by Meridith Levinson

Career Advice: Where to Win Your First CIO Slot

Dec 01, 20062 mins

Landing your first CIO job by moving up inside your present company isn’t easy. First of all, the law of numbers works against internal director-level prospects: There are far more candidates for CIO positions than there are openings to fill, says Jim Coffou, a partner in the Chicago-based executive search firm Coffou Partners. Second, since companies look to mitigate risk when they hire executives, they’re inclined to look for someone who’s “been there and done that,” adds Coffou. So they open up external searches, which makes moving up even harder for internal candidates.

“At the C-level, I would venture to say that most hirings do not come from within,” says Coffou. “Chances are, your first CIO opportunity is going to come from outside the company.”

But getting your big break internally isn’t impossible. Whether you’re an internal or external candidate, some of the key criteria you must demonstrate, Coffou says, are the abilities to develop and implement an IT strategy aligned with the business, to create and maintain strong relationships across functional areas, and to manage large budgets and complex reporting relationships. Here are a few IT directors recently turned first-time CIOs.

Adley Francois, 30, begins his first CIO gig at First Financial Federal Credit Union in Wall, N.J., on Dec. 4. First Financial hired him from HEW Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va.

Colorado Springs–based Pantel Systems hired Adam Self, a systems architect from EDS, as its new CIO.

Sam Changizi’s promotion from IT director to CIO at New Age Electronics recognizes the leadership role he played in developing and executing New Age’s e-commerce strategy and in implementing ERP solutions.

Martha Morphy worked her way up to CIO at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) after seven years with the agency. She began her career with NARA as a software architect.