Career: Information Manager
Information managers regulate the flow of information, either electronically or procedurally, within and among offices. For many companies, the rate at which work can be done is limited by the rate at which information can be transmitted to the people who need it, so the information manager fills a critical role: To rapidly and accurately disseminate information to people who need it while maintaining security and creating a structure flexible enough to allow for company expansion or contraction. IMs work closely with all departments of a company and many spend significant time analyzing a company’s needs and historical practices before implementing any changes.
IMs are often hired as a result of a critical information failure on an important project. In these circumstances, they may have to deal with the resentment of managers who are used to communicating in a certain way and who are reluctant to fully describe their job responsibilities for fear of being blamed for the problem. IMs find it helpful to act as educators, and strong interpersonal skills are an advantage to them. IMs are also hired for their technical expertise and work as MIS (management information system) specialists to connect physically remote locations through telephone lines, to network existing stand-alone computers, or to coordinate telephone and data systems throughout a building. IMs specialize in management analysis or physical systems early in their career.
The most surprising problem IMs face is not a practical one—their educational training and practical experience prepare them for most situations that they will encounter—it is with the level of satisfaction. Information managers report that their level of satisfaction seems to decrease the longer they are in their career. Some said this is because the challenges aren’t that challenging anymore; a few wrote that they expected the profession to lead to other careers and for them, it did not; one mentioned that the defensiveness he encountered on a day-to-day basis was downright offensive. To be a successful IM you have to listen well, think clearly, analyze carefully, know the options available to you—and have a thick skin.
Employers in the industry strongly recommend that applicants have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in a related field such as information systems, computer science, logic, organizational behavior, business or communications. Many of the IMs we contacted had more than one degree. Those who intend to teach need to go to graduate school, and in this case, it is customary to obtain a Ph.D. in information systems. Those interested in electronic communication systems should be well versed in computer science and its organizational applications. Sole information managers at a company and leaders of teams of information managers need good interpersonal and writing skills.
Information managers are either people-savvy or computer literate or both, and those who leave the field translate these skills into other professions. A number become production managers, efficiency experts, or inventory control managers. Those who are computer literate become LAN (local area network) administrators, computer consultants, and security consultants for computer concerns.