The role of chief information officer is one of the most sought-after jobs by many in tech and is one that has certainly been in the spotlight over the last 12 months. As we all saw in 2020, COVID-19 lockdowns and remote working precautions demanded CIOs to take the reins of their organization and accelerate digital operations almost overnight. More than ever before, CIOs are being relied upon to fuel an organization’s digital engine, and their strategic oversight has never been more valued or impactful to its long-term success.
The modern-day CIO is no longer just a great technologist. The traditional back-office operator we have become accustomed to over the last few decades has needed to transform into a business partner with a seat in the boardroom. CIOs are increasingly steering their organization and achieving business goals in new ways not just due to the pandemic. In fact, according to a recent survey by Deloitte and WSJ Intelligence, 40% of CEOs view CIOs as the key driver of business strategy within the next three to five years.
Because of this, the job responsibilities and requirements of a CIO are not what they once were, regardless of if you are already in the position or aspiring to become a CIO. As a role that is constantly expanding and evolving, it can be an incredibly challenging and fulfilling opportunity, but there is no longer one single skill or expertise that can elevate you to the role of a modern CIO. Instead, it’s increasingly about being a well-rounded business leader.
Reflecting on my own experience and those of my peers, below are six keys IT professionals should keep top of mind when considering how to evolve in their career and prepare to be the next transformational CIO:
1. Strengthen your communication skills: Long gone are the days where CIOs could remain behind the scenes of an organization. Just as they are expected to be proficient in their technology skills, modern IT leaders are strong communicators and acclaimed story tellers. The best CIOs are poetic with their words and can use illustrative analogies to describe even the most complex technical initiatives to their stakeholders, business leaders and customers. Compelling stories help drive people to act, and aspiring CIOs should dust off their communication skills, so they are ready when their moment comes.
2. Think like an entrepreneur: It’s often said that the best CIOs are like entrepreneurs because they aren’t afraid to embrace risk to drive innovation. Such leaders are passionate about technology’s ability to solve complex problems and are constantly exploring new ways to apply leading innovations to pressing business challenges. They won’t shy away from projects if they don’t have all the right answers at once. If they fail, they learn from the experience and apply it to the next trial. IT professionals should follow suit by embracing an entrepreneurial mindset early on in their career.
3. Up your business IQ: CIOs are a critical asset as business-savvy technologists within their organization. They understand business objectives and corporate vision and are able to leverage technology to achieve business goals. IT professionals on the CIO career path should not only have an in-depth understanding of their company’s business goals but understand how digital technologies can make a measurable impact on the bottom line. As well as how to align and help the business meet or exceed these goals.
4. Own the process (and the project): From overseeing a digital workforce to supervising projects and managing external vendor relationships, there are a lot of moving parts a CIO is now expected to manage across the IT organization. Those looking to become a CIO should take project management courses so they can become proficient in ensuring IT tasks and projects are prioritized accordingly, executed correctly and delivered on time.
5. Lead by example: In the rush of day-to-day deliverables, it is often easy to overlook the accomplishments of those on your team. As a leader, it’s critical to take a moment and recognize a job well done. Keep in mind that everyone likes to receive praise a little bit differently, so make sure to take the time to understand each team member’s unique preferences. Giving out praise where praise is due will not only create a happier, more engaged IT team, but will also give employees the motivation to produce greater work in the future.
6. Don’t be afraid to do the grunt work: A CIO is expected to execute multiple projects simultaneously. The hours will be long, and the work may not always be groundbreaking, but implementing technology that powers business growth is one of the most rewarding parts of the job. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves because ultimately, the buck stops with you.
In today’s digital working world, CIOs hold the keys to technology-driven innovation that will propel companies to success. As CIOs become business strategists and right-hand partners to CEOs, the career path will increasingly be marked by business acumen and leadership just as much as technical know-how. By recognizing how this role has shifted and investing in leadership, business and personal development, you can set yourself up for a prosperous career in IT. CIOs have earned their spot at the table, make sure you’re ready when it’s your turn to sit down.
Andrew Daniels brings a passion for helping companies scale global operations, success implementing robust security protocols, and more than 20 years of experience to Druva. At Druva, he focuses his time on efficient operations processes, identifying security risk and leading the technical operations functions.