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CIOs must make risky bets to become CEOs

Clint Boulton | Feb. 4, 2016
Dawn Lepore parlayed her IT work at Charles Schwab in the mid-1990s to become CEO of Drugstore.com in 2004. She offers CIOs some pointers on how take it up a level.

Lepore offered these other tips for aspiring CIOs:

Cultivate innovation. “How is your organization viewed both inside the company and outside the company? When startups call on a company, do they try to go around the CIO and the tech organization and go right to the business because they’re viewed as dinosaurs, or are you talking to entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to learn what’s going on.”

Understand your company’s business.CIOs must be able to engage in strategic discussions about the direction of your business and your competition. “If all you talk about is technology that is going to limit you.

Get a coach, if you need it. Soon after she was promoted over her Charles Schwab peers to CIO in 1994, she learned that employees had begun calling her “the ice queen.” Her boss advised her to “grow her leadership capabilities quickly.” Lepore, who says she had grown accustomed to dealing in ambiguity working in technology, hired a coach to help improve her communication skills. “She helped me communicate and figure out who I was as a leader.”

Don’temotionally blackmail” your boss. Telling your boss that if he or she cuts your budget you can’t guarantee system uptime is a surefire way to land in the dog house. “How you deal with senior management at the company is going to be part of how you’re judged as a business leader.”

Don’t engage in techspeak with your boss. Be wary of bewitching them with jargon, acronyms and, of course, Hadoop.

Textron CIO Diane Schwarz, who attended the event, told CIO.com that Lepore's point about avoiding jargon and thinking and speaking like a business person was particularly salient. “You need to think as a business person, you need to network,” Schwarz says.

 

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