Archive for November, 2014:

Mozilla reports flat revenue from Google-Firefox search deal+

Revenue growth stalled in 2013 but expenses climbed 42%

Mozilla today said that 2013 revenue from its deal with Google was flat compared to the year before, as was its income overall, even as expenses jumped by 42%.

The flat-lining of revenue was in stark contrast to its previous financial statement, which had shown a bullish increase of 88%.

The Mozilla Foundation’s 2013 revenue was $314 million, up half a percentage point from 2012, according to the financial statement released Friday (download PDF).

Mozilla Foundation is the non-profit that oversees Mozilla Corp., the commercial arm that develops the Firefox browser and Firefox OS mobile operating system.

Virtually all the foundation’s 2013 revenue came from search providers, which paid Mozilla to place their engines as the default in Firefox. In 2013, those royalty payments accounted for 97% of the year’s income, a slightly-lower portion than in 2012.

Royalty revenue totaled $306 million in 2013, up $3 million, for a very small increase of just 0.5%. In 2012, Mozilla’s royalty payments had doubled over the year before due to a new contract with Google, its global search partner, that was signed in late 2011. At the time, reports circulated that claimed the contract guaranteed Mozilla $1 billion over the three-year deal.

Payments from Google in 2013 were approximately $275 million, an increase of $1 million from 2012. Google’s contribution accounted for 88% of Mozilla’s total revenue last year.

As it has in the past, Mozilla did not name its largest source of income, saying only that, “Mozilla entered into a contract with a search engine provider for royalties which expires November 2014. Approximately 90% of royalty revenue for 2013 and 2012, was derived from this contract.”

But that “search provider” was Google.
On Wednesday, Mozilla announced that it had not renewed the Google contract, and had signed with Yahoo for the U.S. market. Yahoo will replace Google as the default Firefox search engine early next month, probably when Firefox 34 launches during the week of Dec. 1. Additionally, Mozilla said it has agreed to other deals in Russia and China, and would try to forge partnerships with search providers on a country-by-country basis.

But because of Mozilla’s financial release timetable, the results of the new monetary strategy won’t be apparent until November 2016.

Most of Mozilla’s expenses — 67% in 2013 — were devoted to software development, which increased from $143 million in 2012 to $197 million last year, a jump of 38%. Another line item, branding and marketing, increased by even more, 60%, to $46 million in 2013.

Overall expenses increased 42% year-over-year. Along with flat revenue, that halved Mozilla’s “profit” — it tagged the line as “net cash provided by operating activities” — to $36 million.

But the foundation’s financials remained in good shape. Cash, cash equivalents and the organization’s investments totaled $272 million in 2013, up 13% from the year before. With that in the bank, Mozilla could survive at its 2013 expense pace for just shy of four quarters if income suddenly vanished.

Yet Mozilla still faces a rough road, especially if 2013’s pattern of flat revenue-versus-increasing expenses continues.

Firefox’s share of the desktop browser market has slipped by 26%, or about 4.8 percentage points, in the past 12 months, according to metrics firm Net Applications, even as the global share of browsing from the desktop has fallen because of the move toward mobile devices.

Meanwhile, Firefox OS faces an uphill battle against ultra-cheap Android-derived devices in the emerging markets Mozilla has targeted.

Some analysts have begun to wonder whether Mozilla can be a long-term player in browsers, much less mobile.

“Mozilla’s browser share is likely to shrink over time,” contended Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, in an interview yesterday. “Because there are more costs to cover moves [like Firefox OS], it’s stretched thinner than before. If its [browser] share shrinks, it will have less revenue, which means it can spend less on development. That may make its products less appealing to users, so fewer people use them.”

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Tech’s new blue collar: Good-paying jobs that don’t require a 4-year degree

Traditional manufacturing work may be mostly offshored, but there are plenty of tech-industry jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree and can provide a middle-class life

Where the jobs are
For years, you’ve heard the same story: the days when low-skilled manufacturing jobs could lead to a middle-class lifestyle are long gone, and the key to economic success lies in getting advanced degrees in STEM subjects. But that picture’s not entirely true: there are many career paths, beginning to be labelled as “middle-skill” jobs, that are in technical areas but don’t require a bachelor’s degree. The so-called “hidden STEM economy” is entered through associate’s degrees, trade schools, and apprenticeships.

