Eight questions to ask yourself before moving to C-suite management

Kevin Beaver, CISSP

Are you starting to think about being in IT management rather than getting your hands dirty in the IT trenches? You're not alone. I always meet people who see the grass as greener on the C-suite management side of the fence. There are certainly a lot of opportunities in executive management: more decisions, more visibility and more money.

It takes a unique personality and some considerably thick skin to serve in C-suite management, especially in IT. A college education is only a small part of what will ultimately define your success at this level in business. Whether you're considering it or you're on the fast track to mahogany row, here are some important questions to ask yourself before making a move to C-suite management:

  1. Will you be able to admit when you're wrong? Many people, myself included, let a Nick Burns mindset creep in during their early years in IT. But you have to be willing to set aside your ego.
  2. Are you willing to trust others to take care of the business that IT handles? It can be tough relinquishing control of the Windows systems you know like the back of your hand.
  3. Are you interested in knowing every aspect of the business? Knowing the ins and outs of the business, including its politics, is a must.
  4. Are you good at holding yourself and others accountable? It's essential to work by a set of goals for your department and for yourself.
  5. Are you a credible person who can get others on your side? You'll have to sell your ideas to your peers, to the board and to employees.
  6. Do you have the patience and attention span for a new schedule? You're going to be in a lot of meetings. In fact, many days will be nothing but meeting after meeting.
  7. Are you ready to put your neck on the line in the name of security? Security will likely be front and center in your list of responsibilities.
  8. Will you miss using the skills you developed in the IT trenches? Odds are you'll lose your technical skills when you disconnect from the day-to-day of working with Windows.

IT is a broad field. Even in mahogany-row management positions, there are a lot of options. Some positions require more analytical thinking, while others require more schmoozing; it often depends on the company and its culture.

True career satisfaction doesn't come from choosing whether you want to be a techie or an executive. It comes from fully understanding what you're good at, what you love doing and then making it happen. One of the biggest career mistakes you can make is to not think about what you're good at and then try to find a job that may not fit your needs.

Your path to IT C-suite management may be rocky, frustrating and downright restrictive. But the payoffs can be worth it if you're up to the challenge and your personality style is a good match. Just make sure you know the job and yourself going in.

About the author:
Kevin Beaver has worked for himself for more than 11 years as an information security consultant, expert witness and professional speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic LLC. He specializes in performing independent security assessments revolving around information risk management and is the author and co-author of many books, including The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance and Hacking for Dummies.

View the next item in this Essential Guide: Risk management in IT: Is risk on your list? or view the full guide: Successful career strategies for IT administrators

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