"If CIOs want to move into broader or more senior roles they need to involve themselves in leadership activities beyond just their own IT department. As technology and operations are so intertwined, most modern CIOs have considerable operational experience but they need to go further."
This key advice on preparing for post-CIO and other executive roles comes from Ben Robinson, former CIO of Paymark, who this week was promoted to chief operating officer of Aura Information Security.
"For example, know your organisation's revenue lines inside out, lead cross departmental teams, get involved in major commercial deals, help close some sales and always always be there to help your peers when they are dealing with crunchy issues within their departments. Yes, even if it has nothing to do with IT," he tells CIO New Zealand.
He says a "demonstrable breadth of experience" makes it easier to change industry.
In his case, it was moving "from an established organisation in the payments sector to a high growth organisation in IT security sector that is expanding internationally".
Robinson joined Aura Information Security in March last year, as general manager for Redeye, which provides managed IT security services.
Before this, he was CIO at Paymark, formerly ETSL, for nearly five years. Paymark operates the largest electronic payments network in New Zealand. Robinson joined Paymark, then ETSL, as head of business operations and chief risk officer, before being promoted to CIO.
He has also worked for Cognizant Technology, Telecom New Zealand, British Telecom and Telefonica. While based in London, he completed an MBA.
Robinson says his CIO stint at Paymark was invaluable in preparing him for his GM and subsequent COO appointment at Aura Information Security.
"Paymark's CEO at the time, Simon Tong [now Fairfax Media MD], made it very clear that to be on the Paymark executive team you were one of eight people responsible for running the entire company, not just your own department," he says. "Though this is a simple concept that makes sense, it took the executive team, myself included, a period of time before we emotionally accepted this. When we did, the whole organisation went from strength to strength."
He aims to bring the same mindset to Aura Information Security. "Interestingly this is happening quite naturally as half the Aura leadership team are shareholders," he says. "On the flip side I do have the challenge of leading people who ultimately own the company that employs me."
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