Career advice: Where to focus? Data, data, data

Premier 100 IT Leader Richard Maranville also answers questions on career management

Freeman CIO Richard Maranville Ask a Premier 100 IT LeaderRichard Maranville Title: Executive vice president and CIOCompany: Freeman

Maranville is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to

As I enter my final year of studying for a computer science degree, what specific technologies should I be concentrating on? Congratulations on getting to your final year! I would recommend focusing on data design, databases, business intelligence, etc. Data management has always been at the heart of software, and its importance is only growing as companies struggle to manage and harvest an exponentially growing amount of data brought about by advances in things like social media, mobile computing and sensors. This strong skill is also very portable across technologies and companies, especially within verticals such as healthcare, retail and energy.

I was recently promoted to desktop support analyst and will be analyzing and managing security, performance, procedures and vendors at the desktop level. I feel pretty confident that this is something I can happily do for years to come, but I'd like some assurance that it could lead to other things should I ever decide to move on. That is great to hear about your promotion! And it is also very good that you are already thinking about what could be next for your career. Technology professionals, faced with many specialties and focus areas, need to focus on their own development. Security is a skill that is always in demand and growing! Rapidly evolving areas like mobile, cloud and social media mean the threats and opportunities for protection are changing rapidly. Your current position could lead to other opportunities, particularly with security and vendor management, since the traditional IT function must manage its many arrangements with third parties, particularly cloud providers. Managing service-level agreements, and understanding how to actively engage with a provider are strong skills to build upon.

What is the best way to keep up to date on regulations that affect IT operations? Another good question about taking charge of your career! IT operations is a great field to focus on, since it provides an overview of the day-to-day activities involved in running an IT enterprise. While much energy and focus is put on systems development, if the systems don't operate and run effectively, they will ultimately not deliver the value needed. As IT systems are now very integral to the core operations of many businesses, the importance of having skilled operators has grown. The best way to stay up to date on regulations that affect IT operations is to meet with other people in your company who are involved with these regulations -- representatives from legal, human resources, internal audit and risk management. These folks will be able to help you not only focus on what needs to be understood from an operations standpoint, but also understand how the regulations have been applied and interpreted for your company.

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