CIOs Uncensored: What Are The Requirements For Being A CIO?

An advanced degree in CIO studies might help. Here's a modest (business) proposal.
How do CIOS advance their careers? There are a small but growing number of courses intended to show experienced CIOs how to take their careers to the next level--to negotiate a seat at the executive table, to talk the talk and walk the walk of business innovation and growth.

Last week, for example, the Wharton School announced a partnership with research firm Gartner for something called the CIO Academy. And Wharton will launch an executive program called "CIO As Full Business Partner," a weeklong course starting this fall.

"For years, CIOs have been told that they wouldn't have a job unless they transform from 'chief technology mechanic' to business executives," said Thomas Gerrity, professor of management at Wharton and academic director of the new program, in a statement. "But many [still] focus on cost containment at the expense of making important contributions to the CEO's vision for achieving business advantage through product innovation or new growth platforms."

The course features Wharton professors from a variety of disciplines, including marketing, finance, management, economics, and psychiatry, as well as research directors in Gartner's executive development program. It's also for the high rollers. "The program is exclusive to CIOs who report into the CEO," according to details on Wharton's site, and it's intended for "corporate CIOs of large global organizations, as well as business unit CIOs from multinational organizations, with revenue in excess of 2 billion dollars." That's exclusive company, all right. And it costs $12,500.

That gave me an idea. With the dearth of students entering college these days to study computer science, the ranks of CIOs may soon be filled from a variety of disciplines. So where are the courses for learning how to be a CIO?

That's why I'm proposing an advanced CIO degree. Since the professional degree for a business executive is the master of business administration, or MBA, then the professional degree for a CIO should be called the master of information administration, or MIA. Requirements for an MIA will include an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, computer science, math, psychology, sociology, biology, library science, or anything in the arts that has to do with reading and communicating clearly. No painters or filmmakers.

The curriculum will include these courses:

The First-Born Syndrome: How to take responsibility for everything; mediate among strong-willed, highly opinionated personalities; and organize easily distracted, adolescent-like individuals to complete complex tasks.

The Meaning Of Web 2.0: Learn to exploit the latest technologies; guest lecturers--"Slash" Stevens and Jane Ferrell, co-presidents, Media Backlash Club, John Marshall High School.

Basketball Matters: Impress fellow execs with your mad skills during those Tuesday night pick-up games; featuring a clinic with Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.

Dress For Tech Success: Are you a Steve Jobs (mock turtleneck, blue jeans, wire-rimmed glasses), or a Bill Gates (bad haircut, ill-fitting suit)? Ladies, use your own discretion here.

As for the cost of the MIA degree, that's negotiable--which is also your final exam.

For life lessons in being a CIO, go to our new blog, CIOs Uncensored ( If you have an industry tip, send it to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326.

Rob Preston's column will return in two weeks.

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