What’s the defining characteristic of an IT leader? According to CompTIA AITP Dallas President Mike Rochelle: “Leaders are learners.”
Rochelle is an IT industry veteran whose career started with a job as an assistant concert manager at the Ambassador Foundation for Performing Arts in Pasadena, California.
“What launched me into technology was that I knew how to use a word processor,” says Rochelle. “It was the early days of desktop computing, so my first job was to network the department and then train everyone how to use their computers.”
His experience in tech helped him land a job in Dallas as the Vice President of IT for CBRE, a commercial real estate and investment firm. From there he moved on to IT and business development roles at Microsoft and Avanade, and eventually was hired as IT Chief of Staff with Time Warner Cable.
He now serves as Director of Enterprise Portfolio Management and Transformation at Team Car Care, a franchisee that operates over 500 Jiffy Lube’s across the country. He’s currently leading a project to re-platform the company and help manage it in a digitized way.
We recently connected with Rochelle to discuss advice for mid-level IT workers who are looking to take the next step in their careers and achieve senior leadership roles.
“You don’t need a physical leadership or manager title to lead,” says Rochelle. “By learning about what effective leaders do and adjusting your behavior, you can pave the way to become one.”
Rochelle says that “Learning is a lifetime commitment,” and “there are three categories you need to learn about: yourself, your team, and the value you can bring to your organization.”
Learn About Yourself by Identifying Your Strengths
“It’s critical to understand what your strengths are and then find ways to play to them,” says Rochelle. “People who can identify their strengths and focus on what they do well tend to be the most successful.”
To help identify your strengths, increase your self-awareness and maximize your potential, Rochelle says a great first step is to take a survey or strength assessment.
Learn About Your Team and Solicit Feedback
“Just as it’s important to know yourself, it’s equally important to know your team members and what their strengths are,” says Rochelle. “The whole idea is that if you’re building a trust environment where you’re growing and trying to help others grow, you need to be open to feedback,” says Rochelle. “Feedback is a gift.”
Determine Organizational Needs and Where You Can Step Up
To advance your role at an organization, Rochelle says you need to determine what your team’s needs are and how you can fill those spaces.
“It’s critical to look at things from the other side of the equation and not just a selfish perspective,” says Rochelle. “This rounds you out as a person because you’ve already determined what your natural strengths are, and now you need to find out where you can grow to better serve the team. To achieve this you might need to learn new skills, both soft skills and hard skills, that will ultimately help your team work better.”
Rochelle wrapped up the conversation by discussing why joining CompTIA AITP can help individuals learn and grow in all three of these categories. “The people that come to CompTIA AITP meetings are driven by a desire to give back and become better,” says Rochelle. “It’s hard to soar with eagles when you’re hanging with ducks. You have to go to where the eagles are and that’s the folks you’ll find and network with at CompTIA AITP.”
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