How Unemployed CIOs Can Survive the Dark Days

A long job hunt takes a personal and professional toll. CIOs have family and financial concerns while they reassess their careers and face a changing job market. But here's how CIOs can emerge stronger than ever.

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Michael Iacona

In late 2011, CIO Michael Iacona was looking for something new after five years at advertising firm TMP Worldwide. Fortunately, he was in a financial position where he could take up to a year to find the right job. For him, that meant a New York-area company where he could take risks and learn. Although he wasn't set on finding another CIO role, specifically, he did interview for several at very large companies.

Each time, he made it to the final two and didn't get it. At TMP, he had 150 people reporting to him. At these prospective CIO positions, we would have had thousands on his staff. "I was a quality candidate, but I realized the odds of them taking a shot on [me] were low," he says. "They want the person who's been there, done that."

After six months, he had multiple offers for CIO or CTO roles but chose to take a more "intriguing" job: He went to Thomson Reuters as a VP in the technology organization, overseeing mergers and acquisitions--a newly created role he knew would enhance his professional stature. He learned a lot about assessing businesses and about the critical part IT plays in making an acquisition successful. "That was invaluable," he says.

Meanwhile, an opportunity he explored before joining Thomson Reuters was coming to fruition. He had met several times with the founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, an online education company, and acted as an adviser there on the side. Now the founder was looking for a president to oversee operations. Iacona joined the company in February 2013, making him one of the rare CIOs who make the leap to the head office.

Maintaining that relationship, even when it didn't turn into anything right away, proved to Iacona the value of keeping feelers out. "It's a chess match. You think two moves ahead."

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