How does technology work in an organization?

As you start your career in technology you might wonder about the big picture. How do all the pieces work together? What does the CIO do? How does the CTO fit into the picture? Depending on where you come into the technology organization you may have different vantage points. My first role was a “Programmer/Analyst” at a small consulting firm. Each organization does things a little differently. Overall though there are some similarities.

C-Suite

The leaders of an organization are commonly referred to as the C-Suite or executives. This will include the Chief Executive Officer or CEO. This person is in charge of everything and answers to ownership and/or board. The Chief Information Officer is responsible for the technology team or Information Services. They will set the tone on policies and procedures and help drive major initiatives. Some organizations will have a Chief Technology Officer. This role will set high-level technology operations. The CIO and CTO will often work together on overall technology strategy. The Chief Operating Officer or COO is responsible for day to day operations of the company. Depending on the business the organization is in they may also have a Chief Security Officer. This person will be responsible for enforcing policies and procedures that ensure there are no security breaches.

VPs and Directors

The next level down is Vice Presidents. Some companies will add Executive and Senior Vice Presidents too. This is usually for larger organizations. As you come down the leadership hierarchy you transition from more strategic decisions to more tactical. This is more day to day operations. Although some leaders as they move up the ladder seem to keep their heads in the weeds of the day to day. Directors are the next level down and usually have multiple managers reporting to them. On the technology team, you may have a Director of Software Development, Director of Infrastructure, and Directory of Security. The responsibilities can vary quite a bit by the organization.

Architect and Engineers

Architects in the technology sector generally lay down high-level plans similar to their distant relatives who create plans for buildings. There will be architects in software design, infrastructure, networks, and a few other areas. Engineers will work alongside with the architects to put the plans into practice. So for an example, the software architect will create the design and the software engineers will write the code. There is usually a lot of collaboration between these two areas.

Managers

Managers are at the lowest management rung. They work in the day to day operations exclusively. Team sizes may vary but often the number of direct reports is in the five to ten range. As a former Manager of Software Development, I had up to ten people reporting to me. If you enjoy developing people this is a great level to be at. You can have ample opportunity to lead a team and help people.

Analysts

When I first started out of college I was a Programmer/Analyst. I thought that was odd since I mostly did software development or programming. Although as things go I got to do more analysis at various points during my first job. In my next job, I worked with a larger organization. They had people who just did the analysis. They would write up requirements and share them with a developer to complete. Some companies call them Systems Analyst or Business Analyst but overall they generate requirements.

Titles

From organization to organization the titles can change a lot. For instance, some places have numerous designations for the same thing. They might have Programmer Intern, Programmer I, Programmer II, etc. It can be hard to compare titles when you look at opportunities or resumes. It is more helpful to ask someone what they do or what roles you would do in that position. This can make salary comparison difficult as well.

Structure

Organizations have many different structures. A certain amount still has the hierarchy similar to a military unit. Many have flattened the organization. With many new organizations, they have less rigid reporting structure. “Manager-less” is a term some companies have moved to. They might have people who coach team members but no reporting connection.

Technology teams can sometimes try out new things as they have with the agile revolution. I am sure in ten or fifteen years the technology we use and the structure of the team working on it will be quite different. Keep an open mind to what comes next. If you don’t you might be out of the industry.

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