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IT pros share tips for building strong peer networks

Matt Kapko | May 29, 2015
CIOs and IT leaders don't have one central gathering place online, and fostering a quality network of peers is both a challenge and an opportunity. Three established IT leaders share real-world tips to help you bolster your peer networks.

Kerrie Hoffman, vice president of IT with building and automotive firm Johnson Controls, says her relatively large, diverse and global network includes various IT and business partners, as well as other contacts she made throughout her career. LinkedIn is Hoffman's platform of choice for maintaining those connections, but she also uses other platforms to stay in touch with Asia-based contacts.

"It's very important as a CIO to build an external, industry-based network of thought leaders, venture capitalists and peers in other industries," she says. "Given the rapid changes in technologies that are now being applied beyond the back office to products and services, and the emergence of digital business models, it is critical to have a broad network to keep up with advances and how to apply them within my company."

Unique networking challenges for IT leaders

Yochem says CIOs face unique challenges and opportunities when cultivating networks of peers. 

"CIOs touch all aspects of a business, CIOs are the launch point for differentiation through technology and CIOs are not vertically-bound throughout their careers," she says. "CIOs must build a community that includes business leaders across many verticals, from a variety of functions and business types, and strong ties to the startup community."

Yochem also stressed the importance of social media networking and the role it's played in her career. "I've had the pleasure of working with brilliant people from around the world, and without social media those relationships would have fizzled out," she says. "With social media, we are able to stay in touch on a professional or personal level or sometimes both, share ideas, collaborate on short-term projects and build long-term relationships." 

One quick way to jumpstart your network is to join a formal group of peers, but you shouldn't limit your search to specific functions, verticals or company sizes, according to Yochem. "Start building your network by giving something of value to a community, whether it's tangible sponsorship, advice, deep thoughts or otherwise."

"In the end, there are many opportunities out there to network in person or virtually," Edmunds says. "You have to find the ones that work for you, but regardless of which ones you pick, you need to participate in order to get value out of them."


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