But where are the workers?
One of the mismatches in our economy comes because our education system doesn’t track people into these kinds of jobs; indeed, many young people might not even know they’re an option until they’ve racked up thousands of dollars of student loan debt for a four-year degree. There are efforts to fix this mismatch — Step IT Up America, a program routinely touted by Vice President Biden, has been working with inner-city girls in Detroit, for instance — but more people need to get the word. In this slideshow, we’ll walk you through some of the kinds of solid, good-paying tech jobs that make up the new flavor of blue collar.

Telecom equipment installation and repair staff
All those dozens of computers, routers, and access points in every office building in factory have to be connected to the Internet and to each other by someone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged the median pay for telecommunications equipment installers and repair staff at around $54K a year in 2012. Entry into this field generally requires a specialized certification, but not a collegiate degree.

Network and computer systems administrators
Once those computers and cables are installed — well, somebody has to be in charge of them, right? Sysadmins and network admins have been around since the dawn of the IT age, but the job isn’t necessarily considered particularly glamorous: a true blue-collar IT job, albeit one with a median salary of $72K a year. Any you might not have to take out a slew of student loans to get there: You may be surprised to learn that more than 40 percent of sysadmins do not have a bachelor’s degree.

Computer support specialists
These jobs are the foundation layer of corporate IT: the people who hold down the fort at the help desk and support IT within their organization. Some (but not all) of these jobs can be had with a two-year degree or specialized certification, and the median pay is a decent $49K a year. A warning from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though: “Many do not work typical 9-to-5 jobs. Because computer support is important for businesses, many support specialists must be available 24 hours a day.” Help desk or entry-level computer support jobs account for over half of middle-skill IT jobs in New York state, according to a recent survey.

Computer software engineers
You might think of computer programming as a job that requires a bachelor’s or even a master’s degree, but in fact many entry-level programmers come in with associate’s degrees or certificates from technical training schools. And while they start further down the ladder, the rewards can still be impressive: a computer software engineer with a two-year degree can expect to earn $3 million over his or her lifetime; by contrast, a writer or editor with a four year degree can only expect to make $2 million.

Computer-controlled machine tool operators
The move towards automating manufacturing jobs has meant that the operation of machine tools — the tools that make individual components or workpieces of finished products — can now be mostly run by computers. But of course, those computers have to be run by someone, and while you need comfort and skills with computers to be that someone, you don’t necessarily need a four-year degree. Computer-controlled machine tool operators, as the somewhat clunky name goes, are an important part of the mid-skill workforce, and can get started in their career with only a high school diploma.

Clean room technician
Mike Rowe, who’s been pushing to get more people interested in middle-skills careers, calls his show Dirty Jobs. But one middle-skill path will take you to one of the least dirty workplaces imaginable: clean rooms where delicate computer equipment is manufactured. Chip manufacturers hire clean room techs with associate degrees and start them at $40K to $60K a year.

Web development
If you’re a fogey like me, you remember the ’90s, when being able to put together a Web page was a high-end skill that was your ticket to quick riches. The profession has become commodified, but corporate America’s appetite for Web developers is still going strong — and you don’t need a high-end degree to start out, either. Nearly half of all working web developers do not have a bachelor’s degree.

Internet publishing and broadcasting
Wait, what? Yes, it’s true, Internet publishing and broadcasting has been one of the fastest growing tech sectors in the past decade — and it’s one where proven writing skills can trump the need for a specific credential. As this slideshow should demonstrate, I’m an expert in the Internet publishing game (and the accompanying selfie here actually illustrates me writing the slideshow), and while I have a master’s degree, it’s in ancient history and has definitely not helped me create the masterpiece you’ve been reading. The world of Internet content is your oyster, so get writing!

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Employee-owned PCs are scaring enterprise IT

IT departments are worried about security risks when employees use their PCs for work purposes, but employees aren’t going to stop anytime soon.

Largely ignored in the enterprise mobility craze of the last few years, which saw the acceptance of bring-your-own device (BYOD) policies, were the risks incurred when employees use their personal computers to access business data. Now, with PCs designed to operate more seamlessly with smartphones and tablets, enterprise IT could soon face new consumerization challenges.

A recent survey conducted by Vanson Bourne and commissioned by software company 1E found that more than 25% of responding IT decision makers said their organizations do not have a formal policy regarding the use of employee-owned PCs for work purposes. Even the organizations that do impose a policy tend to be loose with their restrictions – 84% of respondents allow employees to access corporate email from their PCs, and 52% allow access to corporate apps. Another 11% of those that don’t allow PCs to be used for work purposes said employees don’t abide by the rule anyway.

