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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.

Smoley says strategic thinking must be a core tenet of talent development. "I look for open-mindedness, a questioning mind-set, candor, critical thinking, [and] the ability to network confidently, internally and externally," Smoley explains. When he finds junior employees who have those traits, he matches them up with a senior mentor. "[It] helps to accelerate learning through more frequent conversations around what works and what doesn't--and why.

"Success as a strategist comes from a broad awareness of strategic options and what has and hasn't worked in the past and currently," Smoley says. "The technical world changes so fast that individuals have to be continuously assessing their assumptions and re-evaluating them."

Progress, Not Perfection

One thing Takai has learned is that you can't take an entire IT organization and make it all strategic. "They're used to doing things a certain way and it's hard to get people to go at it differently," she says. "It's better to pick two or three people at a time," she says.

And she's realistic about the changes she can--or can't--make when some of her employees have 30 years of tenure; they were there before she was appointed and will be there after she leaves. "They know people like me come and go, and my ability to get them to think differently is limited."

Sometimes the dual demands of the hybrid role are too much for one IT professional to handle. Or pairs of seemingly complementary workers don't mesh. "The toughest part is to try to find compatible people," says Kushar. "Either you try to put someone that's too technical in a role and they don't have the customer skills, or they're too customer-skilled and don't have the technical awareness. Those people fall flat."

Weeks has spent three years already on the path to creating an IT organization that boasts both business and technology expertise. His direct reports finally all get it. But "when you get down to their directs, some get it more than others," he says. "Each rung down the ladder, it's harder for them to see the big picture. It's not perfect. It never will be."

Yet these top-notch CIOs keep at it.

"You don't hire people that get it and all of a sudden everything's cured," Weeks says. "You have to give them time to understand the business. And then they have to hire people that get it, and give them time to understand the business. It takes time."

Meet the New Members of the CIO Hall of Fame for 2013

Kent Kushar


E&J Gallo Winery

CAREER His IT career spans nearly 50 years, from his first job as a tabulating equipment operator in 1963 to his current position as technology leader and visionary at the family-owned Gallo Winery. During his 17 years with Gallo, Kushar has developed a close and strategic relationship with the Gallo family and executives, while creating innovative, customer-facing applications that achieve competitive advantage and produce desired business outcomes.


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