IT Education is Confusing, but It's Critical for Success - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
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Lisa Morgan
Lisa Morgan
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IT Education is Confusing, but It's Critical for Success

Continuing education is critical for IT professionals, but where should they go to get it? There are so many choices and so little time.

Technology and business models are changing so fast, degree programs can't keep up. To fill the gaps, there are extended education options, online courses, professional workshops, corporate training and certification programs. In fact, there's such a breadth of choices, it's hard for organizations and individuals to know where to invest.

Despite flat IT budgets, companies are paying for some IT education but the investments are meager, according to Katy Tynan, founder and chief talent strategist at Liteskip Consulting. Those investments are narrowly focused on tech, which isn’t surprising, but that alone isn’t in the best interest of the company, teams, or the employee.

"We don't support IT managers as well as we should," Tynan said in an interview with InformationWeek. "We take individual contributors and make them team leaders, but we don't give them the resources they need to be great people managers."

As a result, people may rise to their own levels of incompetence, which is also known as the Peter principle. The scenario is common enough that Tynan authored a book about a first-time manager’s struggles.

Management training dollars aren’t spent on rising IT staff members, they’re spent on executive coaches.

Katy Tynan, Liteskip
Katy Tynan, Liteskip

Education is being disrupted

Every entity involved in education is evolving. For example, colleges and universities are rethinking their degree programs to stay relevant and to better prepare graduates for workplace experiences. While many added extended education programs decades ago, more recently they've also added online options, sometimes in partnership with online education companies such as EdX. The University of Arizona and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) now offer coding bootcamps.

"Higher education is trying to find a way to unbundle the bachelor’s degree because it's not working as a single four-year entity," Tynan said. "At the same time, corporate organizations are leaning the other way by offering their own universities. There are also other organizations offering credentials, micro-credentials, and badges, and all of that is in a massive state of disruption and disarray."

While the options are difficult for both organizations and individuals to navigate, it's wise to understand the range of options and their respective benefits and detriments.

How to navigate education and your career

Tynan suggested two frameworks for career-builders who want to make smart decisions about their continuing education and careers. “Fast, good and cheap," applies to education, because that’s what people want, especially if they’ve been laid off. Since you won’t get all three at once, pick two.

"If you want to learn something and you want to be good, it's either not going to be fast or cheap. You can apply that across the board," said Tynan. "Learning is an investment."

The second framework involves five criteria from which to judge all jobs: people, money, stress, opportunity to learn new things, and opportunity to grow a career.

"If you're in a job that isn't giving you opportunities to learn and grow, it can be a big problem," said Tynan. "If you're in a stagnating job, invest in growing your skills because you're falling behind the people who can drink from a firehouse and learn all the time."

Learn more about IT leadership at Interop 2019

Tynan is moderating the Upgrade Your Career workshop on Monday, May 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., which is part of the IT Leadership Summit. She's also chairing the IT Strategy conference track and will moderate the "Building the Workforce of the Future" session on May 22 at 9:00 a.m. to 9:40 a.m. Plan your schedule at

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include ... View Full Bio
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