Explore the role of IT management in city government.
- Given the innovation needs, high demand, stability, and the meaningfulness of the work, a technology career in government can be exceptionally rewarding. It won't make you financially rich while you do it, but it can make your life rich. It can be just for a little while, you can hop between governments every few years, or it's possible to spend decades in one public agency. Many do. There are options. Quality talent with great skills will be in high demand in all forms of government for a long time to come.
We've discussed how an IT environment in a local government can be similar to that in the private sector. For this reason, they're a lot of similarities in required roles. Let's start bottom up. One of the best entry points to an organization is the IT service desk. A more contemporary name for the traditional help desk. The IT service desk is the first tier of support for technology issues. It typically takes phone calls, and walk-up visits.
In addition, IT service desk staff often visit city employees at their locations when a problem can't be solved over the phone, or a walk-up is not possible. IT service desks in a government context can often be just a small handful of people, or in the case of a large city, it can be a large call center. The IT service desk is often open to recent undergraduates, but a degree isn't always required, and new staff can have varied backgrounds.
Since the work is often learned on the job, recruiting managers look for people with the potential for great customer service. Once established in the IT service desk, quality work and a good reputation positions an individual for promotion within IT, should they have an interest in that. If a technology issue is so complex that it can't be solved by the IT service desk, it typically gets escalated to more senior support staff.
These are individuals with many years of experience, and with particular specializations. People in tier two, three, and higher support often deal with software and hardware in the data center, and in the cloud. They interact with internal stakeholders and vendors. The more the issue is complex, the higher likelihood that extensive, multi-disciplinary collaboration will be required.
There are many generalists and specialist roles across support, including system and database administrators, cybersecurity professionals, monitoring roles, and data backup management. While the support roles take care of systems that are already deployed and being used by staff, there's a lot of roles for technologists who design and build those systems. This group of individuals have more specialized skills that often require extensive schooling, experience, and certifications.
They are system analysts, those that convert business needs into technology requirements. Solution architects, those that can design technology. Software engineers, the people who write software code. There are a wide range of additional roles in this area, worth exploring. Between these teams and management, there are many other supporting roles. These include finance and contract managers.
There are staff who take care of physical assets and software license management, often called asset managers. Bigger organizations have specialized communication staff and people who focus on training, communication managers, and officers, and training coordinators. There are also roles for staff in documentation, and for specialist support of audio visual equipment. The larger the IT department, the more likely that there will be a higher number of administrative and specialized roles.
Finally, at the top of the hierarchy are a number of leadership roles, those that lead people, processes, or both. Depending on the size of the public agency, team leads and managers will supervise teams with specific focus areas. An IT service desk for example, could have one supervisor, or in a very large call center, each technology domain area could have its own supervisor. The entire support organization might role up as a division to a division head.
Essential to project success are IT project managers. These are managers who either directly manage or must shepherd disparate resources to complete tasks and ultimately deliver entire solutions. More than ever, IT organizations must be highly collaborative to get things done. Leading the entire operation is usually an IT director, now increasingly referred to as a chief information officer.
This is the most senior IT role and must manage down and up. They plan, direct, and advise both their own organization, and any relevant external stakeholder. Now, let's take a look at some other emerging IT roles in government.
Leading CIO Jonathan Reichental explains the function of cities, the role of technology in cities, and the different IT jobs available. He also provides practical tips to prepare for an IT career in city government, including tips on getting the right training, building a résumé, preparing and acing the interview, and getting ready for the first day on the job.