The market for technology talent has been white hot over the past year. What will the next twelve to eighteen months bring? On a recent episode of the Tech Whisperers podcast, two executive recruiters in the CIO retained search space, Martha Heller, CEO of Heller Search Associates, and Art Hopkins, executive director of Russell Reynolds Associates\u2019 Information Officer search practice, shared their thoughts about the state of the tech talent market, the evolving role of the CIO, and key considerations for recruiting and hiring technology leaders.\n\nTo drill down further into the trends and themes CIOs need to be paying attention to, I checked in with three more experts in technology leadership recruitment: Shawn Banerji, managing partner for the Data, Digital, and Technology Leaders Practice at Caldwell; Judy Kirby, CEO of Kirby Partners, a retained executive search firm placing healthcare IT and cybersecurity leaders; and Tony Leng, a managing director at Diversified Search Group who leads the firm\u2019s Digital Transformation and CIO\/IT Officers practices.\n\nThe four of us had a wide-ranging conversation about the broader environment and how it\u2019s affecting the role of technology leaders. What follows is that conversation, edited for length and clarity.\n\nDan Roberts: What are some of the macro trends you\u2019re seeing that are affecting the technology industry and market for talent?\n\nShawn Banerji: We are in a very interesting period. It\u2019s kind of like the Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities: \u201cIt was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.\u201d There are all these contrary and contravening forces going at it, and so many global mega trends are up in the air right now.\n\nLooking at the significant trends towards globalization over the last 20 years, is there going to be a great decoupling, and if so, what does that mean? What are the economic and organizational implications? Technology is a central lever in this. There\u2019s increasing talk around what can or cannot be exported from this country to other parts of the world. China, for example, has an alternate universe as far as social media and ecommerce are concerned.\n\nIt\u2019s a fascinating time for functional technology practitioners. Whether you\u2019re a CIO, CTO, chief digital officer, a data leader, cyber \u2014 the opportunity for these leaders is unparalleled when you consider the impact that they can make on their enterprises and on their industries. But it has never likely been more fraught with challenge. And the temperament and the patience on the part of many stakeholders has contracted. People always like to talk about CIO tenure. Why is it two or three years? Well, in some cases, it\u2019s because people come in, they accomplish, and they move on. But we\u2019re also seeing that, if you can\u2019t deliver measurable results in a relatively compressed timeline, the patience to see it through isn\u2019t necessarily there.\n\nDan Roberts: Tony, what do senior leaders need to be thinking about in terms of how these issues affect the technology organization? \n\nTony Leng: First, they need to understand what this new technology environment entails. At the base level, you\u2019ve got compute, and what are you going to do? Are you going to have your own data centers, are you going to be in the cloud, or hybrid? In the middle, you\u2019ve got data. There\u2019s just so many aspects of data, which is the fuel for the other piece, what people are now calling digital, but really, it\u2019s the front end of the business \u2014 all the systems of operations, engagement, the old ERPs but also a whole lot of new engagement systems, which are API-enabled microservices, low code, no code, that whole environment.\n\nSo you\u2019ve got those three things you need to be thinking about as you transition into a new world. You also need to understand the architecture of that modern technology stack, but almost more importantly, the business model architecture. Because, as Shawn talked about, you\u2019ve got these global environments and different things happening in different parts of the world. Do you want all your data centralized so you get an holistic view of your organization? Maybe because you\u2019ve got business in China and other parts of the world \u2014 those engagement systems may be in separate business units, or perhaps you organize around separate products lines, etc., so you need to think deeply about your business model. And then infusing all of this is your whole cyber posture, which is made increasingly complicated by this new modern architectural stack and the increasing interconnectivity of systems.\n\nDan Roberts: How is this impacting the role of the technology leader and the skills they need?\n\nTony Leng: As Shawn said, moving into this new environment, you have to do it with nimbleness and speed, but you have to do it with a value creation mindset. You\u2019ve got to have leaders who can articulate the digital vision, be that \u2018tech whisperer\u2019 to explain to senior executives your journey into the future, and then you need to be able to properly manage the change management initiative \u2014 or all your great strategies won\u2019t deliver their promised value.\n\nAnother big skill set that\u2019s absolutely required is financial and business acumen, because you need to be able to explain to people the value that will be created. Yes, you need to know technology, but, boy, you need to be a leader that can get things done quickly in a commercially sound manner, creating a lot of value and articulating not only the business model but the overall strategy for the organization. That means you also need to understand all the global forces, and you need to understand the pulse and the heartbeat of the organization from a cultural perspective. I think it\u2019s become the next toughest job after the CEO role.\n\nDan Roberts: Judy, what are some of the trends you\u2019re seeing with CIOs in the healthcare space?