This kind of behavior likely has network managers cringing. Among survey respondents who forbid BYOPC among employees, 86% cited security as the primary reason.

At the same time, however, businesses in general are embracing the overall BYOD approach to the tools their employees use for work. A Gartner report from 2013 predicted that half of all employers will not only permit employees to use their own devices for work, but will require them to choose those which will make them the most productive.

So there’s a conflict here – employees are more productive when given the ability to access work information from their personal devices, but they also present a risk to the network when they use the same device to access sensitive corporate data that they use to browse and download content from the web.

In the changing consumer device ecosystem, it may take some time for IT to adapt to this trend. As Galen Gruman pointed out in InfoWorld last year, the rush to create BYOD-focused management and security tools for smartphones outpaced such progress in the PC market. Furthermore, consumer smartphones were relatively new to enterprise IT, making it easier for the culture to adapt to new ways of handling them. But businesses have held control over the PCs used by their employees for two decades, and the policies for managing them are deeply entrenched within IT departments.

Further complicating the issue is the recent push from Apple and Microsoft to make it easier for users to take advantage of the growing acceptance of BYOD policies in the workplace. Apple’s recently released OS X Yosemite has been largely praised for its many features that bridge the gap between iOS devices and Mac PCs. A feature called Handoff, for example, allows users to sync their iOS devices and their Mac. CITEWorld’s Ryan Faas credited the feature for its usability, but warned that it could lead to headaches for enterprise IT:

“The concern, however, is that the functionality, like many Apple technologies, appears to be largely managed by your Apple ID. That means that in addition to handoff working on your work devices, it’s almost certain to work from your work or BYOD devices like your iPhone and your family iMac at home, or an iPad shared by you and your kids. Simply put, it’s another core Apple feature that makes it easy for work and personal data to mix on both work and personal devices, creating data sprawl, security, and accountability challenges.”

Microsoft, on the other hand, appears to have taken these concerns into consideration for Windows 10, which is still in beta. Calling Windows 10, “The BYOD Windows,” Simon Bisson explained in a CITEWorld post that the OS is designed to divide and store corporate and personal data separately.

“That’s the heart of Microsoft’s enterprise sales pitch for Windows 10,” Bisson wrote. “IT departments can apply all the controls they want to corporate applications and information, while users can install all the Minion Rush and Twitter apps they want. CIOs will know the information they’re entrusted with securing won’t leak across into those games and social media, while users will know that an IT admin can’t flick a switch and delete all their photographs of their kids.”

Whether Microsoft is successful remains to be seen. But given that Microsoft is collecting an unprecedented amount of user feedback on the Windows 10 beta, the company is likely to hear about corporate IT’s employee-owned PC conundrum.


 

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Nasuni raises the bar for hybrid cloud storage

As growth in cloud-based storage products continues to accelerate, enterprise vendors have taken cloud storage to the next level. The hybrid model, which utilizes both local and offsite storage, offers organizations a way to more seamlessly scale up and manage large amounts of data with a single-vendor service.

We tested Version 6 of Nasuni’s hybrid solution, which it calls Enterprise Storage as a Service. The components of Nasuni’s subscription-based service include a local storage appliance (Nasuni Filer), management tools, built-in antivirus, cloud gateway/cloud broker and cloud storage, currently offered on either the Microsoft Azure or Amazon EC2 cloud platforms.

The Nasuni Filer is available as a hardware appliance or virtual machine. We tested the Nasuni Filer appliance NF-440 model 2U unit with 20+ 600 GB drives, which is similar to the standard subscription of 12TB. We also tested the Filer configured as a virtual appliance on a server running Windows Server 2008 R2 hypervisor, and the Nasuni Management Console (NMC), also configured as a VM.

The basic startup and configuration of the Nasuni Filer was quick and uncomplicated. Using DHCP we were able to access the Filer’s Web GUI over SSL in less than 10 minutes from power up. There are only a couple of steps involved in getting the Filer ready for first use, such as configuring the network, providing a user name and password and assigning a serial number, which starts the process of registering the Filer on the Nasuni network.

