There is a post-Information Architecture career growth path emerging in the web industry, with people growing out of the job title “Information Architect” and becoming more powerful players in their companies and in the industry. They are growing into “Product Managers”, “Business Process Consultants”, “Holistic Designers”. Some even start their own companies, becoming “Entrepreneurs”.
In fact, in the next 5-10 years, I predict that someone whose job used to be called “Information Architect” will have worked their way up to President or CEO of some major media or software company, especially if the media & software industries continue the trend of valuing design and usability as critical product success factors and essential corporate values. Even Microsoft has announced that they are now an interface-design-driven company: Office 12 will noticably reflect that change of focus.
A young IA who over their career works on bigger and bigger projects, and who is promoted to head bigger and bigger teams, may be valued for his or her deep understanding of the user experience and the challenges involved in designing compelling user interfaces. Such a person could work their way to the very top.
Yes, it’s true that many CEOs and Presidents are hired by corporate boards strictly for their management abilities and their ability to play the Wall Street game, often even without any experience whatsoever in the company’s industry or even the whole sector (I’m reminded of when John Sculley was hired from Pepsi to replace Steve Jobs at Apple).
But it’s also true that Michael Eisner worked his way up the media corporate ladder from a foundation in broadcast television producing and programming, mirroring his mentor Barry Diller. David Geffen wrote lyrics and managed artists. Chris Albrecht, CEO of HBO, ran a comedy nightclub and managed artists. These foundation skills were absolutely logical steps in their professional growth towards their visionary leadership positions.
As these industries continue to evolve into interactive, on-demand, mobile, and other buzzy/convergent inevitabilities, a leader who understands the user experience and the challenges involved in innovating them may be a little more valuable than a leader with a background in artist management, broadcast programming, and film production.