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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.

“What you have to understand is that people work so that they can live -- they are doing this work to support themselves and their families, and they have lives outside of the job. You shouldn’t live to work; it’s not healthy. I’ve managed teams, especially in India, where the culture around work is so different and I’ve had to make it very clear that I don’t want ‘yes men and women,’ who tell you what you want to hear about deadlines and projects -- if there’s a challenge, personal or professional, I want to know about it so we can fix it,” Williams says.

Whether those challenges arise on-the job or in a worker’s personal life. That’s just part of being a great leader, he says. In a CIO role, you must know how to communicate and how to ensure work-life balance, both for yourself and for the teams you’re responsible for, he says.

“Every company is an IT company,” as the saying goes; striking a balance between business goals and technology goals is the key role of the CIO, as well as understanding the impact of cloud-based solutions, social media, mobility, and data analytics play in the current and future state of the organization, protecting against data breaches and security threats and establishing systems, policies and procedures to help the IT department run smoothly, says Selden.


A unique combination

The unique combination of hard technical skills with leadership, management and other soft skills along with years of proven experience is difficult to find, which is why CIOs are in high demand, and why the market for CIO roles will continue to be strong, says Selden.

Williams advises IT professionals who aspire to become CIOs to actively seek out and foster relationships with mentors -- plural. He’s had many over the years; including mentors that help him keep his technical skills current and mentors that help him maintain his soft skills as well as plan for the next stages in his career.

“It takes a village to ‘raise’ an executive! Don’t feel like you can only have one mentor; find and cultivate as many relationships as you need, from all walks of life and from as many different perspectives as you can find, so you can work together and hopefully emulate their backgrounds,” he says.


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