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CIOs struggle with the great talent hunt

Stephanie Overby | May 2, 2013
Finding IT pros with business skills has always been a bear. So award-winning CIOs are taking radical steps to train, recruit or grow the hybrid staff they covet.

Weeding out those who couldn't adopt the business point of view was half a solution. To replace them, Weeks had to hunt down that rare breed--the business-savvy, collaborative programmer. "We needed a combination of tech skills and collaboration skills," says Weeks. "And we're primarily a Java shop, so that made it even more difficult."

Weeks started by building a new employment branding campaign that emphasized the financial success of the company and its desire for A-level programmers. He implemented agile methodology that required development teams to work closely with the business. And he appointed business analysts as the product owners of those development teams.

At E&J Gallo Winery, the world's largest wine producer, longtime CIO Kent Kushar also knew it was time to turn his reactive, back-office IT function into a proactive, customer-facing business partner. What he didn't know was whether he had the right people to do it. "We knew we had some who could make the change," says Kushar, a 2013 CIO Hall of Fame inductee. "They latched right on." But many did not, despite "lots of chances to make it."

For a new role--the customer-facing IT representative--he wanted more than a business bent. He wanted a graduate business degree. Finding the best and brightest MBAs was one thing; finding those who wanted to work at Gallo headquarters was another. "You don't recruit a Harvard grad to come to Modesto," Kushar says. He zeroed in on schools like the University of Arizona, the University of Texas, California State University Stanislaus, and the University of Arkansas.

"My CFO and I did it ourselves. We didn't outsource it. We got on airplanes. We talked to deans. We studied the [curricula]. We joined advisory boards," Kushar says. "And we were able to attract the right talent."

Reaching Across the Aisle

When Smoley was populating his global customer solutions group at Flextronics, he too wanted top business-minded tech leaders. "We often get them from manufacturing sites, which are essentially really small companies," Smoley explains.

"This is a good source of talent because if an individual has been an IT leader at a manufacturing site, they have absolutely dealt with customers and business management directly. They have experienced the pressure for reduced cost and increased speed. So these folks are business-savvy and technically strong."

They don't all want the job; some are happy where they are. But for those that do, Smoley has a career path for them. "We also make it a practice to offer our IT talent the option to work on the business side as a career path, and we actively recruit from non-IT functions in the company," says Smoley. "Our mission [was] to be the career destination of choice for all employees at Flextronics."


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