Pulling Up Roots
Q: I’ve done it all. I have an MBA and 35 years of experience in IT systems management in financial services, banking and higher education. I’ve started two companies and sold them. However, for the past 10 years I’ve worked for a nonprofit as CIO?altruistic, very steady, but little IT action. How can I convince a for-profit that I’d be a great CIO for my final five working years?
A: You certainly do have your work cut out for you. First, despite what EEO (equal employment opportunity) would have us all believe, there is a marketplace bias against candidates your age. More significant, after having been there and done it all, you voluntarily (or worse, involuntarily?) chose to spend the past 10 years parked outside the commercial sector in the not-for-profit world. This is a clear signal of a career in decline, whether true for you or not. And you simply must lose the talk about your “final working years.” I recommend that you seek and find a smaller company that needs IT help but can’t afford?or won’t pay for?a higher profile CIO. Use your personal contacts and network, scan the Internet and other advertising media, and get involved in the local chamber of commerce, small business roundtables and area college entrepreneurs’ groups.
Q: I am the CIO for a retail company worth more than $100 million and have four years of experience as CFO. The company is in the process of being sold, and there won’t be a position available for me in the new entity. I’ve worked for the company for 20 years and am wondering if the lack of experience in a broad range of businesses will limit my career options.
A: The good news is that you will be very attractive to other retail organizations. The bad news is that you won’t be nearly as attractive to nonretail companies. Your marketability and compensation are determined by your intrinsic value?the skills and experience you bring to the table that are generally transferable from any one employer to the next?plus your explicit value, which is based on your expertise in a specific industry, market, application, technology, software and so on. Add to that the truly explicit value of your deep familiarity with your employer’s people, processes and procedures. You can leverage both your intrinsic and explicit value to maximize the position and compensation results of your job search by staying within the retail industry. Or take the extra time and effort to search for an opportunity outside of the retail sector. The latter may include a position or pay concession for the trade-off against using only your intrinsic value.
Q: I have worked for international companies in a small but complex environment covering seven countries in Central America and the Caribbean as a coordinator, implementer, trainer, coach and as the interface between management, users and regional (country) IT managers. How can I leverage this experience in a U.S. or European company? Would I qualify as a CIO or divisional IT manager?
A: There are great career options available to individuals like yourself who possess knowledge of foreign markets. With that said, it is unlikely that your next step is to CIO. Instead, the obvious demand for your background will be in positions with titles such as regional systems manager or international systems director for Latin America. One of these internationally focused jobs can open the door to an excellent employer and then be leveraged internally to a more general IT management role in the future.
Alternatively, you might bypass one of those posts and make a trade-off of short-term compensation and title for a more general IT leadership position that will broaden your focus across the range of the company’s business activities, thereby continuing your preparation for the CIO role. The path choice might come down to the one that best suits you or the one that opportunistically presents a compelling offer.