Dear Career Advisor

Dear Career Advisor

I'm the director of network operations at a large university and took a significant pay cut to gain experience managing a large network with a staff of 50. Now, I understand this move could have jeopardised my career if I wish to return to the private sector. How do I build a résumé that allows me to compete for CIO positions at midsize companies?

- Ms University

Dear University:

From a technology perspective, your university's networking environment has outpaced most midsize companies you would be working for, says Rizwan Akhtar, vice president of IT at Cosaweb, a midsize application service provider in Illinois.

But to become a director or CIO at a commercial enterprise, your current résumé needs to have a greater business emphasis. Both director and CIO positions at companies require you to create and execute project plans and manage budgets of more than $2 million. Your résumé needs to emphasise business and finance skills.

Follow Akhtar's advice and state your experience in terms of responsiveness to business goals, where you can show how you simplified operating complexity and implemented cost-effective operational plans.

Dear Career Adviser:

I'm a financial applications consultant who is being courted by a pre-initial public offering online finance company with a terrific market idea. It is building a product and consulting organisation and seeking its second round of funding. Is this opportunity real?

- Basic Information

Dear Basic:

Getting that second round of funding and holding on to a market can be real minefields right now, cautions Ann Winblad, a partner at San Francisco-based Hummer Winblad Venture Partners. Among her recent and more painful funding experiences are Inc. and Napster Inc.

"Venture backers have returned to 1995, pre-Netscape thinking," Winblad emphasises. Therefore, software companies that get second-round funding must demonstrate that they can create sustainable businesses for two to four years before going public while upholding familiar software-business standards: gross margins of 80 percent and pretax margins of 20 per cent to 25 per cent.

The company must also show that it isn't based on a theme that can easily go dead along with its entire niche market. It must have a solid core asset - such as its intellectual capital or team - and be able to create a solid but not overengineered product and to build revenue and partnership deals.

In your interviews, ferret out real information about revenue, expenses and business models. "It's not about the end of the world," says Winblad. "It's about the search for gasoline."SDear Career Adviser:

I'm following up on the question from "Ears" regarding help desk personnel. I'm now going from three years of internal help desk support experience to work for a vendor. What questions do I need to ask?

- Sweatshop-Phobic

Dear Phobic:

Take a look at whether the vendor provides support directly or outsources it elsewhere. That's what Microsoft and many other companies with large market share and legions of customers seem to do.

Then ask plenty of questions regarding metrics. According to Richard Farrell, co-author of The Art of Software Support (Prentice Hall, 1997), metrics refer to four elements: case backlog, response times, resolution times and customer satisfaction.

Backlog metrics are very meaningful: A low of 10 per person is great, and an average of 25 is OK. But 40 cases backlogged per person means "go elsewhere". That's too much work per individual.

Also ask about how you're ranked on customer-feedback evaluations. Such surveys might base 25 per cent of your rating on the quality of the call and 25 per cent on the quality of the resolution, with the remaining 50 per cent divided among response time (a team goal), resolution time (an individual goal) and the number of cases closed, which tends to be 10 per cent to 15 per cent of the evaluation, says Farrell.

If the vendor uses the HMO approach to customer support by focusing solely on the number of cases pushed through the system, keep looking.

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