Chip Felton: The skills required for the role range from leadership and persuasion management, to the ability to instinctively identify what are among the million technical trends you have to deal with, and distil which ones that are really important.Chip Felton is cognisant his career trajectory to CIO was not typical. Felton, who is originally from the United States, started as a social worker, doing direct counselling work with clients, while finishing his master\u2019s degree in social work. He rose to senior deputy commissioner and CIO at the New York State Office of Mental Health. Seven years ago, he moved to New Zealand and is now a principal consultant at Montage, providing business intelligence consulting services to organisations across New Zealand. Now based in Nelson, Felton relates how this multifaceted background is a great backdrop for his current role. \u201cSocial work has always been helpful in understanding people and how to deal with organisational issues,\u201d he states. As CIO, he developed a good appreciation of, particularly for large organisations that have large IT departments, the issues those departments face. \u201cWhen I was a CIO, a lot of what I was doing was trying to mediate between different groups, whether it would be a software vendor and internal business people or our IT staff. There is a lot of that, and those skills come very useful and they still do. They help me understand what they are doing, with organisational dynamics at play.\u201d He found himself drawn to data driven research as he progressed through different roles.The notion that increasingly the organisation\u2019s data assets and their ability to leverage those are as important as anything else to maintain competitiveness, and formally establishing a role needing that function potentially could be a great path for a CIO.Chip Felton, Montage \u201cI began to get more interested in the management side of social work, how to organise and deliver a wide range of healthcare services,\u201d he explains. \u201cThen I got interested in research, what is the proof that any of these [services] work?\u201d While completing his masters, he worked asa data analyst for a faculty member who needed help with analysing some of the data collected for a study. \u201cThat gave me an opportunity to learn a variety of statistical techniques and also what was available from the standpoint of data analysis software.\u201d He then worked as evaluation researcher at the New York State Office of Mental Health. He analysed data from a variety of research studies and evaluated whether a mental health service might be working or not. This was in the early 1990s, and he recalls being surrounded by much bigger sets of data from various operational systems that people use. \u201cWho\u2019s got the services? How much do they cost? We began to get interested on how to mine those things.\u201d This work led to a role in a new part of the organisation that was focused specifically on trying to leverage data, he says. The goal was to make the Office of Mental Health \u201cmore outcomes-oriented, more data driven\u201d. He got involved in the overall management at the agency. We were using data more and more for decision-making.\u201d He was doing this role when the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks happened. \u201cOur agency was responsible for working with federal government and administering the crisis counselling programme of the public health sector. \u201cWe were able to leverage our data platform to have that programme very data driven,\u201d he says. \u201cOne of the things was we had to make sure we were reaching all the different ethnic communities in New York. \u201cWe used our data warehouse platform as well as data logs to track the services. We were able to monitor the services provided to ensure all the effort was targeted to people who really needed it.\u201d The CIO left, and he took over the role for nearly six years. He also started a master\u2019s programme in computer science at DePaul University through an online learning program. His computer science degree focused on software engineering and machine learning, and how to capitalise on it for BI function.Related: The data science activist Turning point He and his wife went to New Zealand for a vacation and \u201cfell in love with the country\u201d. Back in the United States, \u201cWe started to think about what it would be like to move over there, pack up and try something different,\u201d he says. \u201cWe embarked on a midlife adventure.\u201d In his first year in New Zealand, he completed his master\u2019s degree in computer science. He also worked on BI-related projects, based on referrals from recruitment agencies. He was then offered the full-time role at Montage. \u201cThe things we do include everything from development of data warehouse, data preparation work, and working with customers enabling them to use the technologies for decision-making,\u201d says Felton. He also has his own specialty in the BI space, focusing on data visualisation. When asked for his views on preparing for a post-CIO role, Felton says the CIO can draw skills from taking on a more broad role. \u201cThe skills required for the role range from leadership and persuasion management, to the ability to instinctively identify what are among the million technical trends you have to deal with, and distil which ones that are really important,\u201d he states. \u201cAnd then, build a balance of projects to prioritise those.\u201d The CIO also has to figure out how to develop personnel and effectively negotiate resources, he states. \u201cAny given CIO is better at and enjoys some of those areas than others.\u201d Thus a CIO\u2019s next role depends on his\/her previous background before and what things he\/she was most interested in while being CIO. \u201cThat is the biggest determinant where somebody could go post-CIO,\u201d he says. In his case, he was most interested in using data for decision-making, and his current work allows him to work in this space. He says an emerging pathway for CIOs is chief data officer. \u201cThe notion that increasingly the organisation\u2019s data assets and their ability to leverage those are as important as anything else to maintain competitiveness, and formally establishing a role needing that function potentially could be a great path for a CIO.\u201d Related: How I became a CIO: Jason Millett and Kevin Angland share their journeySend news tips and comments to email@example.comFollow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinapFollow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nzClick hereto read the Spring 2015 issue of CIO New Zealand Sign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.Join us on Facebook.Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.