Posted by: S R Balasubramanian
CIO career, leadership, networking tips
We live in a dynamic world, and the environment around us undergoes change at a rapid pace. While we are busy putting out fires in our respective organizations, a lot is happening in the world around us. We do try to keep pace by reading various magazines, accessing information from the net, and subscribing to various news services on the web. I am not sure if that is enough.
There is a wealth of knowledge and experience that resides in the IT community consisting of CIOs, consulting professionals and vendor executives. There is a lot that can be learnt and applied for our benefit, and therefore a need to network with the IT community.
I have always been regular in attending events conducted by vendor organizations — introducing a new product or technology — or by professional bodies like the CII, Nasscom, CIO associations, etc. By doing so, I have picked up new learning and insights with these leads. I applied them in my own way for my organization. I have on many occasions shared my experiences in many of these forums, and also taken interest in taking sessions for students in management institutions. I call it ‘learning by teaching’, because I have to first read and prepare for these sessions. While teaching, my own doubts and partial understanding get cleared by itself.
If I were to pen down various ways in which I benefitted from these interactions, I would state the following:
- By attending vendor events, I learned a lot about new and emergent technologies like storage, virtualization, UTM, cloud computing etc. Through listening and asking questions, you can elicit answers to queries that remain unanswered based on reading articles.
- Through case studies presented by user organizations.
- Next is networking with CIOs. In our case, we formed an association of CIOs and met regularly. By doing so, we could exchange our ideas and experiences. We also knew whom to speak to when we are struggling with technology and applications.
- Interaction with vendors has been a rewarding experience. When I used to call a vendor for my requirements, I would pose my problem, and ask them to suggest a solution. For one, the vendor knows more about technology than we do. So when they come out with a solution, many a time it can be an eye opener. By letting vendors speak on the strength of their solution vis-a-vis a competitor, I could learn a lot from them – frankly, this is free education of sorts.
I would like to leave you with the experience of a colleague of mine — someone who shied away from networking with the community, and hence lost his edge. This nice chap worked with me, and I took personal interest in training him for higher level tasks. Impressed with his sincerity, I coached him to act like a CIO by asking him to do a few activities that I would otherwise do.
When I was leaving that organization, he wanted to make a change as well, and asked for my help in the process. My coaching helped him pick up a CIO position with a mid-sized company. He carried out that role, and then moved on to another organization. However, he kept to himself and tried to copy the solutions that he had learnt from his earlier organization. He did not network with peers or seniors in the community. Nor did he pick up new knowledge. After a while, I found him struggling for another job, at a loss to understand his career direction.