How to become a CIO

Will Astbury
by Will Astbury 5 September 2016

At some point in their career, every professional asks themselves “What do I have to do to get to the top?”.

Ambitious individuals within the IT sector are no different. However, the path to becoming a CIO can meet a number of crossroads and unexpected twists. Here are eight steps that most successful CIOs have to take during their career:

How to become a CIO

    1. Learn: Different sources will recommend a range of courses when it comes to gaining an education that will set you up with the perfect foundation for becoming a CIO. Some experts recommend a traditional approach – gaining a bachelor’s degree in computer science and possibly following it with a Masters. These experts endorse completing your education as soon as possible so you can begin gaining experience within the industry. However, other sources suggest that an academic background in computer science is not always the key. They say that “intellectual dexterity” is what’s needed, which can be represented in the form of any robust degree from a well-respected university.
    2. Early Career: Gaining as much experience as you can is vital, and you can get this in a number of ways. Graduate schemes within blue chip companies are a great way to discover how the big hitters operate. Project management skills are also very useful to CIOs so in your spare time embark on some project management certifications and ask your superiors to delegate minor management responsibilities onto you so you begin to expand your expertise.
    3. Mentorship: Indentify a senior-level individual outside of your direct management structure that you respect and ask them if they would be willing to mentor you. A mentor will help you glean insights into leadership, you can tap into their years of experience, and you can begin to build a an influential professional network around you. As a CIO, your network will be one of the strongest weapons in your arsenal because it should be an endless source of advice, opportunities, and solutions.
    4. Specialise: Whilst gaining experience, look for opportunities to  build technical credibility in a particular area of IT. You can zero-in on chosen subjects by focusing on challenges where there are the most job opportunities or by finding out about further IT certifications that interest you. You might be known as the ‘go-to’ person for a particular topic within your organisation. If so, focus on expanding your knowledge in this area and work on your strengths.
    5. Real World: CIOs are all-rounders, juggling the characteristics of man-management, technical knowledge, planning, and innovation. Some experts recommend that budding CIOs take some time working outside of the IT team so they can develop a perspective on how the IT department is viewed by the rest of the business. This will help them to develop an understanding of finance and learn how to manage different personalities. When speaking with board members, CIOs must manage the expectations of a variety of individuals and not all of them will have technical brains nor a passion for IT.
    6. Network & Promote: Join thought leadership groups, attend conferences, and grasp opportunities to speak publicly about subjects you know well. By becoming an active member of the tech community you will build a reputation as an expert and a network of ambitious contacts. LinkedIn Pulse articles can be another platform to showcase your expertise. Be cautious with your use of words and remember to sell yourself well. Only offer opinions on subjects you know a lot about and remain open to new ideas.
    7. Adapt: Embrace new strategies and emerging technologies, explore alternative opportunities (i.e strategically targeting emerging roles like the Chief Digital Officer), and be ready to go wherever the business needs you. Make yourself an extremely flexible asset that will do whatever it takes to achieve your organisation’s objectives.
    8. Use a recruitment consultant: When you feel you are ready to move into a CIO role, speak to an expert IT recruitment agency. These organisations have good knowledge of the market place and the roles that will suit your specific skillset and personality.

If you would like to discuss finding a new job contact Crimson on 01675 466 477 or upload your CV to our job site.

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Crimson is an IT consultancy, an IT solutions provider, an IT recruitment agency, and a Microsoft Gold Partner with offices in Birmingham and the City of London.

Topics: CIO, IT Jobs