+ Also on Network World: Storage on a budget: GlusterFS shines in open source storage test +

Once the home page appears you have the option of uploading your own encryption keys, integrating with Active Directory security and performing other basic setup tasks such as setting date/time and adding an email for notification purposes.

The Filer comes with a default volume named ‘files’ already created, which the user can rename or create additional new volumes. With no data yet stored in the cloud, the Filer starts out as essentially a file server or attached storage on the local network. Volumes are mapped just like a regular file server or other storage device. However with over 13TB (22 x 600 GB drives), the local storage capacity of the Nasuni Filer we tested was truly impressive, worth all 80+ pounds. But of course local storage is only part of the story.

Once data is copied to a volume, the Filer goes to work uploading snapshots to the cloud. The initial snapshot copies all data currently on the Filer to the cloud and subsequent snapshots only synchronize changes made since the initial snapshot. Data that has been moved to the cloud is saved back to the local cache when requested as opposed to being accessed directly from the cloud. The default interval for snapshots is once per hour, but this can be modified to as frequent as every minute. Our initial batch of data, which was about 3GB, including several files in the hundreds of megabytes, initially took over 12 hours to be copied to the cloud. At first we were concerned about the seemingly sluggish transfer, but a deeper dive showed that we needed to tweak a few settings to boost performance.

Settings can be applied by volume or by Filer. As data is stored to the Filer it is in what Nasuni calls the cache, stored locally. The percentage reserved for new incoming data can be set from 5% to 90%; a larger number means less data is stored locally and more data is moved to the cloud. The default setting is ‘automatic’, meaning the Filer manages the best use of the cache. In order to keep the local cache from filling up, data is ‘evicted’ to the cloud as needed. In order to keep certain data always available in the local cache, you can “pin” folders, and if “pinned” data is taking up too much storage, an alert is issued.

The system is designed to ensure that frequently used data is stored on a local Filer for rapid retrieval, using what Nasuni refers to as a Least Recently Used (LRU) algorithm. Some of the settings depend on the intended usage of the Filer; one organization may only want to use the Filer for backup purposes whereas another may use it as their primary file storage or for high performance shared applications. It is also possible to set up different volumes for different purposes, customized for each task.

After specifying a more frequent snapshot interval on our Filer, and using QoS settings to allocate more bandwidth for the cloud transfer, performance on our test Filer increased dramatically. With a shorter snapshot duration, smaller files were sent to the cloud almost immediately, making the Filer seem almost like local storage. However unlike local storage, the Nasuni Filer only sends snapshots to the cloud one volume at a time.

Each Nasuni Filer can be managed individually using a built-in Web interface. Multiple Filers can be centrally managed using the Nasuni Management Console (NMC). We set up the NMC as a virtual machine under Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V. After setting the Filer to be centrally managed by the NMC, we noticed that some of the previously-available configuration options in the local management interface had been disabled. This is by design, as the NMC at that point has taken over the bulk of management tasks.

Initially, the NMC displays an overview of the storage environment; e.g. how many Filers and volumes are under management, how much storage is used and how much is available. It also displays graphs showing live network traffic, file types and the health status of each managed Filer. A notification system displays system alerts.

Ours kept reminding us that one of our virtual machines was low on memory until we allocated more. On the hardware Filer, we forgot to plug in one of the power supplies and the Filer kept notifying us of this condition until we corrected it. Notifications can be sorted by various parameters, such as severity and date, and each notification must be acknowledged in order to drop off the list.

Overall, we found the web-based NMC and Nasuni support to be among the best we’ve ever tested. We called customer support on a Sunday evening to resolve an issue with the VM used for the management console. We were pleasantly surprised to get a call back in less than 10 minutes and several pointers to get the issue resolved. However it was later explained to us that late night phone support is usually reserved for more critical issues like unresponsive systems and situations more serious than ours. Throughout the test experience we found the Nasuni support teams to be knowledgeable and responsive to the few issues we encountered.

Depending on subscription levels, Nasuni cloud storage can be virtually limitless, provided you don’t exceed the subscription capacity at any given time. With north of 12TB of available cache space on our Filer we did not run into a problem with this. Snapshots settings offer granularity that will fit most common storage scenarios.

For instance, you can customize the ‘Quality of Service’ setting, which is essentially the bandwidth made available for uploads/downloads, depending on the time of day. With QoOS settings, snapshots taken during business hours could be limited to give precedence to user traffic, and re-prioritized during non-peak hours to allow snapshots to be performed at a faster pace.

