Developing Qualified IT Professionals

By Mark Egan

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It used to be that completing digital logic, programming, parsing, algorithm formulation, and similar university-level computer science courses was a sure ticket to a lucrative career in IT.

Not anymore.

While these very technical areas continue to comprise the bulk of requirements for graduating with a degree in IT at many universities in the U.S., the IT jobs of the future call for a blend of business and technical knowledge and expertise. That’s because IT is no longer simply about writing code, it’s about knowing how to leverage technology to enable business.

As a result, the high-demand jobs of today and tomorrow are not necessarily for programmers but for business analysts, program managers, and IT architects — individuals who spent as many hours in classes at their university’s school of business as they did in the computer science department.

Unfortunately, the curriculum of today’s universities does not match up with the requirements of today’s business world. IT graduates are woefully unprepared for the mixture of IT and business expertise it takes to successfully address the issues related to information management. As a result, universities across the country need to more closely align their curriculum with the needs of private business if our graduates are truly going to be capable of competing in what is now a global job market.

Walking the Talk

Through the Consortium of Information Systems Executives, (CISE), a group of San Francisco Bay Area IT executives and myself, we hope to address this situation and influence curriculum at the university level. By serving as guest lecturers, or sitting on the advisory boards of universities, or by recommending and providing material for use in IT courses, our goal is to improve IT education at universities across the country.

The CISE has also established a scholarship fund to support disadvantaged students to pursue a major and graduate with a degree in IT and/or computer science.

Although the program is still in its early stages, a number of academic institutions have already been approved to receive and distribute scholarships through the CIO Scholarship fund, and students have indeed begun to attend classes.

Needless to say, this is not a short-term plan but a long-term effort that the CISE hopes will grow throughout the country in the coming months and years. If it does, the IT workforce of the future will be better prepared to face the challenges of an increasingly competitive and complex environment that requires a more holistic understanding of an ever-widening range of business-critical issues.

Mark Egan is Symantec's CIO and vice president of Information Technology. He is responsible for the management of Symantec's internal business systems, computing infrastructure, and information security program. CIOs who are interested in participating in CISE's activities and want more information, can visit the CISE Web site at www.ciofocusgroups.com.