Seeding the line: Understanding the transition from IT to non-IT careers

Blaize Horner Reich, Michelle Lynn Kaarst-Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


As organizations face increased competitive pressures and technological changes, their attention is focusing on how to attain strategic benefits from information technology investments, including investments in people. From a human resources perspective, one debate centers on how to attract and retain information technology (IT) professionals. Somewhat paradoxically, it is suggested that to retain IT professionals, organizations must provide both technical and business oriented career opportunities. This paper presents a case study of one organization, The Mutual Group, in which more than 70 IT professionals permanently moved into non-IT, business unit jobs during the 1980s and early 1990s. Using interviews and surveys of 51 former IT professionals, this research investigated the characteristics of the individual, the organization, the first non-IT job, and the transition period. The conclusion from the findings is that IT professionals who moved to non-IT jobs in the line made the transition without the benefit of deliberate preparation, formal transition programs, or safety nets to reduce the risk. Some conditions existed at The Mutual Group that may have assisted them, including good relations between IT and the line, friends and mentors in line units, and a willingness to take risks in pursuit of new challenges. One contribution of this paper is that it begins to fill a gap in the career mobility literature, based on individuals and their stories of change. It also attempts to understand the role of context in one organization that is a recognized leader in the use of IT for competitive advantage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-364
Number of pages28
JournalMIS Quarterly: Management Information Systems
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Career mobility
  • IT careers
  • Job transfers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Information Systems and Management


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