In addition to accessing Nasuni-managed data as a shared volume, it can also be accessed via FTP, Web browser and mobile devices. Mobile access is available for Android and iOS devices through respective Nasuni apps available for both platforms. Currently only CIFS-enabled volumes are accessible from mobile devices. Most file operations can be performed by mobile users, such as viewing, deleting, uploading and downloading. There is also a Nasuni desktop client that provides portal access to a Nasuni Filer. It is available for Linux, Windows and OS X. The only downside is that the desktop version only allows access to one Filer at a time.

On the security front, Nasuni-managed data is encrypted over SSL both locally and in the cloud. Encryption keys are generated and kept by the user, rendering the data useless and unreadable without the proper key. User access can be defined on a more granular level by assigning roles and read/write permissions to volumes on the Filer. The Filer also has built-in antivirus protection that, if enabled, scans each new or modified file saved to the Filer. For external monitoring, the Filer supports SNMP access.

New features in Nasuni 6.0 include global locking, file virtualization and desktop file synchronization. Global locking takes traditional locking typically used with a local file server and extends it across multiple geographic locations. Global locking can be configured on the folder level allowing for granular control where it is needed. When a file lock is requested, it is submitted to the Nasuni Global Locking Service. If no lock is already present, a lock is issued. The local cache is then checked to make sure the latest version of the file is available and updates from the cloud are merged if necessary before the file is opened.

Data virtualization uses Nasuni’s patented UniFS Global File System to make the same data globally available to all users by storing only one master source of the data. This is accomplished without physically replicating the data, thus reducing the need to locally manage end-user file data. In combination with caching on local filers, data virtualization provides “global” access essentially the same as if the data was accessed from a local file server.

Desktop File Synchronization gives users the ability to create a local folder that is synchronized to the Nasuni cloud. This synchronized folder provides global access to user files from multiple devices such as tablets, smartphones and computers.

Strategically, Nasuni views its solution as a best fit for organizations currently using NAS storage that have 5TB or more of data to manage across multiple locations. A starter bundle of 5TB of licensed storage, five virtual filers and a mid-range physical filer, start-up services, and ongoing maintenance, support and upgrades is $25,000.

Aimed at smaller businesses with less data to manage, Nasuni is introducing a lower-cost Filer, the NF-100, with exact specs and pricing to be announced. There is also a new desktop Filer in the works, slated for release in the fourth quarter of 2014.


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Windows XP’s user share plunge not real, just a data adjustment

Net Applications says XP dropped like a stone because the company yanked some Chinese websites from its tallies

The Internet metrics company that claimed Windows XP’s user share plummeted by a record amount last month said Tuesday that it had struck several Chinese websites from its tallies, causing the dramatic decline.On Monday, the firm acknowledged a problem with the data. “We are still researching, but it does appear to be an anomaly,” said Vince Vizzaccaro, head of marketing for Net Applications, in an email reply to questions over the weekend about the validity of the Windows XP and Windows 8 changes.

On Tuesday, Net Applications explained why Windows’ XP’s user share had fallen off the proverbial cliff.

“This drop was primarily caused by a major change in the network of sites we have in China,” the company said in a statement. “A group of large Chinese publishers with a very large number of visitors per day had audiences heavily skewed towards Windows XP (nearly 100% XP). In researching the nature of the sites, we determined they were not appropriate for our network. We removed those publishers ourselves, which caused the shift since Chinese traffic is weighted higher due to lower coverage.”

Net Applications weights website visitor tallies by country using estimates of each nation’s online population, a way to account for markets where it has little actual data, and balance those against countries where it has considerable amounts of information. Because Net Applications collects significantly less data from China, for example, than it does from the U.S., each visitor from China is “worth” more to the result than one from the United States.

Net Applications did not say why the sites it yanked were suddenly “not appropriate” after they had been used to calculate user share previously. And in a follow-up email, Vizzaccaro declined to describe or name the Chinese sites that affected the data. However, he did say that Net Applications drops sites for several reasons, including “gaming” its analytics and receiving traffic from bots, browser toolbars or other automated page-view generators.

The company argued that by scrubbing out the Chinese websites’ tallies, the result is a better picture of the percentages of the world’s personal computers that run Windows XP and other operating systems. “The current data set is more accurate than in the past due to this,” Net Applications said.

