Richard Otteson is a tech industry expert who began his IT career in the Air Force working on computer engineering programs. He spent five years stationed at the National Security Agency, where he engaged with cutting-edge technologies such as language translation tools. After his service, he worked for multiple finance and insurance institutions beginning as a hands-on technologist and worked his way into senior IT leadership roles.
Otteson is now a senior executive consultant at Global Consult IT and serves as president of the CompTIA AITP Research Triangle Park Chapter. We connected with Otteson to discuss lessons learned on his journey to becoming a senior IT executive and advice for how mid-level IT professionals can jumpstart the transition to a senior leadership role. Looking to accelerate your career growth? Here are Otteson’s tips for those looking to advance their IT careers:
Adopt a Problem-solving Mentality.
IT organizations run into complex problems on a daily basis. That’s why the ability to effectively work through problems and find solutions is critical to the success of any IT professional. “The best way to get noticed and move up at an organization is to proactively address and handle problems,” says Otteson. “Leadership looks at how you respond and react to situations, so if you’re involved in a crisis situation where a technology is down or customers are severely impacted, stay composed and focused by driving to a solution.” According to Otteson, this doesn’t mean trying to save the day, it means understanding your role and identifying opportunities where you can step up and provide value to help your team.
Engage in Training Opportunities.
Success in the IT industry requires the ability to constantly adapt to new technologies and develop new skills. “Training courses are critical to breaking through to a senior leadership position,” says Otteson. “From executive coaching sessions to 360 feedback loops to simply taking a Myers-Briggs test, having someone look at you through a different lens can help you better understand yourself and become a more effective leader.”
One mantra that Otteson has found to be particularly helpful as an IT executive is that, “It can be easy to speak, but the real value comes from strong listening skills.” Otteson says that “Understanding organizational requirements and customer needs is critical and requires a lot of listening. You get a much better perspective on issues your team or customer is dealing with if you take the time to engage with them, ask questions, listen carefully, and play back what you hear.”
Become an Expert at Networking.
Networking with individuals both inside and outside of your workplace is vital to developing new skills, keeping up with industry trends, and identifying opportunities to advance your career. “I always tell my staff to never underestimate the power of a cup of coffee,” says Otteson. “Text messages and emails are great for quick messages, but if you want to build trust relationships you have to get out and speak with people one-on-one.”
Otteson emphasized the unique opportunity that CompTIA AITP provides to network and build relationships with a diverse range of individuals in the IT community. “CompTIA AITP is an incredibly diverse group that doesn’t focus narrowly on specific practices such as programming language, information security, hardware technologies or sales,” says Otteson. “It’s all of the above and more which allows you to learn how people from different industries and backgrounds respond to business needs, address problems, and advance in their careers.”