Information System Management Career

A first year student wrote to me: “I want to enroll in Information System Management (ISM) but still not sure what I can do with this degree? What is the difference between ISM and Software Engineering or Computer Science? Please advise.”

Answer: Both Software Engineering and Computer Science are technical fields where graduates will start to work as software developers. Information Systems Management is a blended field of technology and business where graduates will start to work as Information Technology managers. The main component of this field is to train students on how to manage technology in companies to solve problems, develop and deploy technologies to help company increase efficiency to compete in a globalized market. In this field, you will learn about technology and its impact to company, society and country. You will learn to combine business and technical aspects into a strategy that help the company to operate effectively in complex business situations and interconnected world.

As the IT manager, you are responsible for managing many IT activities within a company as well as help producing a vision for the company’s technology needs. You also be responsible for the maintenance and upgrading of existing IT systems (Both software and hardware), by negotiating with IT vendors. Today demand for IT managers is high across industries and it will grow faster as more companies are investing in IT to improve efficiency and performance.

As more mobile devices (Smartphones, tablets etc.) are being used in the working environment, companies must find ways to allow workers to incorporate those devices and the security to use those devices safely. As IT manager, you must have knowledge of computer security to implement tools that workers need to make sure that they are productive and safely do their works.

While technical skills are the foundation, management skills are the most important to being a successful IT manager. IT managers must be able to analyze a problem and pick the best and most cost-effective solution. It requires knowledge of how information systems work as when an IT system fails, every minute spent searching for the solution is a minute workers are not being productive and cost the business money. IT managers also need to be able to lead and motivate people to meet the business goals of the company. To succeed ISM graduates must develop very good soft-skills (Communication, presentation, listening, motivation etc.) IT managers need to understand what motivates each employee and adjust their management styles accordingly.

As technology changes fast, IT managers must monitor both market trends and technology trends to plan and adjust company’s IT strategy accordingly. ISM graduates must have good knowledge on Cloud computing and mobility (Two current important trends) and help company transition to these trends. Before getting to the top level, most ISM graduates starts as software project manager and spend few years managing IT projects. Successful IT project managers often further advance to IT managers, IT directors, then Chief Technology Officers (CTO) and even Chief Information Officers (CIO).

Today the minimum requirement for IT managers is a Bachelor’s degree. Some companies require two to five years of experience or an advanced degree such as Master in Information System Management (MIS) or Master in Business Administration (MBA).

The major challenge associated with finding an IT manager is the quality and skill-level of the person. Currently technology companies find it difficult to recruit these skills. Many SE and CS graduates prefer to work in technical areas and may not have the necessary trainings to be managers. Finding an IT manager who is up-to-date with the most recent technology and global trends, infrastructures, security etc. is extremely difficult. There are IT workers who have several years working experience, but few who have taken the time to develop and update their skill set to match what is required of both a technical and business leader. Although they may have the technical skills but it does not means they have the management skills and soft skills. That is why today ISM is a “Hot” field in this competitive job market.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University