Assuming that Net Applications is right — which outsiders might find hard to swallow — the data showing a record fall of Windows XP, and for that matter the record increase of Windows 8, were in reality adjustments, not one-month real-world changes. In other words, Windows XP had been declining at a more rapid pace all along, while Windows 8 had been increasing faster than Net Applications had measured previously.

The one-off decline of Windows XP’s user share also impacted other operating systems. Because Net Applications reports user shares as percentages of a whole, a drop in XP would require a corresponding increase elsewhere. That may have been the cause of the dramatic October boost to Windows 8’s user share as it, too, was readjusted. It also meant that other OSes, such as Windows 7 and Apple’s OS X, may have been under-reported previously.

There are oddities that remain in Net Applications’ data, however, even after the company’s explanation. For October, the firm pegged the user share of Windows NT at 1.64%, an inexplicable increase from 0.05% of September. Windows NT, a precursor to Windows 95, was first released in 1993.

The California company’s data, which is widely used by the media to track the ups and downs of browsers and operating systems, had reported October’s numbers on Saturday. According to its estimates, Windows XP’s user share had plunged a record 6.7 percentage points last month, while Windows 8 had soared by 4.5 points, also a record.


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11 ways to re-energize your IT career

Mid-career blues, begone. Here are 11 actionable items tech pros can tackle to keep moving on up in IT.

Stuck in the middle — and blue?
Eric Reed knows a thing or two about mid-career pitfalls. He’s seen some mid-level IT managers get too enamored with technology for its own sake, rather than viewing it as a way to advance business goals. Other would-be leaders didn’t know how to communicate or collaborate with non-IT colleagues and were sidelined as techies rather than ID’d as future business leaders.

Reed is grateful he was able to overcome those challenges in his own career and sustain his momentum — he’s now CTO at GE Capital. With that goal in mind, Computerworld asked Reed and other seasoned IT pros for advice on how to keep your tech career from getting bogged down. Read on for their tips.

Develop a road map
It’s smart to know not just where you want to land but how best to get there. Piera Palazzolo, senior vice president at Dale Carnegie Training, which specializes in business-oriented improvement, recommends starting with self-reflection. Map out the exact positions you’d like to hold and the ultimate title you’d like to achieve. “Then set a course for yourself and find out what you need to learn,” Palazzolo says. Talk to your supervisor and other higher-ups in the company to determine how they can help you and whether your company’s plans for you mesh with your own.

Bob Flynn, manager of IT community partnerships at Indiana University, says his organization requires each worker to have a career management plan, which he says helps him and his colleagues to map out their goals.

Gain new perspective
Managers often pay lip service to the concept of “walking the shop floor,” but James Stanger, senior director of product development at CompTIA, an IT trade association, suggests going beyond the typical pat-on-the-back mentality. Instead, get to know how your direct reports, your colleagues and your customers view the world.

“In middle management, due to the demands of the job and just trying to get it done, people get these blinders on, and they don’t think about how others think,” Stanger says. Try asking: What do you think about this problem? What’s your perspective? Can you explain your need here?

“Take those blinders off and you’ll find yourself much more nimble in your thinking,” Stanger says, which in turn will make you a better problem-solver — a valued leadership quality.

Find leadership opportunities
To continue honing your leadership skills, look for opportunities that will get you noticed — especially ones outside of your department. “Volunteer for a cross-functional task force that exposes you to senior leaders. Get out of your silo, and get more people in your organization to know who you are,” says Carly Goldsmith, a career coach specializing in guiding mid-career professionals. She suggests seeking out projects and committees that will help you grow your skills.

One of her clients took Goldsmith’s advice, joining a project that required her to have more interactions and strategic conversations with senior leaders. The move paid off: She was offered a promotion shortly after the project wrapped up.

Be a perfectionist
Sure, no one’s perfect, but if you’re gunning for more responsibilities, you have to make sure you’re doing your current job as close to perfect as possible.

Sean Andersen, director of interactive services at Six Flags Entertainment Corp., works with IT managers across the company’s 18 theme parks. He says he notices the ones who “keep their house in order” — consistently fulfilling all of their assigned duties, including routine and mundane tasks that often get overlooked. Andersen taps those individuals for special projects because they’re most likely to be able to handle additional responsibilities.

Case in point: When the company launched a pilot program with the new Chromebox two years ago, he went to the manager who had everything else already under control.