\n\nJudy Kirby: Most of them aren\u2019t dealing with the global issues, but where the CIOs are struggling is in becoming that true executive. Tony\u2019s right on \u2014 it\u2019s the toughest job outside of the CEO, but most healthcare organizations don\u2019t realize that. They still see it more as operational. When there\u2019s a downturn in the market, one of the first things they cut is innovation rather than looking at, how can this save the organization money, and how can it help with staffing and the critical nurse shortage.\n\nBusiness leaders need to understand the technology and how it affects the organization. So many things have been thrown at organizations, from cybersecurity to AI to precision medicine to telehealth. Still, I\u2019ve talked to two CIOs in the last two days that have lost their job. The CEOs aren\u2019t seeing the value of technology and what the CIO brings to the organization. The question is, why? Why are they not positioning their own value and the value of technology within the organization?\n\nDan Roberts: There\u2019s a lot of discussion right now about turning your CIO into your next CEO. What are your perspectives on that? \n\nShawn Banerji: It\u2019s a logical continuation in terms of career trajectory for many CIOs. If technology is the nerve center and the enabler for everything in the business, their process orientation has to be high. Invariably, they will have had success around business transformation and change management. They\u2019re going to have a reasonably high level of technical fluency. It\u2019s a logical path.\n\nI think the big question that remains is, do these individuals truly possess the strategic vision that\u2019s needed to serve in that leadership role? I think COO is the more obvious destination for many of them, but that is not to say that there aren\u2019t exceptional individuals. Finance has often been the proving ground\/breeding ground because boards gravitated to this person\u2019s mastery of the numbers, which hasn\u2019t always worked out either. So I think we\u2019re going to see more of it. But it\u2019s TBD if it\u2019s going to be some kind of crescendo tidal wave.\n\nDan Roberts: What are some of the areas CIOs need to develop to become successful CEOs?\n\nTony Leng: In addition to financial acumen, what many CIOs need if they aspire to be a CEO is desire for the role, and a kind of toughness, because being a CEO can be a lonely job. You\u2019ve got to make some really tough choices. It\u2019s less a collaborative team sport than the CIO position. You have to have that slightly tougher edge and want to work and be maniacally focused to devote all your time to the job. The CEO role isn\u2019t for everybody, frankly, and there are many executives who\u2019ve said, \u2018I don\u2019t want that,\u2019 especially if you\u2019re in a public company setting. So I think the desire to be in that position has to be pretty high.\n\nJudy Kirby: The other thing is that a lot of the CEO\u2019s job is outward facing from the organization rather than inward facing. And I think that\u2019s another area many CIOs are missing. They may take part in CIO councils and things, but the CEO, whether it\u2019s board meetings, stakeholder meetings, or stockholder meetings, CIOs just haven\u2019t participated in a lot of that. I think that\u2019s where they really need to grow as well to move into this role. But as far as knowing every part of the organization and what\u2019s going on, there\u2019s probably no one outside the CEO who does that as well as the CIO.\n\nDan Roberts: Why should someone who\u2019s not looking for a new job connect with an executive recruiter? What\u2019s the benefit of that relationship?\n\nTony Leng: You need to play the long game in this. It\u2019s about getting to know a number of people and thinking of your career as kind of an arc, and the arc of your career should be developing skills, but also gathering people and relationships within the various companies you work in. Always protect the way you leave an organization, and nurture those relationships. And treat your relationships with the search community with the same long-term mindset, because these relationships developed over your career are only going to serve you well in multiple ways \u2014 helping you build your team, finding your next assignment, or cogent career advice.\n\nShawn Banerji: A career doesn\u2019t just happen to one any longer. You have to own your own career. If you have a credible recruiting relationship, that can only serve to benefit you, whether it\u2019s market intelligence, hearing about specific opportunities, compensation questions, what I should be paying my people. We come across so much information and we\u2019re more than happy to usually share it and refer you to other resources. These things can either be transactions or they can be an investment in the relationship.\n\nDan Roberts: Any final thoughts about the market and what we can expect going forward?\n\nJudy Kirby: Doing your due diligence on the organization as far as their economic strengths, their position in the market, their opportunity to be purchased, acquired, or whatever is more important than ever. We are seeing acquisitions and mergers, and that can affect the position you take.\n\nTony Leng: I think everyone is increasingly realizing that you drive the top line and the bottom line through the effective use of technology. And while there\u2019s going to be a bit of a pause and a wait-and-see in people\u2019s minds, I think it\u2019s only a pause, and towards the back end of 2023, it\u2019ll pick up again.\n\nShawn Banerji: Technology is not going away. Digital transformation is not going away. An appetite for data and how it can be operationalized is not going away. I think what you will see is perhaps a slight slowdown in the volumes. But certainly, from a practitioners\u2019 standpoint, people who are talented in these various disciplines, there will continue to be outsized demand for their skills.\n\nFor more on the state of the tech talent, tune in to the Tech Whisperers podcast for additional insights from Martha Heller, CEO of Heller Search Associates, and Art Hopkins, Executive Director of Russell Reynolds Associates\u2019 Information Officer search practice.