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Advice From Two Tech Executives On How To Set The Right Trajectory For Your Career

Advice From Two Tech Executives On How To Set The Right Trajectory For Your Career

Young and ambitious technical professionals have the C-Suite in sight. They’re hungry for the increased compensation, responsibility, and authority that come with a CIO, CTO, or VP of technology role. To be successful in their goals, they need advice from seasoned technical professionals who have climbed the long arduous path from the bottom to the top.

This article has been written by two such professionals. Jaimie Cole is the VP of Technology at iCardiac, a relatively new biomedical research company, and Colin Rhodes is the CTO/CIO of eHealth Technologies, a midsize medical records clearinghouse located in Upstate New York. Both Jaimie and Colin have extensive experience in technology and have spent a combined fifty years in the industry.

While there is no prescription for how to get into the C-Suite, some basic approaches will significantly improve your chances of getting there. In this article, we’ll focus on five areas you should put into your five-year plan.

  • Building Relationships
  • Building Skills and Education
  • Building Great Teams
  • Building Great Strategy with Others
  • Contributing to the Community

Build Relationships

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    Many technical people find building strong professional relationships outside their immediate work environment to be a challenge. After all, if you spend your entire day with technical people, you’ll be immersed in their culture and world.

    Venturing out to see the rest of the company is equally important. Studies have shown that people with deep networks are promoted more frequently and are seen as higher achievers, largely because of their ability to build relationships.

    Deep relationships don’t consist of going out for lunch or knowing each other’s children’s names. The best relationships are built on mutual respect and trust forged in joint projects where you’ve had a chance to show you have each other’s back.

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    Strong performers work on both vertical and horizontal relationships and understand their peers’, managers’, and subordinates’ needs. When you look around you at the people you work with, ask yourself if they trust you and if you trust them. This is a good measure of where you stand in the organization, but be careful not to confuse trusting someone with liking them, as these are two different concepts. Trust is the confidence you have in someone’s competence and character. Competence is demonstrated by consistently delivering quality results in a timely manner. Character is demonstrated by making decisions with integrity, being inclusive, staying away from the politically correct solution that may be entirely incorrect. Be viewed as one that gets to the right answer independently, even though it may be counter to the prevailing political winds. But do it in a way that does not sacrifice anyone’s career or credibility—having each other’s back, so to speak.

    The further up the management chain that you go, the more relationships matter. This is especially true when dealing with outside suppliers. Remember, a true win is when you both can work together with as little friction as possible, anticipating each other’s moves, and helping each other get over the finish line.

    The easiest way to build relationships is to treat others with respect and dignity. Don’t bother stroking egos or playing games, just be authentic, real, and sometimes even a little vulnerable. Other people trust those who trust them enough to let them in, and all the bluster and bravado in the world can’t replace this simple act. One of the best ways to build rapport in your relationships is to schedule one-on-one conversations. Conversations are different when they are one-on-one versus in a larger group. You are more likely to get to know the character of the other person in these one-on-one meetings.

    Build Skills and Education

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      What’s your five-year plan for your education? You’re going to be working with some very bright people, and you’d better have a desire to engage in lifelong learning if you plan to keep up.

      There is a growing movement in tech against going out and taking an MBA to supplement your technical skills. Much of what you need to know can be learned on the job or through self-study. If you take online courses and show initiative by learning something new every day, that’s enough for me. People with these characteristics always do well.

      Remember to balance hard and soft skills. Great senior technical managers are multi-faceted. They write articulately, communicate with others, and can still configure machines, write code, and inspire the troops by showing they haven’t lost their edge. There is always an element of the generalist in such people, but they have deep pillars of supporting skills built over many years of hard work.

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      Research and explore seminars, webinars, lunch-and-learn sessions, local networking learning sessions that are offered over breakfast or lunch. Ask others what books they have read recently that have helped them look at their work or career from a new perspective.

      Build Great Teams

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        If you get the opportunity to build your own team, hire for attitude and train for skill. Enthusiasm, self-initiation, and self-motivation are difficult, if not impossible, skills to train. They are skills that should be intrinsic to you and to those that you hire. In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he talks about “getting the right people on the bus” and “getting the wrong people off the bus.” This is a key insight; people fit together in teams like jigsaw puzzles and no amount of pushing will fit the wrong piece into the open space.

        If you become the manager of the team, realize that it takes time to manage people. They need direction, objectives, coaching, and correction. Setting up tasks and expectations for your team takes time. Find an experienced manager outside of your direct reporting relationship and ask if they can be your mentor while you cut your teeth on this new responsibility. Experienced managers make it look easy—it’s not.

        Managing teams is hard because people are involved. Sometimes people are unpredictable. Sometimes you have to remove a great person who unfortunately is in the wrong role. This adds stress to your own job and responsibilities.

        Build Great Strategy with Others

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          There’s a reason why it often takes so long to become a general in the army; strategy is serious business and you are taking the lives of others into your hands when you play at it. If you choose right, your company bursts into flower, and if you choose wrong, well, the flower withers and dies.

