How do I Become a CIO
How to Become a CIO
A CIO, or chief information officer, is responsible for overseeing an organization's IT staff, projects, and assets and looking for ways to improve the company's technology to benefit the business overall. While it requires expertise in computers and other IT topics, a good candidate for the CIO position must also have the business acumen to know how technology can impact the bottom line. If you're interested in becoming a CIO, a combination of education and experience is crucial to distinguishing yourself from others in the field.
Getting the Proper Education
Complete a four year degree in computer science or a related field.Most CIOs have a bachelor’s degree or other four year degree from a college or university in computer science or a related field. If you’re currently a student or planning to get an undergraduate degree, you should consider majoring in a computer-related field so you’re sure to have the necessary knowledge that employers look for.
- In addition to computer science, you might earn a degree in computer engineering, software engineering, information systems, information technology, and mixed discipline fields, such as computer science and math or bioinformatics.
- You can still be a CIO if you didn’t major in a computer science related field as long as you have a detailed and comprehensive knowledge of computers and information technology.
- If you want to earn a bachelor’s degree while working, many online colleges and universities offer computer science programs, which can make it easier to fit classes into your schedule.
- Not all CIOs have a four year degree. In some cases, work experience can substitute for education and vice versa, so don’t feel discouraged if you’re already working in the IT field and aren’t planning to earn a degree.
Earn a graduate degree in business administration.In addition to an undergraduate degree in a computer field, many CIOs also have an advanced degree in business administration, such as a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA). That demonstrates to employers that you not only have a knowledge of computers but the understanding necessary to integrate the IT and business needs of your organization. A full-time MBA program typically takes two years to complete.
- You don’t necessarily have to get your MBA or other business-related graduate degree right after your undergraduate degree. It helps to have some work experience first so you can be sure that the CIO career path is one that you really want to pursue.
- Depending on the company that you’re working for and your job performance, your employer may offer tuition assistance for a graduate degree if it will help you increase your skill set for the job. Talk to your human resources representative to see if there is a tuition reimbursement program that you can take advantage of.
- Keep in mind that if you’re studying for your MBA while you’re working, it will likely take longer than two years to complete.
- Having a graduate degree in a computer related field, such as a Master’s or PhD, can also be impressive on a potential CIO’s resume.
Demonstrate your IT expertise with certifications.Even if you have undergraduate and graduate degrees, you’ll be able to advance more easily in the IT field toward a CIO position if you demonstrate to employers that you have specific skills and knowledge. Earning certifications in specific IT topics, such as systems administration or information security, can help distinguish you from other candidates.
- IT certifications may require taking classes, attending symposiums, and passing an exam. In most cases, you need to pay a fee as well.
- Some other IT certifications to consider include IT governance, computer networking, computer forensics, mobile app development, programming, telecommunications, and wireless networking.
Pursue project management certifications.While IT certifications can help you advance in an IT career, earning project management certifications really help round out a resume if you want to become a CIO. These certifications show employers that you know how to plan, budget for, execute, and report on all types of IT projects.
- The Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, handed out by the Project Management Institute, is probably the most impressive project management certification that you can earn. In addition to passing an exam, you must provide documentation for the projects that you’ve worked on, as well as background information on your education and other work experience.
Gaining Valuable Work Experience
Excel in IT roles.In order to be an effective CIO, employers will expect that you have significant work experience in the IT field. They want to know that you not only have the necessary IT knowledge, but that you understand how the department functions and the role that it plays in the success of a business. Start out in an entry-level position, such as a software developer or network analyst, and look for opportunities to advance into higher level roles.
- In general, you’ll likely need between 10 and 15 years of work experience in the IT field to be considered for a CIO role. The type of positions that you’ve held and the amount of management experience that you have will likely determine how much is necessary.
- It’s particularly helpful to take on roles that combine IT and business responsibilities, such as a business analyst. In that role, you’ll analyze how the company’s software, hardware, and other IT equipment and systems are working and what the best options for the business are.
- You should also look for positions that allow you to oversee large scale projects, so you have experience managing an IT team and seeing a task through to completion.
Work in a manager or director role.In addition to IT experience, employers want a CIO who has management skills. You’ll likely have to oversee your company’s IT managers, project leaders, and other key IT personnel, so it’s important to have experience managing a team and motivating employees.
- You might start out managing a single project, and move on to full-time management role, such as IT security manager. The goal should be advancing to an overall IT manager or director position.
Take on a consultancy position.Some CIOs have experience working in a management consultancy capacity. That means they’ve worked with companies to help improve their performance by using their IT expertise. A consultant role is impressive on your resume because it shows employers that you know how to combine IT and business roles, and allows you to provide concrete figures on how you’ve worked to improve a company’s performance with your knowledge of IT.
- You can work as a freelance consultant, but it can be difficult to build up a client base unless you have many contacts in the business world. It’s usually best to look for a position at a consultancy firm if you want this type of experience.
Having the Necessary Skills and Traits
Improve your communication skills.Communication skills are crucial for an effective CIO. Not only do they have to be able to communicate with their staff, they must be able to translate highly technical IT information into clear language that other executives and staff can understand. You must be comfortable speaking in front of large groups too.
- If you don’t have experience with public speaking, you may want to join a local Toastmasters club so you can become more comfortable and confident when you’re speaking to larger groups.
- Strong writing skills are also important for a CIO. Take a business writing class if you need help improving your writing.
- Depending on the industry that you’re in, being multilingual can help improve your communication skills. Languages such as Spanish, Chinese, and French can be helpful when you’re an executive. Look into classes in your area, online courses, or software programs.
Work on your leadership skills.A CIO must have strong leadership skills in order to oversee the IT team and motivate the staff to work for the good of the organization. Make sure that you listen effectively to others so you can get a better sense of what they’re feeling and how you can help them become more invested in the work.
- It’s also important to be able to resolve conflicts among staff. Make sure to listen to both sides of the conflict and act responsibly, so your staff respects you.
- If you want to improve your leadership skills, you may want to attend a leadership workshop, which can help you learn to communicate, motivate, and manage employees more effectively.
Be dedicated.If you’re a CIO, you’ll likely need to be on call around the clock in the event that there’s an IT problem. You must be devoted to the job and willing to sacrifice your personal time if you’re going to succeed in the role. Make sure that you’re ready to make that type of commitment before pursuing a CIO position.
- Don’t be afraid to start out in an entry-level position even if your ultimate goal is becoming CIO. Everyone has to get their foot in the door somewhere.
- Check to see if your company has an IT mentoring program. That will allow you to work closely with individuals who’ve made a career in IT and can provide valuable advice and insight into what it takes to succeed.
- While it typically takes many years of experience to earn a CIO position, the wait usually isn’t as long at a small firm or organization. You may want to start off in the role at a smaller company, and move on to a larger organization after you have some experience.
- It helps to have some knowledge of other departments at your company as a CIO because IT drives virtually all other areas of the business. For example, if you know how the HR department operates, you’ll be better able to choose IT products and services that can help the department run more efficiently.
- As a CIO, it’s important to be able to build relationships. Not only must you be able to lead the IT staff, but you must be able to form a relationship with your boss, as well as other executives.
Video: CIS Journey from IT Manager to CIO March 27 2014
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