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IT Career Roadmap: It takes a village to 'raise' a CIO

Sharon Florentine | March 22, 2017
Lawrence Williams will be the first to admit he hasn’t gotten this far in his career on his own -- his relationships with mentors have helped to inspire, motivate and drive him along the way. As a project manager in Chicago early in his career, his mentor was the CTO of the Chicago Board of Trade, who inspired him to further his education and take his career to a different level.

roadmaps cio chart

Lawrence Williams will be the first to admit he hasn’t gotten this far in his career on his own -- his relationships with mentors have helped to inspire, motivate and drive him along the way. As a project manager in Chicago early in his career, his mentor was the CTO of the Chicago Board of Trade, who inspired him to further his education and take his career to a different level.

“I’ve always been goal-oriented. I looked at where I was, and where I wanted to be, and I saw that my mentor had an MBA and a PhD in Computer Science. I looked at what he’d accomplished and started to ‘roadmap’ how to get to that place, and that meant pursuing my own MBA and a Ph.D.,” Williams says.

roadmaps cio chart
 Roadmaps cio chart

He received his Ph.D. in Information Technology from Capella University, but some of the most important skills he learned there had nothing to do with hard technology.

 

A trendsetter

“I’ve always been good at strategizing, at analysis and predicting trends -- and I wanted to spark some trends of my own. But the things I learned from my Ph.D. that have been most important, I think, are critical thinking, in-depth organizational analysis and being able to develop solid future-proof IT strategies that are in line with where technology is going versus playing it safe and understanding where tech is now -- though that’s certainly part of it,” William says.

As acting CIO of Simmons College of Kentucky, for example, he proposed investing in SmarTV technology for classrooms to facilitate streaming video and interactive learning instead of a more conventional, but more costly and time-intensive, infrastructure buildup.

“The executive teams thought we’d have to spend millions on upgrading our infrastructure to be able to facilitate this, but the internet of things is really allowing us access to bandwidth and devices that can deliver the same type of technology and experience within the constraints of what we already have. So, I’m in the process of contacting our ISP to ensure we have the bandwidth; that’s part of using new technology aligned with business constraints and our strategic initiatives,” Williams says.

 

Focus on alignment

That ability to align an organization's IT needs with its business needs is key for a successful CIO, says Jennifer Selden, regional recruiting director, Randstad Technologies. But CIOs also must be excellent communicators, relationship-builders and proven business leaders with strong organizational skills, according to Selden.

“In many instances, they sit on the executive board; therefore, executive presence, confidence and a strategic mindset are very important. They must also serve as an educator, providing guidance on the business value and the risks technology systems can bring to an organization,” she says.

 

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