The power of executive education

William Scales wouldn’t be where he is today — and wouldn’t be able to think much about where he might go tomorrow — were it not for two executive education programs.

In 1985, as a data processing manager at Wachovia Bank, he enrolled in a two-week course in leadership and financial management for non-financial managers at Duke University. Six years later, as Wachovia Corp.’s senior vice-president and manager of information services and support, he completed studies at the Young Executive Institute, an abbreviated MBA program offered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Today, the 50-year-old Scales is CIO of the wholesale banking businesses at PNC Bank, part of The PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Scales, who holds a BA in business administration, says he attended those executive education programs because he wanted advancement and knew he needed certain leadership, management and financial skills that he wouldn’t get on the job.

He says the courses at Duke and UNC prepared him well for situations he encounters today as CIO. In addition, the programs offered networking opportunities with a wide variety of executives.

“Executive education programs are as critical to CIOs as they are to any other senior executive,” says Reynold Lewke, a partner with executive recruitment firm Egon Zehnder International and leader of its U.S. CIO Practice.

And as the number of business executives taking these courses far outweighs the number of CIOs (at least in Scales’ experience), attending such programs provides a way to gain the perspective of other executives. “CIOs need to take the courses the other executives are taking so that they can continue to be good business partners,” adds Lewke.

Indeed, Scales says the programs have made him a more competent and confident executive. “The financial management for non-financial managers prepared me for managing operating budgets in the millions of dollars and helped me understand how organizations are capitalized, how they raise funds and how they have to operate within a corporate budget,” he says.

The more generalized program at UNC gave Scales a better understanding of how all the different functions in a business work together. That helps him figure out what he needs to do to convince every department and employee to row in the same direction in order to achieve business goals.

Scales says he also benefited from the conversations he had with other attendees. At the UNC program, he met William Cecil Jr., who now runs the Biltmore Co. in Asheville, N.C., which operates the historic Biltmore Estate. In talking with Cecil, Scales noted Cecil’s focus on pleasing his customers. Cecil’s passion inspired Scales to look for ways he could create positive experiences for his business customers when they dealt with IT.

Lewke says having an executive education program on your r

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