For Dan Cornell, vice president and CIO of Altria Group, cultivating IT careers is key to retaining IT talent.
Through a combination of talent planning, employee investment, mentorship, and clear growth opportunities, Altria is committed to helping employees understand their own potential and how they fit into the organization, Cornell says.
Employees at Altria are given the opportunity to grow their skills through training, gain experience working in other departments, and utilize the company’s structured career planning process — all of which helped the Richmond, Va.-based tobacco corporation earn first place for career development on IDG’s Best Places to Work survey for 2021.
Entry-level IT staff often do not have an exact plan for their future, as it can be difficult to know what you want to your career to be right out of college, Cornell says, making it important for IT first-timers to not feel pigeonholed into a specific track within the organization. Employees are given the chance to move throughout Altria to try out various roles and work on a variety of projects.
For example, an entry-level code developer is thrown into highly technical work right away, says Cornell. But for their first five or six years with the company, they’ll be moved to different projects to gain experience and to help them figure out what they enjoy working on. This approach also helps them develop new skills and learn new technologies that will benefit them down the line.
“In many cases, we’re trying to put them into a role that ultimately is going to make them sweat — it’s going to really challenge them,” Cornell says.