Why Few Want to Be the CIO Anymore
More than half of the respondents to our survey say they don't aspire to be a CIO.
Mon, December 16, 2013
Computerworld — Stephanie Jurenka started out in IT as a systems administrator more than 10 years ago. Today, she's an IT manager with absolutely zero interest in a CIO role.
"Being a CIO doesn't offer the opportunity to do the cool stuff that IT people like so much to do. It's about meetings and budgets and politics," says Jurenka, who works at Westway Group, a bulk liquid storage company in New Orleans.
Dan Allen, an IT manager at Delta Children's Products in New York, feels the same way. With close to 20 years in the profession, he has no desire to be a CIO either.
"The IT management positions I pursue are almost all hands-on positions," Allen says. "Yes, you have to take advantage of the opportunities given to you, but I continue to work on my [technical] certifications because I want to be in an engineering position. The CIO role doesn't appeal to me. I discovered over the years that I prefer to be hands-on."
Jurenka and Allen aren't alone. In a Computerworld survey of 489 IT professionals conducted in August and September, 55% of the respondents said they don't aspire to a CIO post. In fact, only 32% of them said that they have set their caps for IT's top job. Politics, relatively low pay and a lack of prestige all register as deterrents.
Yet there's another reason for this shift in career thinking. Technology professionals are being recruited to work in marketing, logistics and other functions outside of IT as technology becomes more deeply embedded in virtually every aspect of the business. That trend is expanding the IT career path horizontally. Rather than one career ladder with CIO at the top rung, there are increasingly multiple career bridges across organizations.
"The digital business wave is bound to reignite interest in information and technology and to lure people into different areas of the business as information and technology increase their direct impact on revenue, markets and customers," says Diane Morello, an analyst at Gartner. "Information and technology are lifeblood for companies: No single department owns them."
An Issue of Status
For Christopher Barron, CIO at Valerus, a Houston-based oil and gas services company, Computerworld's survey findings weren't what he expected. "I was surprised that the percentage [of tech workers who don't want to be CIOs] wasn't higher," he says.
Barron says he believes IT professionals today are spurning the CIO role because of the comparatively low status that the title carries at most companies. "If people are going to work hard toward getting a C-level title, they want it to mean something," he says. "What a lot of people see is that CIOs don't wield either the power or authority commensurate to a C-level title."