CIO career strategy: Managing for success

Well you finally made it. After much hard work and personal sacrifices you are now a CIO. Congratulations and good luck!

How long will the position last? Well, no one really knows, but it will for sure come to an end at some point. The only question is how it will come to an end and whether it will be your choice or somebody else. Regardless, all CIOs need to have a career strategy and be prepared to manage their career for the long term. So how do you do that?

While there is no single or absolutely right answer, based on past experiences here are a few points for consideration:


  • Recognize that you are your own “CIO brand”. What does your brand say about you? CIOs often let their personal brand be defined by default based on their current position and company, which is not ideal. Are you a CIO known for driving transformation or alternatively, at the opposite end of the spectrum, for optimizing existing operations? Whatever it is, you need to proactively make sure that you are conveying the right message in a positive way to match your career aspirations.
  • Jim Collins outlines the “Hedgehog concept” in his book Good to Great, where he suggests that we all need to find the sweet spot in our professional lives which is at the optimum intersection of “what we are good at” with “what do we have passion for” and “what is our economic engine”. So the question is what is the career sweet spot for you as CIO? Once you have clarity on that question, it will help you plan the development of your career and desired end state.
  • You should never stop looking for your next position, be that internal or external to your existing organization. As important as your current role is today, be open to new opportunities and exploratory calls from executive recruiters and industry contacts. You never know when one door will close and a new door open for you that is so much better than your current reality.
  • Network, network, network. Given daily priorities and time pressures, CIOs can often become quite insular. Connecting with peers to share lessons learned and best practices can help provide insights and heightened value added thinking. Social media can greatly enhance the reach of that networking.
  • External recognition of your accomplishments as a CIO is a good way to get the message out about who you are and what you do. Be willing to share your story publicly and consider participating in the various award programs. Who knows, you might even win.


Each CIO will by necessity make their own decisions to manage their career, but they don’t need to do that on their own. The CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) provides an excellent opportunity for CIOs to come together to network, to share best practices, to facilitate executive development and to enable advocacy on issues of significance for our profession. CIOCAN also has a supportive program for CIOs in career transition, when they need the most help.

Some CIOs will let the circumstances of their present position be the primary determinant as to how their career evolves, while others will take charge and take purposeful steps to maximize their opportunities for career success along with the associated rewards. Which type of CIO are you?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport
Gary is the President of the CIO Association of Canada (CIOCAN) which represents approximately 300 CIOs across Canada by growing IT leaders, speaking with one voice on issues facing CIOs and building a vendor-neutral community for the safe exchange of ideas and best practices.

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