Managing your IT career

CIOs and other members of an IT leadership team discuss how to manage your IT career.

career path
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Over the last couple of years, I have been amazed at how many CIOs that I know personally have been "in transition." One good friend even "transitioned" for a couple of years. Honestly, I had this happen to me once as a startup person and I can tell you it is no fun. Given that CIO and other IT leader tenures have been getting shorter, I wanted to hear their perspectives regarding managing an IT career.

Members of the CIOChat that I run shared openly on this topic. They were candid that the ‘control era’ is over. They said CIOs and their leadership teams need to know that they cannot control everything so instead they should work at influencing decisions instead. At the same time, CIOs in the chat suggest that trying to make yourself indispensable does not work. It will, unfortunately, stop an IT leader’s upward movement.

Skills needed to stay relevant

CIOs and other IT leaders need to improve their ability to see how what IT does fits into the bigger picture. They need to be always learning. I know that when I am teaching I like to tell my students that their education does not stop with their university degree. Thinking you are done is the easiest way to make yourself obsolete. CIOChat members go a step further by suggesting that “if you don’t have a yearning to be learning in IT, you’re in the wrong line of work”. This led me to wonder why more IT leaders aren’t on Twitter.

Chat members were clear to me that they want their teams to increasingly take control and ownership over their careers. A key element of doing so is seen as focusing upon continuous personal evolution and not only improving technology skills but also improving soft skills. With this said, one CIO was very candid in saying that IT leaders shouldn’t expect their employers to define, support, or even sometimes understand their personal or departmental journeys.

Invest in your people and yourself

CIOs suggest that IT leaders need to invest in themselves and importantly know when they need to move. I know that the latter is not always possible. The friend mentioned previously couldn’t have predicted a change in ownership. Finally, CIOChat members suggest that you can grow and change over time but find your employer has not change with you. This is sad but I can attest this happens way too often.

Disrupt yourself

It is interesting that we typically think about digital disruption through a technology lens, but Whitney Johnson has focused upon the personal dimension. Along this vain, CIOChat members suggest that CIOs should stop talking about digital disruption. They suggest that CIOs need to disrupt themselves before their career is over. Mark Orlan, CIO for the Schulick School of Business at York University summarizes the groups thinking here by suggesting “by servicing your staff well, learning from the #CIOChat thought leaders, following transformational vendors, and getting out of your office” you can disrupt yourself and change your business to achieve relevance in the digital era.

Parting thoughts

Clearly, CIOs need to become more effective mangers of their careers. They need as well to ensure that they and their organizations have the right skills to win in the digital era. This requires a willingness to be a continual learner. Today’s CIOs need to have deep digital insight and perspective to succeed as "future shock" continues to wreak havoc in organizations of all types. And fortunately, these type of IT leaders should find themselves in increasing demand.

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