The 3 pillars of a successful technology leadership career: experience, curiosity and creativity

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There’s tremendous value in learning to code, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of a tech career. In fact, it can be career limiting when young talent’s coveted coding skills inadvertently provide opportunities to explore their full potential, especially as leaders.

But at the beginning of our careers, we are not necessarily aware of this.

Therefore, it is incumbent on companies to better define the skills needed for technology professionals to move into roles such as chief information officer, chief technology officer and even broader operations or strategy roles – and not to place them only in the wheelhouse of the “programmer”.

Forrester research shows that only 41% of women and 54% of men currently agree that their respective companies provide effective training to become a leader or manager.

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There are several key elements that should be a priority for those in technology looking to advance their careers and develop their skills. At the top of the list, gaining as many diverse experiences as possible and embracing creativity.

It is important to realize that the two elements are interdependent: the breadth of one’s experiences also helps to develop and hone one’s creative skills. Creativity also helps to iterate and fuel experimentation. However, technology leaders need to do more to encourage their team members to hone both elements, so they can move into more leadership roles.

Gain as many diverse experiences as possible

Let’s first discuss the value of gaining diverse experiences. When I started working in tech, I chose consulting and deliberately opted for a small company because I knew I was going to be thrown into the deep end very quickly. When this type of situation occurs, it is a positive thing: you end up taking the lead on many projects while being exposed to multiple companies, industries and perspectives.

By integrating different perspectives and contributions from as many experiences and people as possible, you learn to solve problems in innovative and creative ways. To get the most out of these experiences, you need to have an inquisitive nature, always asking yourself “why?” or how?” or “what if?” And for tech professionals, instead of thinking from a mindset of, “What should the tech stack be?” a business resolution perspective.

Embrace creativity wherever possible

I cannot stress enough the importance of creativity in business, especially in technology. According to Forrester, great companies will encourage their employees to be creative in order to deliver better customer experiences and better results. This will result in increased competitive advantage and productivity for businesses. By embracing creativity, you also unlock stronger potential to advance in your technology career, setting you apart from your traditional engineering-minded peers.

While there are many ways to hone creativity, I have found these four qualities to be extremely helpful in developing creative skills:

Look for ways to adapt

Technology is constantly evolving. Use this innovation to boost your own adaptability. Avoid the temptation to pick one area of ​​technology to focus on. Mastery is fleeting in technology. Instead, change with technology.

According to Forrester, technology leaders who meet the future needs of customers and employees by being adaptive, creative and resilient outperform their peers. By being “future-ready,” these leaders have a unique opportunity to be the leader in driving their business’ growth and prosperity by developing the right technology strategy that meets their customers’ needs.

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Take smart risks

When I graduated from college, my goal was to fit into a company where I could be given projects that I couldn’t anticipate or weren’t ready to tackle head-on. I quickly discovered that taking such a smart risk was vital to my career path.

It is essential not to be afraid of risk, because then you can push yourself further to try new things or explore new areas of technology. But having an interest is only part of the equation; go further by applying technologies in new and unique ways.

Be a problem solver

Problem solving is at the heart of why most people choose to pursue a career in technology. Unfortunately, over time, many who work in technology fall into the rut of regularly identifying problems and risks, which is much easier to do than identifying solutions.

A simple tip: For each risk or problem you identify, challenge yourself to come up with more than one creative solution. This personal challenge alone will not only help you, but will also tend to ingrain itself into the culture of your colleagues and your company.

Embrace continuous innovation

If you work in technology but don’t want to learn about its latest innovations, you can still pursue a career in this field. Unfortunately, you won’t be exposed to new challenges or learn how tech companies are growing or forging new paths of change.

It is important to stay curious. Keep asking questions and absorbing others’ points of view. This will help you better understand what’s new in technology, so you can anticipate use cases where this technology can improve businesses and lives.

Experience, curiosity and creativity are essential elements to access management positions. To anyone looking to advance in technology, my advice is to simply unlock and harness the power of these three pillars.

To access other Forrester Information for Technology Managers, go here.

Learn more about how technology leaders can shape the future growth of their business at Forrester’s North America Technology and Innovation Forum, taking place September 29-30, 2022.

Sharyn Leaver, Director of Research at Forrester
Sharyn Leaver, Director of Research at Forrester

Sharyn Leaver leads Forrester’s research organization, overseeing the teams of analysts, executive partners, and analytics responsible for creating Forrester’s research, frameworks, and tools that help executives and functional leaders – to across technology, marketing, customer experience (CX), sales and product management – plan and pursue customer-obsessed growth.

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