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Wanted: IT Leaders Under 40; Passion and Flexibility Required

Acknowledging the need for younger IT leaders, three state and local technology officials offered advice for those considering executive-level career moves.

Management is often challenging but definitely rewarding, three state and local IT officials said recently, offering tips and career advice to technology and innovation employees under 40.

Working collectively, state and local governments have an incredible power he envisions could make them “the next Silicon Valley, holistically,” Richard Rogers, chief technology officer at the California Department of Technology, said as he moderated “Wanted: More IT Leaders Under 40” at the 2020 California Public Sector CIO Academy. Panelist Vitaliy Panych, acting state chief information security officer, encouraged younger technologists to move past concerns “to jump into management and do it anyways. Because that’s where you can have the most influence.” He and fellow participants Carrie Bishop, San Francisco chief digital services officer, and Tristian Cormier, section chief of systems engineering for the California Secretary of State’s Office, suggested ways to make the journey smoother. Among the takeaways:

Don’t let the position change you, Panych said, urging the audience to look past any stigmas on joining management and try to see issues from multiple viewpoints.

“Don’t be molded or don’t let management change you or a certain stigma or role change you. You’ve got to … see multiple perspectives from your staff, from your peers, from your executive management subordinates or superiors,” he said, pointing out that younger managers likely will be managing older employees.

Find a mentor, Cormier said, emphasizing the value of diversity in management — and advocacy for others. He acknowledged his own mentors, including Rogers, and said: “You won’t be able to know everything when you get into management and it’s OK to fail. No one’s going to be perfect.” Just be prepared to work with people, even in IT, he added.

Don’t join management just to be a manager, said Bishop, who experienced “management at scale” by running her own private-sector company before joining the consolidated city-county.

“Being a manager for the sake of being a manager is probably not going to be particularly rewarding, and you’re probably not going to be that great at it,” Bishop said, “but really caring about something and wanting to make an impact — that’s a good motivator.” And in turn, having that motivation or passion to solve the big problems can motivate your team and make others want to join.

Choose your battles wisely, Bishop added, noting people in digital government can be “very excited about doing things differently,” but may sometimes be “dogmatic.”

“I never want to quell anyone’s passion, but I also — I want people to get things done, right?” she said.

Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.