How to be a rock star CIO

There are CIOs, and then there are CIOs. Some toil away tirelessly, getting the job done, and carve out perfectly respectable careers. Others push things further, building a platform for themselves as public speakers, and perhaps even visionaries.

How can Canadian CIOs take their careers to the next level, earning respect and fame among their peer group? Building up your profile involves a lot of work and forethought.

The obvious thing to do is get a Twitter account and a blog, but that’s only a small fraction of the story. The savvy CIO or CTO will understand the existing social media landscape and find a niche in which they can carve out an authoritative voice.

Here are some tips to building up your industry profile:

Learn from others

Stephen Abraham is one of the better-known CIOs in Canada, thanks to his involvement with IT World Canada (ITWC). The CIO of the Medical Council of Canada is a frequent contributor to the site, and also posts on his Twitter account. He says that listening is as important as social media posting. One can often be a enabling mechanism for the other.

“I may have raised my profile as a CIO through social media, but that is not the primary reason for posting,” he said. “ I find that engaging in social media allows me to gather opinions and feedback from outside my team and my regular consultation networks.  This helps me challenge assumptions, and view opportunities and problems in different ways.”

Be a filter

Interpreting insights from others can help you to become an authoritative voice in your own right. There’s a morass of obvious and irrelevant tech content online because the barrier to entry for self-publishers is lower than ever. The expanded content base has warped the signal-to-noise ratio for online tech commentary. There’s a lot of noise these days, and the signal is harder to find. You can establish an authoritative voice by bringing attention to the most relevant information.

Bob Gourley knows a thing or two about finding the signal, and amplifying it. The former CTO at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency was named one of the 25 most influential CTOs in the world by InfoWorld. He now works at strategic consulting firm Cognito, which he co-founded, and is the publisher and editor at CTOVision, an enterprise technology blog that he launched.

“Other technologists want to know what you think, especially what you think is important to focus on,” said Gourley. “The Internet is filled with content, and more guides are needed to help bring the most important content to the right people. So share links to the tech info that you think others should know.”

Have an offline presence too

Social media can increase your reach, and you can also analyze it in detail, but don’t forget professional life offline. Speak at conferences, attend industry events, and perhaps give back to the community in some way. Abraham also served as the director of programs at the CIO Association of Canada’s Ottawa chapter for over two years, which gave him a great chance to meet and work with other CIOs.

Have a cause

There’s nothing wrong with publishing your own thoughts – an opinion can be powerful, especially if it’s controversial – but giving your voice a focus can help you to stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, consider a cause of some kind. Find something that bugs you, or that you’re passionate about. It might be successfully developing staff, say, or open access to government data. Whatever it is, promote it. Become known as the go-to person for information on that topic.

Be consistent

Being reliable is a key part of any social media presence. “I try to post something every two or three days,” said Abraham. “ Knowing that I will be doing this, I push myself to continue to explore technologies.”

Building a public profile as a CIO or CTO doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an uphill struggle, and you’ll spend a while staring blankly at the comments feed in your blog wondering where everyone is. It’s a two-way conversation , in which you must nurture and understand your readers. Many people don’t appreciate how much work that self-promotion side comprises. But over time, if you stick at it (and assuming you’ve got something interesting to say in the first place), you’ll begin to see results.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury
Danny Bradbury is a technology journalist with over 20 years' experience writing about security, software development, and networking.

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