by Meridith Levinson

When the New Job Isn’t in IT: Tips for Making the Transition

Aug 01, 20062 mins
CareersIT Leadership

CIOs moving into roles outside of IT can rest easy during the transition knowing that in their new positions they’ll rely on some of the same skills that made them successful CIOs: their ability to think strategically and to attract and retain talented individuals to carry out their plans.

Among the CIOs who migrated out of IT this spring:

• Rudi Huber, who as Alcoa’s new European president now coordinates HR, legal, media and government affairs operations in Europe and Russia.

• Otis Sawyer, who now oversees IT, transportation, logistics and fabric procurement as La-Z-Boy’s senior VP of corporate operations.

• Bobby Burg, who was promoted to senior VP of operations and supply chain strategy at Southern Wine & Spirits.

• Mike Thyken, who was appointed Select Comfort’s VP of process development.

• Rhonda Basset Spiers, former CIO of software maker BEA, who is now the COO of home entertainment systems provider Control4.

Even though CIOs taking on non-IT roles can carry over their skills, the transition can be bumpy. Asiff Hirji, the former CIO, now COO, of TD Ameritrade, says one of the biggest challenges in the first few months of a non-IT job can be the temptation to stay involved in old projects and weigh in on technology decisions. Accordingly, he advises CIOs to distance themselves from their IT organizations.

When former CIOs remain involved in the tactical aspects of IT, colleagues may not take them seriously in their new position, he says. Meanwhile, the distractions from their new responsibilities may cause them to fail.

To make it easier to let go of the IT reins, Hirji recommends appointing someone you trust to the position you’re vacating and handing full authority for IT decisions to that person—even when, as is the case with Hirji, the new CIO reports to you. “If you do the right thing in picking your own successor, technology will take care of itself so you can stop worrying about it,” he says.