How IT pros can gear up for corporate leadership

Sheila Lam

Bottom Line

- Non-IT and management skills are fundamental for career breakthrough

- EMBA programs gather collective wisdom and experience in a single classroom

- Executive coaching develops an individual who's part of an organization

- Mentoring brings an independent, experienced external voice

IT leaders in Hong Kong are in better position than their Asian peers to drive growth and further advancement in their own careers, according to experts. But the path requires new skills and new learning strategies.

A global study commissioned by CA Technologies indicates that organizations in Hong Kong have the highest recognition of IT in Asia Pacific. The study interviewed 685 CIOs from organizations with over 500 employees and found 50% of the Hong Kong respondents said their management views IT as fundamental to the organizations' success--the highest rate in the Asia-Pacific region.

This higher level of digital literacy among senior executives in Hong Kong means local IT leaders can leverage their position to bring more strategic impact to the organization and move up the corporate ladder.

Seeking a business role

Moving into a business role is considered a major breakthrough for many IT practitioners. But it may not be suitable for everyone.

YB Yeung, former regional CIO and Assistant General Manager at HSBC, is a local IT leader who worked in both IT and senior business positions at the bank. He said IT personnel seeking to upgrade their career should identify the qualities and skills required before planning a transition towards a business role. Currently an adjunct professor at City University Hong Kong and mentor of CIO Connect's Next Generation Program, Yeung said major qualities required include understanding business operations and decision-making processes.

"It's very important to understand how business works--like how to meet business quotas and how marketing strategies are planned," he said. "For example, starting a credit card business may cost half a million, but how is that budget allocated between marketing, operation and other business functions? It's something most IT executives aren't familiar with."

People skills are important for all IT executives as they are no longer managing systems or technologies but people. But more important are inter-personal "soft skills." Yeung said a business roles require working with a greater diversity of people, both within the company and externally with different non-tech vendors, partners and customers.

With non-IT and management skills as the fundamentals for moving up the corporate ladder, more leadership development programs are available for IT leaders. We look at some of the programs available and how they help local IT professionals seeking the next rung on the ladder.

EMBA: Achieve a personal breakthrough

Like many executives, Raymond Ngai, head of IT infrastructure and operation services at the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC), chose to pursue an executive MBA (EMBA) program to achieve a breakthrough. As an alumnus of the Kellogg-HKUST EMBA 2005-2006, Ngai found the experience not only educational, but inspiring.

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