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Career advice: Work is like 'Game of Thrones,' minus dragons

Career advice: Work is like 'Game of Thrones,' minus dragons

This month's Premier 100 IT Leader also answers questions on the need for programming skills in QA and conflicts between security and IT ops

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Glenn Schneider

Title: Executive vice president and CIO

Company: Discover Financial Services

Schneider 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 askaleader@computerworld.com.

glenn schneider Discover

Glenn Schneider, Discover Financial Services

How can a midlevel IT guy with some ambition but also a conscience survive in a workplace that’s starting to resemble Game of Thrones? (It wouldn’t be so bad if that meant there were dragons.) Now, more than ever, IT is a team sport and collaboration is key. To make the best of a challenging work environment, I recommend networking, keep innovating, and above all else, do what is right. Networking is about building trust and stronger relationships with co-workers, which not only leads to better business results, but can be helpful if you need someone to watch your flank at some point. In IT, if you’re not innovating, you’re falling behind. Keep the ideas coming and you’re bound to receive the recognition you deserve. Most importantly, take the high road. Stay calm, back up your ideas with solid support and research, and in the end, you’ll develop a reputation as someone who gets things done without all the drama.

I’ve been working in QA for seven years, focusing on user interfaces. I learned some programming back in my school days but have never had to use it in a job. Lately I’ve been hearing that the QA function is changing and programming is becoming an essential skill. Is that true, and if it is, how best should I prepare for that? I would agree that we are seeing a shift in the role of the tester, particularly within agile and continuous delivery frameworks. For unit testing, software engineers are playing a larger role, and in the case of test-driven development (TDD), they are writing the code to test before writing the actual code to accomplish the user story.

Automation is another key trend, particularly for regression testing. More and more, the ideal “test engineer” will have a programming background to better leverage the new testing tools and technologies. What can you do? Start researching and learning about automation testing frameworks and technologies — there are many online and instructor-led learning opportunities available. Also, look for opportunities to work on different domains and platforms to broaden your experience. Every company is different, but there will always be a demand for employees who have an in-depth understanding of the customer, quick analytical skills and a strong testing mindset.

I lead infosec for a fairly small company (under 300 employees total). Too often the things that I think we should be doing are in conflict with what the IT ops folk say is workable. (Just as an example, patching interferes with the business, they say, because no one can afford the downtime for rebooting.) I neither want to throw my weight around like a bully nor back down on everything that I think is important. Any advice on dialoguing these sorts of things and avoiding conflict? One technique is to shift the focus to the potential impacts on the customer and make it a shared problem for everyone to solve. In the end, your concern is with the overall security and stability of the environment, and security-related activities (e.g., patching) are just one part of the picture. If you can educate the overall IT ops leads on the risks to the environment and corresponding customer impacts, and then work together to determine the best way to mitigate risks, you’ll likely see more engagement. This can yield much better (and in some ways more creative) ways to mitigate risks than just pushing for more aggressive patching, for example.

Another option is to move to frameworks that allow for more frequent and less disruptive maintenance to software or platforms (e.g., PaaS/cloud-based models). Often the best approach is not pushing harder or with better arguments, but having an open mind to attacking the problem from a different angle.

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