How do I Become a CIO?

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I’ve been in IT for about four years as an individual contributor and would like to be a CIO one day. How do I get there?

I would like to begin by congratulating you on performing the first three steps toward becoming a CIO. These steps are:
1. Defining your long term goal
2. Realizing that you need a plan
3. Seeking advice on how to proceed

Defining your long term goal
Whether your long term goal is to be a CIO, Data Scientist, Data Center Manager, or any other senior professional role, having a goal you are willing to pursue is the needed first step. This goal helps give your professional life purpose and direction. This purpose helps you stay motivated when things get tough, provides you with a context for making decisions when different career choices opportunistically appear, reduces the chance that you will haphazardly move from job-to-job just to do something different rather than for promotional opportunity.

Realizing that you need a plan
There is an old expression that says a goal without a plan is only a daydream. Realizing the need for a formal plan is important because it forces you to define the steps that are required to reach your goal. These steps may include the:
• Work assignments to obtain
• College degrees to earn
• Professional certifications to achieve
• Interim promotions to pursue
• Industry knowledge to learn

Seeking advice on how to proceed
Seeking career advice from knowledgeable people can be of great value to you throughout your career. In fact, my suggestion to you is to try to find a mentor and/or professional coach who can help you navigate your career toward your ultimate goal of CIO.

To directly answer your question of how to become a CIO, there is not one direct path or secret formula needed to get you there. It’s a combination of hard work, channeled natural ability, emotional intelligence, business acumen, making good career decisions, resiliency, and a little bit of good luck. This advice may seem quite vague, and it is, but it’s a good list of personal attributes that will help you move up professionally. That said, let’s expand on each of these items with the objective of making them more tangible and action oriented.

Hard work
Working hard provides two key professional advantages. First, it helps build your professional brand as someone who can get the job done, cares about his/her work, and is willing to do what it takes to complete the task. Second, working hard opens doors. These doors may be the opportunity to work on an important project that can boost your career, get a choice assignment that provides visibility to senior management, or other similar advantage.

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