Published on March 28, 2024, 6:30 am

Former CIOs Diana McKenzie and Karenann Terrell recently shared their insights on transitioning from operational IT leadership roles to advisory or board positions. In a podcast episode of Tech Whisperers, they discussed the challenges faced by CIOs contemplating retirement and provided valuable advice for navigating this career shift.

Diana McKenzie, who held prominent CIO positions at companies like Amgen and Workday, emphasized the importance of balancing internal focus on delivering outcomes that matter to the company with an external perspective on how stakeholders value those outcomes. She highlighted the significance of understanding the “why” behind analysts’ questions and learning from post-earnings reports to enhance decision-making processes.

Karenann Terrell, known for her executive roles at Baxter, Walmart, and GSK, reflected on her experience in optimizing productivity and recognizing the impact of creating a supportive environment that benefits both individual performance and organizational success. She stressed the need for setting up structures that ensure optimal performance at a leadership level.

The transition from operational roles to advisory or board positions can be complex, but as McKenzie suggested, building relationships within the private equity and venture capital community can be a strategic steppingstone. Engaging with these firms early on can open doors to advisory roles that may eventually lead to public board memberships post-retirement.

Terrell highlighted the value of leveraging existing relationships, especially with current board members, to explore potential board-level opportunities. By initiating conversations and seeking advice from experienced board members, aspiring leaders can gain insights into navigating the path towards securing board positions.

When discussing the role of digital-savvy boards in driving enterprise value, Terrell emphasized the necessity for businesses to prioritize digital transformation as a fundamental strategy for future success. Boards that integrate digital considerations into their decision-making processes stand to create more significant value and drive innovation effectively.

In conclusion, McKenzie and Terrell acknowledged the challenges of maintaining work-life balance in “Chapter 2” of their careers but underscored the advantages of flexibility inherent in advisory roles. By carefully selecting commitments and embracing continuous learning through technology advising, individuals can navigate this phase successfully while staying relevant in an ever-evolving technological landscape.

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