“Because they have an all-hands-on-deck mentality
and there are often no defined career descriptions,
[small-company tech execs] learn a lot of additional
skills and how to do more with less. It lets them build
out their résumé in a robust way and makes them more
marketable to their next employer,” Reed asserts.
IT staffers in larger organizations might only be able
to gain cursory management experience by a given
point in their careers, for example, or might only focus
on one specific technology area, like virtualization.
In comparison, tech professionals working their way
up the ladder in a smaller firm with fewer specialists
often do hands-on problem-solving across numerous
technologies. They also have the potential for deeper
management experience — working with budgets and
interfacing with other business functions, for example.
The downside is that lingering too long on the small-shop path puts a tech exec at risk of being pigeonholed as someone who “won’t translate well to a large
organization,” Reed cautions. “If you start exceeding
the five-year mark, you need to stop and think from a
career perspective, ‘Am I happy staying in this type of
setting from now on?’ ”
Continued from page 34
as further examples of his ability to enact technology
change much faster in Lynnwood than he could in the
larger Fresno IT infrastructure.
When Haugan first came to Lynnwood five years ago,
the city’s 25-year old PBX phone system was failing on a
daily basis. In a matter of months, he made a successful
case to implement VoIP, including a network overhaul
that encompassed the integration of voice and email.
Back in Fresno, a similarly aging phone system
never ended up being replaced, just perennially fixed,
because management considered it too disruptive to
replace a system that served 60 sites and more than
5,000 employees, he recalls.
“[In Lynnwood], I didn’t have all these hurdles to
jump,” Haugan explains. “I didn’t have to go to each
director and say, ‘I want to put VoIP in and here’s why.’
I could go straight to the mayor and make it happen.
There was much less red tape, and I was in a position
to make the decision and work within the municipal
code in the most effective way possible.”
While Haugan is generally happy with the flexibil-
ity of leading a smaller IT organization, he admits to
concern over the inevitable salary hit. (Computerworld’s
2011 Salary Survey shows that CIOs and VPs of I T at
If you start exceeding the five-year mark,
you need to think from a career perspective, ‘am I
happy staying in this type of setting from now on?’
John reed, EXECUTIVE DIREC TOR, ROBERT HALF TECHNOLOGY
With management experience in both small and
large municipal IT departments, Paul Haugan believes
the difference between the two relates primarily to the
amount of red tape attached to a given tech project.
During a previous role at the city of Fresno, Calif.,
where Haugan, 54, helped oversee an IT group of
75, it took about 15 months to push both a business
intelligence project and a time and attendance system
through the proper channels to get funding. In his
current role as CTO of the city of Lynnwood, Wash.,
the same projects took around three months, all told.
“In a big operation like Fresno, by the time [you]
go through the bureaucratic administrative steps just
to get a project done, the technology is obsolete,” says
Haugan, who is now responsible for about 10 people
supporting close to 500 end users and who oversees an
IT budget of between $2 million and $2.9 million. “I’m
a firm believer in technology’s opportunity to enact
significant change. I’m one of those guys who can’t
wait for the bureaucratic wheels to turn, because there
is too much value being lost.”
Haugan cites projects involving aging phone systems
companies with fewer than 100 employees earn about
44% less than the average compensation for those positions across organizations of all sizes.)
Beyond that, he’s worried that he may not be fully
developing the sophisticated political awareness that’s
required to make things happen in a larger organization.
Still, Haugan believes the skills he has honed could
directly translate to a larger organization. “Everything
I have learned at a big city, I have used in the small
one. Everything I learned in the nonprofit world, I have
used at both the big and smaller cities,” he points out.
“My greatest strengths are in relationship-building
and innovation. These are skills that translate across
the board,” Haugan says.
making a difference, Fulfilling a mission
As CIO of the nonprofit Make-A-Wish Foundation
of America, Jim Toy, 43, finds fulfillment not just in
helping his organization carry out its mission (to grant
the wishes of children with life-threatening medical
conditions), but also in orchestrating leading-edge
technology deployments with an eye toward maximiz-