Psychology grad student creates cutting-edge models for technology leadership

Casey Onder, doctoral student in Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Casey Onder, a CSU doctoral student in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, has a long-standing interest in defining, assessing, and developing top-notch performance of individuals in leadership roles. This interest led her to a central role in creating new, data-driven models for developing the leadership capabilities of technology professionals and teams.

Onder worked with Stellar Teams, a Denver-based corporation providing professional development services for technology professionals, to develop the cutting-edge models.

“I led the project under the supervision of Alyssa Gibbons of the CSU Psychology Department,” said Onder. “It was a particularly good fit for me as I’m interested in leadership development, and I think the role of technology in business and the tech industry itself is really fascinating.”

Critical, must-have skills

The initial phase of research was completed in early 2015 and culminated in several competency models addressing critical, must-have skills for technology leaders at all levels. Onder interviewed many high level tech leaders, such as Chief Information Officers, and conducted online surveys of a wide range of leaders and contributors in technology roles.

Stellar_TeamsThe competency models will allow Stellar Teams to provide validated and reliable assessments, workshops, and performance improvement tools to the technology community so that its clients can more effectively perform leadership roles in their resident companies.

A fundamental gap

“There has been a fundamental gap in recent years in how corporations develop their technology leaders and teams,” according to Bob Schwieterman, president and a co-founder of Stellar Teams. “It focused mostly on delivering the technology solutions the business requested without engaging as an equal business partner and business leader. The problem with this approach is that it has led to wide-scale outsourcing of the technology function over the past 15 years, effectively draining companies of their future technology leaders.”

Through its client work, Stellar Teams discovered the most important skills that many technology leaders lack include understanding and setting strategic direction, and influencing key stakeholders in the business to support and advocate their strategic plans.

Broader role of technology leaders

The new leadership models address the broader role of technology professionals as strategic leaders and key company influencers.

“A leadership model that is solely focused on technology professionals is invaluable because we are well-positioned to be the solvers of problems across all aspects of the business,” said Charles Osborn, vice president of Enterprise Technologies at Enable Midstream, a publicly traded master limited partnership formed in May 2013 that owns, operates and develops strategically located natural gas and crude oil infrastructure assets serving major producing basins and markets. “Nurturing technologists in a very specific way with this competency model allows us to be confident when being involved in the early stages of business decisions, not just technology decisions, and that has a positive impact on the profitability of the entire business.”

Osborn felt Stellar Teams’ workshop was more effective than generic leadership workshops because it was created from a CIO perspective, and was highly interactive and practical.

Cutting-edge research

“Integrating the completed model with the assessment work that Stellar Teams does for its clients will enable cutting-edge research to better understand how factors such as culture, gender, and personality impact the ability of technology leaders to influence across the business,” said Gibbons.

“We were very satisfied with the work that Casey completed for us,” stated Schwieterman. “In 2016, we will continue to partner with doctoral students in CSU’s Industrial-Organizational Psychology program to create a battery of assessments for technology leaders and teams, using the competency model as a framework.”