Exploring this Job
To explore your interest in the computer and technology aspect of this work, take every opportunity to work with computers. Surf the Web to visit sites of businesses and organizations and find out what services they offer. Improve your computer skills by joining a users group, setting up your own Web page, and taking extra computer classes at a local community center or tech school. Volunteer to create and maintain the Web site for organizations and clubs you may belong to.
To get experience as an executive, start with your own interests. Whether you're involved in drama, sports, school publications, or a part-time job, there are managerial and executive duties associated with any organized activity. Look for ways in which you can be involved with planning, scheduling, managing other workers or volunteers, fund-raising, or budgeting. Contact a local business executive—the best source would be one whose company also has a Web site—and ask for an information interview during which you can talk with him or her about this career. Some schools or community organizations arrange "job-shadowing," where interested young people can spend part of a day following selected employees to see what their job is like. Joining Junior Achievement (https://www.juniorachievement.org) is another excellent way to get involved with local businesses and learn about how they work. Middle- and high-school students who are interested in business can join Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (http://fbla-pbl.org). Finally, get a part-time or summer job at a local business to get hands-on experience working in an office environment. Although your job may only be that of cashier, you'll be able to see how the business is organized and run. You may also find a manager or executive there who can act as a mentor and give you advice.
All businesses have specific goals and objectives that they strive to meet, such as making a certain profit or increasing the client base by a certain amount. Executives devise strategies and formulate policies to ensure that these objectives are met. In today's business world, many companies that first began as brick-and-mortar businesses now have a presence on the Internet. Additionally, many new companies are found only on the Internet. At both types of companies, Internet executives are the professionals who devise ways to meet their companies' objectives—making sales, providing services, or developing a customer base, for example—as they relate to the Internet.
Like executives in traditional companies, Internet executives have a wide range of titles and responsibilities. The positions include president, chairman, chief executive officer (who is sometimes the same person as the president or chairman), chief operating officer, executive vice president, chief financial officer, chief information officer, management information systems director, and chief technology officer. Presidents, chairmen, and chief executive officers (CEOs) at companies with an Internet presence are leaders of the companies. They plan business objectives and develop policies to coordinate operations between divisions and departments and establish procedures for attaining objectives. They may review activity reports and financial statements to determine progress and revise operations as needed. They also direct and formulate funding for new and existing programs within their organizations. Public relations plays a big part in the lives of Internet executives as they deal with executives and leaders from other countries or organizations, and with customers, employees, and various special interest groups.
Chief operating officers, or COOs, at dot-coms and other companies with an Internet presence are typically responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company. They may work to increase their companies' client base, improve sales, and develop operational and personnel policies. Depending on the type of business, other duties a COO may have include heading departments, such as marketing, engineering, or sales. Usually the COO directly reports to the top executive, whether it is the CEO, chairman, or president. COOs typically have years of experience working in their industry and may also have worked at their particular company for years, moving up the corporate ranks while gaining knowledge about their companies' products and markets. Additionally, they have extensive knowledge of Internet capabilities and technologies available that will help their companies reach goals.
Some companies have an executive vice president who directs and coordinates the activities of one or more departments, depending on the size of the organization. In very large organizations, the duties of executive vice presidents may be highly specialized; for example, they may oversee the activities of business managers of marketing, sales promotion, purchasing, finance, personnel training, industrial relations, administrative services, data processing, property management, transportation, or legal services. In smaller organizations, an executive vice president might be responsible for a number of these departments. Executive vice presidents also assist the CEO in formulating and administering the organization's policies and developing its long-range goals. Executive vice presidents may serve as members of management committees on special studies.
Dot-coms and other companies with a presence on the Internet may also have a chief financial officer or CFO. In small firms, the CFO is usually responsible for all financial management tasks, such as budgeting, capital expenditure planning, cash flow, and various financial reviews and reports. In larger companies, the CFO may oversee financial management departments to help other managers develop financial and economic policy and oversee the implementation of these policies.
Chief information officers, or CIOs, are responsible for all aspects of their company's information technology. They use their knowledge of technology and business to determine how information technology can best be used to meet company goals. This may include researching, purchasing, and overseeing set-up and use of technology systems, such as intranet, Internet, and computer networks. These managers sometimes take a role in implementing a company's Web site.
Management information systems directors oversee computer and information systems for an entire company. They often report to the chief information officer. They may manage an organization's employee help desk, recommend hardware and software upgrades, and ensure the security and availability of information technology services.
Chief technology officers evaluate and recommend new technologies that will help their organization reduce costs and increase revenue. They often report to the chief information officer.
Marketing and sales executives play a vital role in the success of most e-commerce companies. They are responsible for driving customer traffic and sales to the sites and ensuring that company sales targets are met.
Vice-presidents of social strategy oversee a company’s overall social media policy. In addition to responsibility for social media, they also play a major role in developing their company’s overall marketing strategy.
In companies that have several different locations, managers may be assigned to oversee specific geographic areas. For example, a large retailer with facilities all across the nation may have a Midwest manager, a Southwest manager, a Southeast manager, a Northeast manager, and a Northwest manager. In the case of Internet companies, whose territory is not limited by geographical boundaries, managerial responsibilities may be assigned by product or client type instead.
All of these executive and management positions may be available at large companies, while the responsibilities of several of these positions may be combined into one role at smaller companies. Internet executives may work in any of these positions for companies that do business exclusively online or traditional businesses that also have an online presence. The common denominator among these executives is that they are all involved to some extent with figuring out how to use the Internet to enhance the capabilities and profitability of their businesses.
Involvement in Internet commerce adds a new dimension for the consideration of executives. While most executives don't get directly involved in the day-to-day operation of the technology that drives their Internet business, an understanding of the technologies at work is crucial to the performance of their jobs. Executives will likely have to work directly with technology experts, so proficiency with the relevant technologies is a necessity. The combination of technological and business expertise Internet executives have makes these individuals among the most sought-after in the executive job market.