Oh I See! Getting CIOs to view their jobs from a different angle

Nov 1 2011   10:30AM GMT

Becoming an entrepreneur

Arun Gupta Arun Gupta Profile: Arun Gupta

Recent times have been interesting, to say the least, according to industry news. Angel investments, venture capital, and seed funding have been relatively easy to get by. Every business magazine and newspaper is talking about the young generation choosing the path less trodden. New business ideas appear out of nowhere. Once executed, it makes you wonder why you didn’t think of it, if it were so obvious? These are however the ones that succeed, which I am sure are statistically very small compared to the ones that died prematurely.

The spirit of entrepreneurship seems to be in the air. Faced with a mid-life crisis of unmet aspirations or growth, many are pursuing their dreams of being their own bosses. So I decided to track down a few CIOs who ventured, to find out what triggered their steps towards being an entrepreneur. Some ventured into related industries where they were employed, while a few were totally unrelated to their past employers domain or for that matter IT. What came out was an interesting set of revelations.

Leaving the rat race behind

A CIO, with many years in the pharmaceutical industry, decided to venture into healthcare, and so did another who was in the banking industry. For the former, it was leveraging his business knowledge of the lacunae in the marketplace, while the latter saw an unmet need to address, based on his personal experience.

Both were driven by different stimuli, the common theme was, however, to get off the rat race. Both were good IT professionals, and one would have assumed a journey from mid-sized company to larger enterprises was a logical progression. So when a CIO approached me for advice on when to get started on an entrepreneurial journey, it was an interesting discussion.

We started with his current position, industry and economic impact, and personal growth; all appeared positively stacked in his favor. Then we reviewed his quandary. His role had grown as a CIO, he was respected within his company, and everyone acknowledged his expertise. He knew it would be a difficult task to rise beyond IT, even though he knew the business well. He dreamed of being a CEO, and starting up on his own seemed to be an easy way to get there.

Navigating through the choppy waters

Risks were the economic uncertainty, funding required, and the financial safety that the family needed. Key requirements of an entrepreneur namely the vision, management skills, financial acumen, and marketing abilities were all present. The doubt was about timing, now or later. My advice to him was to take the plunge. There is never a good time like now, analysis will lead to paralysis.

Even in a job, every new venture has a risk element to it. Sometimes we embrace it and sometimes we dither. We call it change management. So why is change difficult? Because we are the cause and the effect; we are responsible for the journey and the outcome. We compete with ourselves and have no other benchmark.

I guess it requires thinking in a different mindset to get off the ground. The chains of comfort will always hold you back. The debate is about when is internal self-reflection, and the answer is now. Do you want to be an entrepreneur? As Charles Kettering, the famous inventor said, “I have never heard of anyone stumbling over anything while he was sitting down.”

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