Claire Rutkowski started her IT career in 1996 as a help desk administrator. Many tech leaders, like Rutkowski, have seen the transformation of IT departments from largely back-end operations to business growth enablers.
“IT is the business now,” said Rutkowski, who now serves as SVP and CIO Champion at Bentley Systems. “And I think the lockdown during the pandemic really reinforced for people how much they depend on technology each and every day and how much it isn’t a ‘keep the lights on’ kind of thing but is actually an enabler to you getting your job done and to the company delivering business outcomes.”
Tuesday, Sept. 20 marks IT Pro Day, a time to give credit to the IT pros who keep businesses up and running. It's also a day to recognize just how much IT professionals take on.
As IT departments transform, and businesses reimagine how technology can drive value, the role of IT workers has become invaluable and the need for skilled talent has only increased.
“It’s very critical for us to have the technical skill sets that are required for IT modernization, infrastructure modernization and application rationalization,” Suma Nallapati, Global CIO at Insight Enterprises, said. “With all of these digital initiatives that are underway, talent is critical.”
Nallapati began her tech career as a developer and worked her way up the ladder to CIO.
“When I was a developer, it was a very manual way of coding that used to take us a long time to even get to the code aspect of it, because we had to have so much of the pre-logic built in before we actually went deep into the code,” Nallapati said. “Now, it’s evolved so much.”
While specific duties differ from company to company, many developers have added emerging technologies to their repertoire. Over half of developers reported using automation tools, according to a study from Digital Ocean which surveyed over 2,500 developers working in technical roles.
The way in which technology has evolved has changed the requirements of IT pros. Businesses now need workers to be skilled in RPA, automation, AR, VR and digital workplace technologies so that they can help optimize operations and bring new value, according to Nallapati.
“These are the technologies that are all causing a huge demand for a different type of skill set,” Nallapati said.
As emerging technologies become more of a priority for businesses, some companies have begun efforts to train staff internally as a way to address skills gap issues. Seven in 10 senior executives said they were focused on reskilling, according to global consulting firm EY.
The constant push to build new skills and innovate is why Nallapati believes IT pros deserve praise.
“I think that’s what professionals crave — being able to celebrate the actual innovation that’s happening around us and the ability to create new pathways for more innovation and solving more problems,” Nallapati said.
Making an impact
No matter where IT professionals start their careers, the ability to have an impact is a large part of why they do the work that they do.
“When I was coming out of college, the internet was just kind of becoming a thing,” Jamie Smith, CIO at the University of Phoenix, said. “And when the internet came along, it combined business and technology in a way that nothing else had.”
Smith’s interest in technology started in the fourth grade when he began programming computers for fun. Smith landed his first CIO position in 2014 at American Home Shield then moved to CIO at ServiceMaster and now is serving as CIO at the University of Phoenix.
“This is my first time in higher education and the purpose of educating working adults, especially underserved working adults, really excited me,” Smith said.
Almost all of the nearly 70,000 students attending the university never set foot on campus, according to Smith.
“So the platform and technology essentially is the experience for our students, and as a technologist what better place to have that kind of direct impact,” Smith said.