person to just a handful of personnel, and it's a pretty isolated work portrait.


That's also the unlucky situation that Charles Rapier of Ovation Research found himself in at the start of his career. In his column, Rapier talks about the need for senior-level IT pros to commit to a professional good deed and mentor junior-level staffers.


But while most tend to think of a mentor as a gray-haired professional imparting knowledge to an eager whippersnapper, Reid Hoffman, CEO of LinkedIn, suggests using peer networks for mentoring. Conversations with professional peers can provide a different set of rewards, in addition to being a rich source for advice and support.


"With peer networking and mentoring," Hoffman explains, "what you exchange is more obvious because you're tackling problems that both parties are trying to solve." For more on taking a strategic tack to networking, read Hoffman's column. For a profile on LinkedIn, a company that supercharges connecting with the right people, read here.


It's critically important to groom IT staffers within your company. Our feature on "Taking IT to the Next Level" shows how several high-growth small businesses are using a hybrid approach of adding outside expertise and developing in-house talent to upgrade their IT staff. MortgageBot, which provides online mortgage application services for financial institutions, is a prime example. MortgageBot's president and CEO, Scott Happ, talks about making the transition from startup to high growth and the creative approach he took of dividing the IT staff into specialty areas, promoting from within and recruiting a heavy-hitting programmer from outside the company. At MortgageBot, talented people get to stretch their skills while at the same time the business gets the top-level expertise it needs right now.


And finally, our interview with Nantucket Nectars' co-founder Tom Scott illustrates the importance of forming a strong network and pipeline of IT talent. Scott's new company, Plum TV, relies so heavily on technology that Scott turned to one of his first hires at Nantucket Nectars to head its technology operations.


We hope you find the stories in this issue to be valuable.


Lee Copeland
Editor in Chief