Aiming for the CIO seat

Q: I am looking to move my career more into the technology arena with the ultimate goal of becoming a CIO. I have an MBA from a top-20 school, international experience, 10 years in mid- and back-office operations at a top investment bank, and I have run a Web development team. Most recently, I acted as global technology coordinator for our division, managing a US$12-million budget and developing our technology strategy. Is it unrealistic for me to consider such a career move without more experience or education? I am considering getting a master’s in MIS. Do you think this would make any difference?

A: Your combination of education and operating experience sounds like an excellent foundation upon which to continue progressing toward your career goal of becoming a CIO. Assuming that your most recent job refers to infrastructure planning and deployment, then the holes in your background seem to be in business applications development and in data centre operations and networking.

Regarding the former, look for an opportunity to leverage your knowledge of mid- and back-office operations through management of significant business solutions projects. Regarding the latter, the good news is that this part of the CIO portfolio of responsibilities is most often excused as a prerequisite and most easily delegated or outsourced. With some meaningful systems development and delivery experience under your belt, you can selectively entertain CIO opportunities. While doing so, also seek out a rotational tour of duty in IT operations as a means to more fully prepare for a top IT role. And always seek out assignments along the way that will give you experience in IT governance and organizational topics. Lastly, guessing that your undergraduate studies is not in a technical discipline, getting a master’s degree in MIS could complement your B-school degree quite nicely if the curriculum you are considering is focused on IT business issues and not simply on technology.

– Mark Polansky, managing director and member of the advanced technology practice at Korn/Ferry International

Executive forecast?

Q: I have more than 25 years’ experience in the IT field, with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. At the end of this year, I will have business management and information resource management degrees. I have held positions from network engineer to director of national engineering. Currently, I am consulting the federal government on homeland security projects, serving as a project manager and senior research scientist.

I have what everyone says is an excellent r