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          Fortunately, you will rarely be developing strategy on your own. A well-developed technology strategy is a series of concepts that have been agreed to by the business owners, product line managers, and other constituents, including your own C-level team. It should show a logical progression from the current state to some desired future state in alignment with the goals and financial means of the corporation.

          Building great strategy is hard. It takes a team of executives who can bring different skills to the task, and a fine CEO who can articulate your strategy to investors and shareholders as part of the wider corporate plan. Sometimes you’ll be planning for growth and looking ahead, and other times your mission may to be consolidate your gains or decline gracefully for a period to regroup.

          If you are in an early-phase company, breakneck growth is usually the name of the game. You need to know your systems; how they scale, what might break, and what investments are critical. Budgets are tight and highly dependent on revenue coming in the door, so you may have to bide your time for that next big systems changeover. Plans are often short term and the desire for longer-term strategy is often low as the company pivots its way into a market. Don’t let that dissuade you from having something ready to go in your back pocket. You’ll need it eventually.

          Middle-phase companies turn to strategy development as a way to overcome some of the gaps left by the frenetic motion of the early phase. The investments needed to scale at this lifecycle point are larger, and the implementation of projects is considerably more complex. It takes considerable time, thought, and the cooperation of others to build out the strategy of a midsize firm. At this point in the company’s development, it might make most sense to outsource some of the implementation of the strategy, but be sure to stay closely involved.

          Contribute to Your Community

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            We all hear the phrase “giving back to community,” but how many busy managers have the time to do it? Here’s some great advice that you will never forget: make the time to support your local community. There are so many ways to give back.

            Volunteering gives you a chance to network with other people working in different fields and walks of life who you might not come across otherwise. Pick an activity out of your comfort zone that will stretch your skills, such as Habitat for Humanity, reading at the local library, or helping out at an animal shelter. You are only limited by your imagination!

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            Connect with alumni at the university you attended. Consider presenting yourself and your company in front of a group of students. Maybe think about being an adjunct professor or co-teaching with a professor already on staff. Many university departments look for industry advisers to be part of reviewing and designing curriculum for future students. Your perspective is valuable and can have significant impact on the academic environment.

            “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” — Benjamin Franklin

            Who are we?

            As the CIO and CTO at eHealth Technologies, Colin is responsible for an innovative organization focused on medical records and imaging in Health Information Exchanges. Colin is also an active published author who contributes to a wide range of periodicals including LifeHack.org, Western New York Physician, Corporate IT Magazine, and Autism Parenting Magazine on a regular basis. In 2015, he was rated number 44 on the top 100 HCIT list for his continuing contributions to social media (http://healthcareit.me) and the BlogSphere as @CTOAndITGuy.

            As VP of Technology at iCardiac Technologies, Jaimie leads the development of software and technology to help the pharmaceutical industry. He is a passionate proponent of agile/lean software development and rapid prototyping and design. He is also an adjunct lecturer at his alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology, in the Computer Engineering department.

            Featured photo credit: PicJumbo via picjumbo.com

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            Chief Technology Officer

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            Last Updated on November 15, 2019

            Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

            Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

            Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

            How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

            Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

            The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

            Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

            Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

            When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

            Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

            Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

            The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

            Shocked? Well, I was too.

            The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

            When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

            On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

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            Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

            Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

            Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

            Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

            Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

            It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

            Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

            As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

            In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

            A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

            Your metabolism is like your bank account.

            To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

            Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

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            What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

            That’s exactly how your body reasons:

            More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

            Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

            Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

            For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

            Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

            Foods That Increase Metabolism

            Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

            Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

            Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

            • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
              When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
            • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
            • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
            • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

            Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

            To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

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            1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
            2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
            3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

            Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

            Sugars and Carbs

            Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

            Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

            Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

            Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
            • Dried fruit
            • Commercial and packaged corn
            • High fructose corn syrup
            • All sorts of candies and lookalike
            • Packaged fruit juices and purees
            • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
            Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
            • Bread and flour-based products
            • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
            • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
            • Potatoes and potato starch products
            • Oatmeals and other grains
            Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
            • All berries except strawberries
            • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
            • Sweet potatoes
            • White rice
            • All green vegetables

            Fats

            Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

            Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
            • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
            • Lard
            • Gmo oils
            • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
            Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
            • Nuts
            • Meat fat
            • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
            • Seeds
            Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
            • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
            • Avocado
            • Coconut oil
            • Butter (organic)
            • Egg yolks (free-range)
            • Bone marrow

            The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

            Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

            Proteins

            Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

            Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

            Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

            Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

            For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

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            Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
            • Cheap whey proteins
            • Soy proteins
            • GMO meat
            • GMO eggs
            • Packaged meat
            Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
            • Canned tuna
            • Canned fish
            • Canned meat
            • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
            • Farmed fish
            Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
            • Free-range meat
            • Free-range eggs
            • Wild meat and fish
            • Whey protein isolate
            • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

            Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

            Other Foods and Supplements

            Cold water

            Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

            This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

            MCT Oils or Powders

            Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

            You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

            Caffeine

            Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

            Green Tea

            Green tea

            is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

            Bottom Line

            In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

            For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

            Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

            And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

            Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

            Reference

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