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Profile: Build Industry Expertise Without Getting Pigeonholed

This J&J manager has a niche specialty, but broad project management skills.

Joe Kinder shows how the path to IT job security requires a diversity of skills. He works on refining his business technology management chops, while also developing deep industry expertise in a narrow niche of a vertical industry.

As manager of clinical trials technology for Johnson & Johnson's pharmaceutical group, Kinder designs and develops systems that let clinicians worldwide securely exchange information to enroll patients in clinical trials. Beyond the technology, the work requires specific industry understanding, from regulatory needs to the kind of information researchers need.

"There will always be a need for this type of expertise," he says. "It's got a very specific bandwidth, very narrow." The work wouldn't be easily outsourced, Kinder says, because trials often need to begin quickly and last only a year or two, making it more difficult to get a third party involved. With 40 to 50 such trials at Johnson & Johnson alone, the need for this sort of expertise in the pharmaceutical industry is great. Yet the job also requires broader skills such as people management and communication with end users, technology vendors, and business-unit managers, hedging the risk of Kinder getting too narrowly focused.

As a manager, Kinder looks for a similar mix of skills. "I hire for personality and communications skills because it's important to be able to articulate the needs of the user to the developers," he says. IT pros can't neglect the daunting task of staying on top of the latest technology trends. But people skills are often what make the difference.

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