6 ex-CIOs reveal lessons learned, biggest regrets

What if you could eavesdrop on the exit interviews of CIOs who recently left their roles? In a free report, from the Society for Information Management, former CIOs describe their career lessons and disappointments.

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Regrets? These former CIOs have a few. In exit interviews, six ex-CIOs say they wish they’d spent more time engaged with business strategy, studied human psychology or gotten an MBA.

The interviews were conducted by Heather Smith, a researcher at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University in Canada, and covered the career lessons of successful IT execs who recently left their CIO positions (two were promoted to COO).

Asked what advice they’d give today’s IT leaders, the former CIOs offered statements such as “spend time outside IT with your fellow executives in the business and with customers” and “adapt your skills and role for the world of the future.”

The exit interviews are collected and analyzed in a research report, “Wisdom of CIOs,” for the Society for Information Management’s Advanced Practices Council.

Smith reported that the six former IT chiefs all agreed on three key traits for the successful CIO: being effective at change management, demonstrating strategic business knowledge and leading an IT department that harnesses the creativity and productivity of its people.

But a CIO career isn’t easy street. In the report, Steve Pickett, who retired from Penske Corp. at the end of 2015 after 18 years as its CIO, offered this advice: have the guts to make tough decisions and to execute them — “even if they are career-damaging. They can only fire you once!"

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