What do you want to be when you grow up is a common question youngsters are asked. If you’re a CIO and at the top of your technology career after a long voyage, an observer might think that would be it (aside from moving to a bigger organization).

But at a recent Forbes CIO Summit, almost 80 per cent of the audience said they want to move beyond being a chief information officer and into other C-level roles.

That’s heartening, Peter High wrote in a column this week. It wasn’t that long ago, he recalled that most people thought a CIO couldn’t aspire to being a chief operating officer or even a CEO.

But how to get there? Panelists at the conference who had made the jump offered a few tips. John Hinshaw, who went from head of information services at Boeing to EVP of technology and operations at Hewlett-Packard, said learning how to keep close to customers is one strategy to understand how technology can  meet customer needs.

Shaygan Keradpir, who had been chief operations and technology officer at Britain’s Barclay Bank to become CEO of Juniper Networks (and this week resigned from that post), suggested to the conference that IT leaders have to leverage the collaboration lessons they learn within their organizations to broaden their experiences, which could stand them in good stead if they want to advance in the C-suite.

“CIOs are increasingly being invited to join the boards of companies,” notes High. “This is a reflection of both the growing information and technology risk that companies need to mitigate and the breadth of innovation that has IT at its core, no matter the industry.  As more CIOs join boards, they will garner the experience and the contacts to make them more viable CEO and COO candidates.”

So be ambitious. Why not?