The career paths of many IT professionals are pointed toward a CIO role, but is that really what you want? Here are 10 factors to consider as you make that decision—and some resources to help you along that path if you choose it.
Check out this free ebook for a look at other IT job roles to help you decide if they're a good fit for you.
1. You like hands-on tech
One of the first give-ups if you're going be a CIO is that you don't have time anymore to cut code, configure networks, or architect data. Instead, you're the administrator in charge of these functions, and one of the first ground rules is that you are there to help facilitate IT jobs, not do IT yourself.
2. You dislike meetings and politics
An upper manager like a CIO can spend as much as 50% of their time in meetings. When meetings aren't in session, CIOs spend a great deal of time creating good will so project paths for IT can be clear. Often, this good will creation means negotiating the politics between departments and personalities to make tech happen. If you prefer to avoid long meetings and politics, being a CIO is not for you.
3. You don't want to travel
Especially if a company has multiple sites or businesses, CIOs are on the road. This can mean long hours away from friends and family. If being on the road is not for you, a CIO job might not be a good fit.
4. You don't want to give presentations
CIOs give lots of presentations—to staff, to other C-level executives and business partners, and to the board. They are expected to carry the banner of IT as they promote new technologies and projects and explain how the tech will deliver business value to the group of stakeholders whose support they must gain. Being comfortable in front of a group, and able to handle difficult questions, are necessities for any CIO.
SEE: How to develop your public speaking skills and advance your career (TechRepublic)
5. You dislike budgeting and administration
CIOs spend considerable time doing administrative desk work. There are days when they don't even touch technology. If your desire is to be engaged in tech and to keep up your tech skills, there will be more pencil-pushing in the CIO job than you would prefer.
6. You don't want to fire people
As an executive in the job of the CIO, you might have to fire someone. "I once had a guy get down on his knees and, beg me not to fire him, but I had to do it," one CIO said. Firing someone is not a pleasant job, but CIOs have to do it.
7. You hate confrontation
There are times when you might need to butt heads with fellow executives, vendors, staff, or the board. In some cases, you yield. In other cases, you have to fight for what you believe in. Most of the time, there's a middle ground that everyone can agree to. To get there, you have to confront issues—and sometimes, people. If you like to stay away from confrontation, being a CIO is not the best route.
8. You don't want to cede control
Highly controlling people don't make the best CIOs. In fact, the best CIOs find themselves serving their staffs more than the reverse. Great CIOs understand that they have to create work environments and situations so their staff can succeed. Part of this is letting staff do their jobs—and not trying to control or micromanage how they do them.
SEE: How to create work-life balance in tech: 7 tips from the C-suite (TechRepublic)
9. You want family time
It's not uncommon for CIOs to spend 60-hour workweeks, and there are also those travel commitments. This can be hard to coordinate with family needs and obligations. If family time is your number one priority, a CIO job may be too demanding .
10. You don't want to change jobs
Turnover among CIOs is high. One reason is that CIO jobs, like other C-level jobs, depend in part on people and politics. If there is a new person at the helm of the company, they might want to bring in their own people. Or maybe a project gone wrong gets blamed on the CIO, even though the technology had nothing to do with the failure. The average tenure of a CIO is 4.3 years, compared to an average eight-year tenure for the CEO—so being a CIO can be risky.
Does the CIO role look right for you? These resources can help:
- How to build a successful CIO career (free TechRepublic PDF)
- How to land the CIO job: 10 tips (TechRepublic)
- Digital transformation and the CIO: Everything you need to know today (ZDNet)
- How the role of the CIO has changed in the digital era (TechRepublic)
- Looking to build a career as a tech leader? Here's why empathy might help (TechRepublic)
- How can CIOs help create the next generation of IT leaders? (ZDNet)
- How to find your next leadership job: 5 tips (TechRepublic)
- The 10 skills you'll need to land a CIO job (TechRepublic)
Have you been considering a move up the IT ladder? What questions and concerns do you have? Share your thoughts with fellow TechRepublic members.
Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.