Seeding the Line: Understanding the Transition From IT to Non-IT Careers

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Abstract

As organizations face increased competitive pressures and technological changes, their attention is focusing on how to attain strategic benefits from information technology investments, including investments in people. From a human resources perspective, one debate centers on how to attract and retain information technology (IT) professionals. Somewhat paradoxically, it is suggested that to retain IT professionals, organizations must provide both technical and business oriented career opportunities.

This paper presents a case study of one organization, The Mutual Group, in which more than 70 IT professionals permanently moved into non-IT, business unit jobs during the 1980's and early 1990's. Using interviews and surveys of 51 former IT professionals, this research investigated the characteristics of the individual, the organization, the first non-IT job, and the transition period.

We conclude from our findings that IT professionals who moved to non-IT jobs in the line made the transition without the benefit of deliberate preparation, formal transition programs, or safety nets to reduce the risk. Some conditions existed at The Mutual Group that may have assisted them, including: good relations between IT and the line, friends and mentors in line units, and a willingness to take risks in pursuit of new challenges.

One contribution of this paper is that is begins to fill a gap in the career mobility literature, based on individuals and their stories of change. It also attempts to understand the role of context in one organization that is a recognized leader in the use of IT for competitive advantage.

Additional Details

Author Blaize Horner Reich and Michelle Lynn Kaarst-Brown
Year 1999
Volume 23
Issue 3
Keywords Job transfers, IT careers, career mobility
Page Numbers 337-364