Learn constantly, and share what you discover

To protect yourself from becoming technically obsolete as you move up in management and away from the tech trenches, you need to be constantly building and refreshing a well-rounded set of skills. “The idea is to be constantly learning,” CompTIA’s Stanger says. Take more classes, get another certification, earn an advanced degree, he says.

If you’re like most workers, your current job requirements already fill your work week, which means you’ll have to dig hard to find more hours for learning something new. Andersen, the Six Flags executive, says he carves out time — usually late at night — to read up on and test out new technologies. And he says he likewise has doled out plum assignments to direct reports who show similar initiative.

Compensate for your blind spots
Reed, the CTO at GE Capital, admits that in the past he often didn’t think about the impact his decisions had on other people. “I’d sign onto an objective and put together a plan, but I was not thinking about the ramifications on the team,” he says. He didn’t realize the problem until someone on his team called him out on it.

Reed says his headlong decision-making style didn’t kill his career, but it had done some damage with his business partners. Now that he’s became aware of his blind spot, he works to keep it front of mind as he makes commitments that affect his team.

Bernadette Rasmussen, divisional senior vice president of information management and CTO of Health Care Service Corp. (HCSC), agrees with Reed’s approach. “Listen to your team members, listen to your peers and listen to your business leaders,” she advises.

Know how your business makes money…
It’s not enough to have generic business acumen. That’s required for most technologists these days.

To gain a leadership position, you have to know how your organization operates and, more importantly, how it makes money. “Some people get into middle management and they don’t understand that. They don’t understand that we’re not here to implement neat technology. We’re here to help the business make money,” Reed says.

He recommends spending more time meeting with business colleagues to develop that insight and then using it to make smarter decisions within IT. Understanding which technologies have the biggest impact on the company’s bottom line will help you prioritize projects and deliver the big bang that draws attention, Reed says.

… then use that knowledge to drive business results
As an IT middle manager, you most certainly need to know technology and must consistently deliver on your technology projects. As an aspiring C-level leader, your priority should be making sure those projects deliver a tangible benefit to the company. In other words, show your ROI.

“You must change your perspective from mastering technology to helping your organization drive results,” says HCSC’s Rasmussen. “Help connect the dots, drive change with perspective beyond your own and add your unique value,” she advises.

Be the expert that people seek out
You need to be more than an expert to attain a corner office — you need to be the expert.

Theresa Caragol learned that lesson during her upward climb. “You have to be the best and have the deepest expertise so someone says, ‘If I want to understand this, I have to go talk to this person.’ And if you’re the expert in more than one technology, that’s even better,” she says.

Caragol, now global vice president for channels and partners at Extreme Networks Inc., positioned herself as an expert in software-defined networking at a previous employer. Her mentors helped line up opportunities for her to speak on the topic, which brought her to the attention of those in positions to promote her. She worked her way up to vice president of global channel, alliances and partners at Ciena Corp., her previous employer, a role that in turn served as a stepping stone to her current position.

Manage up and manage down
If you really want to shine, make sure your team does. And make your manager look good, too. After all, in almost all cases your boss will be the one to recommend you for top assignments and promotions. Have regular face-to-face conversations where you can talk about company objectives, professional goals and, yes, even your personal interests, says Dale Carnegie Training’s Palazzolo.

Put the same effort into building relationships with your team, because you’re only as good as the output you get from them. Vidhya Ranganathan, senior vice president of products and engineering at cloud-services firm Accellion Inc., takes a commonsense approach to building relationships. She regularly has lunch with her team and chats over coffee. “It’s not to give them [formal] guidance, but to just listen and let them know I’m available,” she says.

Avoid missteps

To make your rise through the ranks as painless as possible:
Don’t wait for your manager to offer you opportunities. There’s a reason why Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently found himself embroiled a firestorm of criticism when he urged women seeking a raise to “have faith in the system” rather than asking for what they want — it’s bad advice for all employees. “Too often, middle managers take a passive approach to their career advancement” — including raises and promotions, career-coach Goldsmith says. “Go out and find the opportunities yourself.
Don’t linger in a job you dislike or that’s not well suited for you. “Motivation plummets, mistakes are made, stress increases. And whether you’re conscious of it or not, you start to be seen as a poor performer,” Goldsmith explains.
Don’t get trapped in the weeds. According to Goldsmith, middle managers often do more hands-on work than they should. You need to move out of the tech trenches and lead your team, not code with them.


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