6 Ways to start thinking like a CIO and now it can help you get there

It may sound premature to start thinking like a CIO this early in your career, but it will help you begin to notice things you would otherwise miss. This phenomenon is best described using a totally non-technical example. Think of a highway that you drive on all the time. It could be to and from work, to and from a loved one’s house, or to and from your favorite activity.

Ok, with this vision in mind, let’s pretend that one day when driving down the highway and your car is very low on gas and the “Low Gas” light starts to flash. Wanting to save money, you made the decision to buy gas at the station near your house, rather than off the highway, because you thought it would be cheaper. Then, during your drive home, you begin noticing road signs everywhere advertising gas stations just off almost every highway exit. You have driven on that highway a thousand times. Why is it that you never noticed these gasoline signs before? Well, the answer is because you didn’t need gas. As a second and third example, this analogy also works for restaurants when you’re hungry and restrooms for, well, you know.

Back to the topic at hand, this same phenomenon is true in the workplace. That said, if you only concentrate on your specific job, and not the other things around you, you won’t notice the manager level, IT/User level, and upper management level interactions that are going on around you. These interactions include the following:

1. Interaction between IT managers: Do the IT managers work together as a team or is there in-fighting between departments? 2. Dynamic between IT managers and key business users: Are the IT managers treated as equals by the leaders of the organizations they support? 3. The relationships between IT and its vendors: Does your IT organization treat its vendors well or is it abusive, overbearing, and generally difficult to work with? 4. Employee-related philosophies: How does your IT organization treat its employees? Does it provide training? Does IT promote from within or always fill management and senior executive positions from the outside? Does IT encourage cross-department employee movement or do department managers tend to discourage movement from department to department? 5. Management-related philosophies: Are managers given decision making authority or are all decisions made by senior management? How is the IT organization organized? Are there official dotted line reporting relationships? Is IT centralized or decentralized? 6. The role of IT within the company: Is IT considered to be a strategic partner with the business groups or is it viewed as simply a service organization? Is the organization, and thus IT, an early adopter or late adopter of technology? Compared to other internal service organizations, is the IT organization well funded or poorly funded?

These types of questions can help provide you a number of insights, including the following:

• An understanding of how your manager and other senior IT executives view IT success can help you maximize your personal job performance. • Ongoing observations of how the office politics a level above you work will help you navigate those politics when you are promoted to those professional levels. • An understanding of the relationship between IT and the business community they serve can help you maximize the client service you provide and gain insights as to how IT is viewed within the company. These insights can not only help you better understand senior IT management decisions, but they can also help you decide if your current employer is somewhere you would like to be long term.

In turn, the above insights, and dozens like them, will in time broaden your perspective of the business of IT well beyond the tasks you currently perform. This widened perspective will allow you to see your department’s role within IT and IT’s role within the company. Senior IT executives have this wider perspective because they live it every day. It’s a key component of the decisions they make. It relates to how they are treated on a day-to-day basis by their peers and senior business executives. In short, it’s this widened perspective that helped propel them into the IT management roles they possess and a key factor in their ongoing survival and success within the role. For you, this widened perspective will help you succeed in your current role and assist in you in moving vertically through your organization toward the role of CIO.

If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.

Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to grow.

Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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