Published on February 1, 2024, 11:13 am

The Next CIO cohort recently had an insightful discussion with Natalie Whittlesey and James Lawson from InX, focusing on the transition into a first-time C-suite role. The Next CIO workshops aim to provide support for individuals in the Next CIO cohort as they navigate their way into their first Chief Information Officer (CIO) position. These workshops, which take place throughout the year, are designed to help participants determine their career paths, guide them through the application process, and acquaint them with the latest trends in AI. By participating in these workshops, members of the Next CIO cohort gain a clearer understanding of what it takes to be a technology leader at the executive level and identify the skills necessary for success.

One of the key areas explored during these workshops is how to approach applying for a first-time CIO role and what to expect during the transition. With technology’s increasing influence in today’s organizational landscape, the role of the CIO has been elevated, driven further by the demands brought about by the pandemic. According to The State of the CIO 2024 survey published by CIO magazine, 85% of CIOs now act as change-makers and take charge of both business and technology initiatives. However, transitioning from a CIO-1 position to becoming a full-fledged CIO involves a significant mindset shift. The emphasis has shifted from technical proficiency to business acumen, with many CIOs now reporting directly to CEOs instead of CFOs. The survey also highlights that 79% of heads of IT claim that there is a strong educational partnership between CIOs and boards of directors.

During these workshops, participants grapple with ways to effect this mindset shift as they prepare themselves for assuming the responsibilities associated with being a C-suite executive. Manoj Kumar, a member of the Next CIO cohort who successfully made his transition from cyber security professional to aspiring Chief Technology Officer (CTO), shared his insights. Kumar emphasized that technologists often overlook critical aspects when aspiring to reach the C-suite, and the workshop shed light on those aspects. He mentioned the significance of capturing the broader business scope of one’s role in their resume instead of focusing solely on narrow specializations. Networking and mentoring were also highlighted as crucial factors in going beyond mere qualifications and making it through initial interview rounds. Overall, participants found these hands-on, practical sessions to be thought-provoking.

A common question among workshop participants was, “What are my gaps?” This led to a discussion about crafting individual narratives and effectively presenting one’s skills. James Lawson from The IN Group stressed the importance of storytelling when sharing one’s career journey with search consultants or C-level executives. He advised aligning the narrative with a board member’s perspective, focusing on addressing their pain points and demonstrating problem-solving abilities. Lawson further encouraged participants to consider non-linear career trajectories, including exploring sideways moves to broaden their experiences and make their stories more compelling.

An integral piece of advice that emerged during these workshops was the value of networking. Participants were urged to prioritize building connections over solely relying on head-hunters and recruiters for job opportunities. Attending industry events, engaging with fellow CIOs, and reconnecting with peers can significantly help individuals stay updated on industry developments while uncovering new opportunities. It was emphasized that setbacks should be viewed as stepping stones towards progress rather than defeats. As one of the hosts aptly stated, “You’re winning (not losing) if you reach the shortlist or final stage interview but don’t get the job. See it as a step forward, not a loss.”

The Next CIO Awards initiative plays a vital role in supporting IT directors’ professional development as they strive to assume CIO roles in their careers. Those interested in applying for these awards or nominating deserving candidates can find more information here [provide link]. The Next CIO workshops continue to provide invaluable guidance and insights for individuals embarking on their journey towards becoming successful C-suite executives in the field of technology.


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