Your Path to CIO: Tips for Becoming a CIO

by | Aug 17, 2022 | CIO Best Practices, Professional Growth & Careers

So, you want to be a CIO.

Congratulations, because working as a CIO represents of the most professionally challenging and rewarding careers. According to a recent survey conducted by Deloitte and WSJ Intelligence, 40 percent of all CEOs polled view CIOS as the primary driving force of business strategies.

The transformation of a CIO from a highly skilled technical professional to a management partner with a CEO occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic when CIOs had to react quickly and efficiently to the new workplace paradigm. CIOs had to take control of their organizations to accelerate the rapid change required from managing an onsite workplace to establishing the technology required to operate a remote workforce. Security, especially privacy, became a major issue that CIOs had to address on the fly.,

Because the professional role of a CIO has dramatically changed in just a few years, the job credentials required to become a successful CIO have dramatically changed as well. If you are interested in pursuing a career as a CIO, you must toss out the old job requirements list and instead, refer to a new list of job requirements that still includes several educational parameters, but has added a few new requirements that extend well beyond a classroom.

Earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science

Education remains the first step on the road to becoming a CIO, and it starts with earning a Bachelor’s degree in computer science or another subject matter associated with advanced technology. However, an undergraduate degree for an aspiring CIO no longer should be tech-heavy in the curriculum. The new focus on developing management skills means taking a few courses that teach business administration topics.

The best part of earning a Bachelor’s degree in 2022 and beyond is an aspiring CIO can earn every credit required by attending online classes.

Experience Matters

After college, take a year or two off from academics and acquire real-world work experience. A great place to start is to develop a resume with project management skills included in a job description. The change in focus from tech-heavy to a more rounded management approach for a CIO means you should build your project management skills as soon as possible after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree.

Earning a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification represents an effective way to enhance your project management skills before you enroll in an advanced degree program.

Earn a Master of Business Administration

After a few years of honing your project management skills. as well as developing one or more specialty tech skills, the time has come to enroll in an advanced degree program. However, you should focus on improving your business acumen, instead of building your technical skills. The modern-day CIO must possess business management skills to manage budgets, prioritize spending on tech projects, and assign the right IT professionals to the right projects. You must possess the skills required to recruit, develop, and retain the brightest IT professionals in your specific industry.

Earning a Master in Business Administration (MBA) is much more than gaining an educational certificate that you hang on an office wall. An MBA gives you the competitive edge working in the new workplace paradigm faced by CIOs.

Learn How to Think Like an Entrepreneur

Working for a large company as a CIO typically means following a set of business protocols that ensure consistency and uniformity. Entrepreneurs do not operate in such an inflexible business environment, and they have much more freedom to take risks to help grow their businesses. How can you think like an entrepreneur when your job as a CIO is to implement initiatives that promote consistency and uniformity?

The answer is to think outside the box when implementing corporate tech initiatives, such as establishing an effective remote work program. Do not shy away from addressing issues when you first do not see a clear solution. Apply lessons learned from past mistakes to make future projects run much more smoothly.

Improve Interpersonal Communication Skills

With a vast majority of office communications sent via email, why do you want to improve your interpersonal communication skills? The answer is to improve the personal and professional relationships you want to develop with your IT team. Look at electronic correspondence like setting the table before a big meal. You lay the groundwork for enjoying a great meal, but the meal itself is the star of the show.

Interacting with an IT team in person represents the most effective way to reach team members. Before you sit in the CIO’s chair for the first time, learn how to communicate interpersonally by developing strong listening skills, as well learning how to present complicated topics in their most simplistic form.

The Bottom Line

Contemporary CIOs no longer operate as one-dimensional, tech-savvy professionals. They must develop business management skills to adapt to the new workplace model ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only do you want to develop business management skills, but you also should develop leadership skills, such as leading by example and assuming the responsibility to complete grunt work because you face a staffing crisis.


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