Long before it was fashionable to promote workplace diversity or draw attention to the IT leadership talents of women, Kristen Lamoreaux was on a mission to do exactly that.
In January 2007, she founded SIM Women, a networking and career development organization within the Society for Information Management. She invited 28 female CIOs and VPs to come together in Morristown, N.J., for the first in-person event.
“I still remember getting an email at 3 a.m. that night from one of the women at that event,” says the CEO of Lamoreaux Search, a boutique executive search firm that specializes in presenting diverse slates of IT candidates. “She was so excited to be in the room with more than two dozen other women in tech. If nothing else happens, she told me, you’ve made a difference!”
SIM Women just celebrated its 15th birthday and has grown to 1,100+ members across North America, with Lamoreaux still thriving at the helm. When we touched base recently, she was in a whirlwind of agenda-planning activity for the upcoming SIM Women National meeting on May 16 in Princeton, N.J.
With all the current angst around The Great Resignation and what seems like a talent permafrost across the IT landscape, I turned to Lamoreaux, one of the most creative and compassionate career strategists I know, to hear how CIO networking is changing during this pandemic era.
Maryfran Johnson: Where are you finding job candidates these days? Are there any unusual places where you meet talented tech leaders?
Kristen Lamoreaux: I’ve always been focused on bolstering my network, but then COVID arrives and I haven’t been able to attend a CIO event and meet 300 people in a day! But I’m very mission-driven, and I do a lot of my sourcing from philanthropic events. I meet more CEOs and CIOs there than at tech events. CIOs won’t always make time for themselves but they will make time for others, for a cause or a passion they want to support. I’m a great believer in “networking through philanthropy.”
Are these connections happening at virtual or in-person events? Does that even matter?
It’s both, yes. But since last October, I’ve been attending many philanthropic events in person. One ball I went to was to benefit the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia. We were all vaccinated, and it was great to safely connect with one another again. At that event, I met the chief diversity officer for the ACLU, but I also met about a dozen C-suite and business leaders. They’re now part of my network—some as potential clients, some as job candidates. We were all there supporting the mission of this organization.
I was networked recently to a venture capital cofounder, and in the first five minutes he’d offered to speak at our SIM Women national tech event, to bring in leaders from his companies to speak, to help sponsor the event, and to connect me with other women planning a large event to talk logistics. Needless to say, I want to return that level of generosity in kind, and I will remember him and the person who connected us for life. Overall, I’m also seeing a ton more generosity in networking these days.
What are some tried-and-true networking practices that still work well?
Referrals and trusted relationships will forever be the best source of talent. What I advise when somebody is thinking about making a career move is to think through their trusted relationships. How many people would recommend them for a CIO job? Or better yet, hire them? If it’s not at least 30 power brokers, they have more relationships to grow.
It sounds like Kristen’s “Rule of 30” is a quantifiable metric to apply to your power-broker network. How do you map that out?
I’m not talking about other IT leaders, by the way. Those people are your competition. This is about the influential people who can hire you or recommend you for hire. It’s a layering factor. Think of three concentric circles. Closest in are those people who know you best: mostly friends and family. The next circle out includes coworkers, networking colleagues, bosses, more business influencers. They are the most effective for you professionally. That third circle out, that’s your reputational sphere. It’s the people who recognize your name and know your brand as a top leader.
You need a solid 20 people who know you and your brand. They’ll be the ones to recommend your name when recruiters call. You want at least 10 in that middle circle who will truly go to bat for you or hire you directly—maybe they’ve worked with you, served with you on a philanthropic board, for example, or been a vendor partner.
Do you think most CIOs count vendor relationships in that power-broker sphere of career influencers?
Probably not, but they should! Guess what: a vendor can influence you getting hired. They have insights and perspectives across multiple companies and industries. Say you brought in SAP and spent tens of millions with them, spent years implementing the software, etc. Those are relationships formed under intense situations. You put your trust in them when you agreed to do business. Carry that trust forward, be generous where you can, and take the time to cultivate those relationships. You’ll not only get better service today, but you may also benefit as you make future career moves.