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How the CIOs of 4 Fortune 500 companies got their jobs

Bruce Harpham | Oct. 14, 2015
CIOs of Microsoft, Verizon, AT&T and United Technologies share how they reached the CIO office. Your mission: Study their experience and learn how to follow in their footsteps.

Davis also shared that United Technologies is committed to career development. As an executive, she has worked with people in her organization to help them advance and move to new opportunities. As you seek to grow your career, give some thought to your organization’s growth culture. If career development conversations lead nowhere and you see little evidence of promotions elsewhere at the firm, you may need to consider leaving the organization to continue your growth.

Developing business acumen

“Over my career, I served in a variety of business united at United Technologies,” says Davis. Those different experiences included working closely with customers. Successful interaction with customers is a key skill for aspiring CIOs to develop. You may begin your career as a software developer or engineer. Those technical skills and experience are highly valuable, yet they are not enough for an aspiring executive. Developing deep business insight is vital in order to succeed as a technology executive.

“I believe one of my greatest strengths is the ability to convert a business problem into a technology opportunity,” says Venkatraman, who leads a 2,000-person IT organization at Verizon. Venkatraman’s comment shows the importance of perspective in business acumen: Instead of being overwhelmed by problems, look for a way to build or apply technology to solve a customer’s problem.

The special CIO role in technology companies

Leading the IT function in a technology company represents a special challenge and opportunity. “I see my unit as a customer advocate and we act as an enterprise customer,” says DuBois. In his official bio, DuBois explains his approach in the following terms: “[We] help [to] ensure that Microsoft is the “first and best customer” of its own products.” Serving as a customer and early user of a company’s products is an excellent way for a CIO to add value in a technology company.

If your company builds technology products, you have an exceptional opportunity to contribute as a CIO. Specifically, you can offer to be an early customer of the technology and provide feedback to the product group. In addition, you can adopt your organization’s technology and serve as an enthusiastic customer. Both approaches show commitment to the organization and help the IT organization maintain a focus on the end customer.


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