Are You 'Too Canadian' to Be a CIO?

Canadian companies are increasingly asking headhunters to look outside its borders -- specifically to the U.S. -- for new IT leaders.

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That means if you're a Canadian CIO, you're not just competing with people in your own city or province anymore. Especially in large, complex organizations, the net is being cast wider for potential candidates. "If we aren't getting [that global experience] in Canada, then we need to start casting our net wider in terms of managing our own careers, looking at getting experience with a multinational that has headquarters in the U.S. or maybe in Europe," said Banks. That's something he's managed to do with his own career, while basing himself in Vancouver -- a city that doesn't have a huge CIO community.

Cooper believes what we're seeing now is the result of a North American employment market. "We just hired a global chief technology officer," he said. "We ended up hiring a Canadian, but our search took us to the U.S. where we interviewed people from New York and Chicago. Here at Manulife, because of our international footprint, it's core to what we want to do." Within IT he expects to see much more movement across divisions and geographies -- in fact, this is becoming part of the firm's formal talent management program, allowing employees to get that international experience. All recent hires of senior IT execs have had some degree of international experience. Other Canadian enterprises should consider doing the same thing.

"With the U.S. economy being 10 times larger than ours, we'll start to see perhaps more U.S.-based CIOs placed in jobs in Canada, but it doesn't mean that Canadians won't be placed in the U.S.," said Cooper.

Even if Canadians are being pitted against Americans for jobs, it's a fundamentally different job market -- they're different cultures, with different service-delivery platforms. Ultimately, to stay competitive in this expanding talent pool, it may mean learning how to navigate both worlds.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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