Last week, I was invited to speak to a gathering of IT Managers (CIO aspirants). The subject was of course “How to become a CIO”. With some confusion on the start time of my presentation, the audience had almost 30 minutes of waiting time, but in their desire to pick up some tips and tricks, they patiently waited for the session to begin. As I entered the room, the expectation written on the audience’s faces brought butterflies in my stomach.
The agenda included: timeframe to make the grade, domain versus technology expertise, degrees and qualifications, soft skills, management challenges and opportunities, managing teams, all the qualities that matter and what to watch out for. I decided not to use the standard slide presentations with bullets, process diagrams et al, or the usual stuff that most presentations are made up of. The idea was to engage the audience, and engage they did. With 40 minutes allotted, the hour passed quickly without realizing it–the questions took away another half.
Today’s aspiring IT Managers are well aware of the challenges faced by the CIO; they shadow their bosses. They learn by observation and try to understand the intricacies and finer nuances. The only thing that they lack is a playground to test themselves and a coach to hone their skills. It was refreshing to see the young talent raring to go, waiting for an opportunity to knock. Many are abreast with financial skills and also aware of how to justify hard numbers in the enterprise quest for ROI. Finally, the importance of networking and challenging status quo makes the well rounded personality that creates success.
Succession planning for the CIO creates a platform for the next level to demonstrate their acumen. Learning is real on the battleground; no amount of theory can substitute real experience. Mature CIOs are today working towards nurturing their teams to challenge them; this was evident in the post event networking where some CIOs of the IT Managers joined in. It was heartening to see the connect between these leaders and the potential leaders of tomorrow. As the current lot of CIOs plan their retirement by 2020, the next generation has to be ready to take on the mantle by 2015.
My takeaway from the session was that the skills that worked for current CIOs are required even for the next generation. Apart from this, the new CIO will also have to keep his antenna tuned to new developments like the cloud and mobility, the latter being driven largely by consumerization of mobile devices.
The Q&A revealed existence of comfort zones in what the IT Managers do — be it technology or business process enablement. Now the challenge is to give us their comfort zones if they want to move to the next level. After all, “You must want to fly so much, that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar”.