Climbing the IT Service Management Ladder
If you're looking to climb up the career ladder in IT services management, then you will need more than just tech skills. Being good at your job and having the paper certifications is important, but you will also need good interpersonal skills as well. IT management is a good career path, and a fulfilling one, but it requires a breadth of skills if you want to achieve success.
Whatever part of the industry you're in, it is important to understand network operations. If you have a good knowledge of how all of the systems you're working with integrate, that will be incredibly helpful. You don't have to be hands on with every element of the system. You just need to be able to understand how they all work together. Let the people who are in Dev Ops do the technical work.
A lot of the IT services management workload on a day to day basis is non-technical in nature. Managers spend a lot of time putting out fires caused by poor communication, poor workflow, and a lack of planning.
Directors will be working not just with the IT team, but also with people in other teams. They need to understand what each stakeholder wants and needs, and to manage expectations. Soft skills are as important as the technical skills at the upper end of the ladder.
Strong Candidates Step Away From the Terminal
One of the biggest challenges that people face when they're considering where they want to be in IT services is the idea of being de-skilled. The technicians, sysadmins, developers and consultants want to continue focusing on CCNA, CCIE, MCSD and other similar certifications. They want to develop their skills and they want to continue working in front of a terminal. The further up the ladder you get and the more focused on project management and leadership you get the less time you will have to spend in front of a terminal. It's not easy to accept this, and it takes a certain level of maturity to hand over that sudo password to someone else.
IT workers are, in general, an unusual bunch. It takes a certain level of focus and determination to be able to sit in front of a computer and work on detailed tasks for a long time, and sometimes the people who are best at coding or working with networks have a slightly anarchistic bent. This means that the best managers will be the ones who can deal with those strong personalities.
If you're currently a senior dev or admin and are looking to move into a CTO role, then think carefully about projects that you have managed in the past and how you handled them. Is a life of presentations, flow charts and PRINCE really more appealing to you than one of config files and debuggers?
Sometimes the best technical workers are not the best managers, and it is better both for the company and for their own job satisfaction if they stay where they are.