Life After CIO, Part 2 - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
2/8/2008
05:31 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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Life After CIO, Part 2

Not that the CIO role isn't the be-all-and-end-all, the sine qua non of executive positions. But sometimes CIOs must wonder: What's next? Where do I go from here? Studies show that the average tenure of a CIO. always alarmingly short, has increased ever so slightly. Cold comfort.

Not that the CIO role isn't the be-all-and-end-all, the sine qua non of executive positions. But sometimes CIOs must wonder: What's next? Where do I go from here? Studies show that the average tenure of a CIO. always alarmingly short, has increased ever so slightly. Cold comfort.Chief operating officer is a position sometimes mentioned in this context -- and also as a likely title that the CIO position will eventually merge with or evolve into. Some CIOs have entered the groves of academia, such as most recently Gayle Farnsley, former CIO of Cummins, who is starting a technology study and practice at Purdue University.

Of course, some CIOs -- a few, a couple -- have made the transition to CEO. One can always dream.

Has moving over to the marketing side ever appealed to you? After all those meetings with vendors, have you ever thought, "Man, I could do better than that." Well, maybe you can. One CIO made the move -- and is glad he did.

Paul Hooper is the chief marketing officer of Extreme Networks, which "designs, builds, and installs Ethernet infrastructure solutions," according to its marketing material. Before becoming CMO he was the company's CIO.

"I've been in IT for pretty much my whole career," Hooper says. He started at Extreme about five years ago. Prior to that Hooper ran technology at a startup created by Jim Clark (of Netscape fame) called myCFO (now owned by BMO Financial Group). Before that he ran the networking division at Netscape.

"Part of a CIO's role is marketing," he says. "They're out there marketing themselves, marketing their companies, marketing their [IT] organizations. So it's not such a huge transitional leap."

Hooper says he was always involved with marketing at Extreme, that when the company was preparing a new product or service he would offer his thoughts on how to frame the value proposition for CIOs. For that reason, when the previous CMO left the company, Extreme's CEO came to him and asked if Hooper could run both marketing and IT at the same time. He agreed, then took on the CMO role full-time when Extreme found another CIO.

Working in marketing at a technology company is probably an easier transition for a CIO than some other vertical industries -- medicine, for example. For that reason, CIOs interested in going into marketing should consider their strengths and weaknesses carefully, and watch closely for opportunities. Trying to move into marketing at the company where he or she works, as Hooper did, may not be the best career path for a CIO.

Hooper claims his move wasn't financially motivated. "This wasn't a money play," he says. One of the main reasons had to do with influence: "The CMO has a greater ability to influence the outcome of the company than the CIO does," he says. At least, that's the case at Extreme, though it may not be at other companies.

Surprisingly -- or perhaps not -- marketing isn't Hooper's final destination. He's looking to take his transition and "round it out into a CEO role." He would like to be "the leader of small organization or [start] a company of my own." In Silicon Valley, that's always a possibility, he says.

But for now, he's finding the CMO role "to be amazingly rewarding." Also, he plans to work with Extreme's new CIO to get him involved in the marketing effort. When he gets out from under "a couple of large IT projects" he has on his plate, that is.

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