Know Your Incompetencies

By Anna Maria Virzi Print this article Print

Women are severely underrepresented in all top corporate leadership positions, including chief information officer, but don't let the numbers spook you, say three CIOs, an executive recruiter and a global consultant. Savvy companies are starting to recogn

Executive Recruiter Judy B. Homer: Know Your Incompetencies

Judy B. Homer is founder and president of New York City-based JB Homer Associates, which specializes in the recruitment of information-technology and operations executives, including chief information officers. In presenting a short list of job candidates to a client, Homer says the firm tries to include a woman or other "diversity candidate." By being on a short list, a woman gets an opportunity to compete for the position. "There are women who have the potential, but may not have had the [CIO] title," she says. "But if they have an opportunity to be presented, the ball is in their court and the court of the client."

Q. What advice do you have for women interested in becoming a CIO?

1. You need to get a good education. If your intent is to be a chief information officer, you need to have dual skills; you need to think like an engineer and think like a business person. You have to understand business and treat technology like a business, and understand the financials behind it. I don't say get an engineering degree. If you have a liberal arts degree, that is perfectly fine. But continuously educate yourself. 2. Find someone within the organization to mentor you and help you navigate the waters. There are companies that are very assertive, some are very forgiving and some are passive-aggressive. You should build a relationship with someone who can help you understand the politics and open the doors for you [within a company].

3. Have unbelievable communications skills—both written and oral.

4. Be a team player. Establish working relationships with your peers, your subordinates, internal business clients. Manage up and sideways.

5. Deliver without leaving bodies—this does not matter if you are a man or a woman.

Q. What do you mean by "leaving bodies"?

Deliver on what you say you are going to do, and not leave a bloody mess behind. Some people deliver against all odds—and at the end of the day, it may not be the best possible thing. There is always part of a project—or whatever you are doing—that is stressful because things change midstream. How you handle that stress is important.

Q. Other tips?

6. Understand the business that you are in, and how technology can enable that business. Technology, for the most part, is an enabler, so the business people can do what they do very well. Don't lose sight of that. Do not be enamored by technology for technology's sake.

7. Be a good leader. The best leaders lead by example. You also need to have the ability to get respect of people, the ability to prioritize, and the ability to push back. To know when to say no, and not to overextend.

Q. What's the best way to say no?

The greatest leaders that I know have made their jobs effortless. They have enough free time to talk to people. They are not pushed. They do not come in frazzled. We have a tool, called a dynamic leadership solution, to help executives identify their unique abilities—their talents and skills. And I am a firm believer of staying within your unique abilities at least 60% to 70% of your time. And things that you are incompetent at—meaning not necessarily that you cannot do, but you are not good at, do not enjoy or are not passionate about—delegate them, and put together what I call a "unique ability team" around you. Your success is guaranteed. You have time to manage up. You have time to see the strategy. You are not running around like a crazy person. The true secret: Understand yourself, your unique abilities and what you do incredibly well. Delegate what you don't. And put together a unique team.

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This article was originally published on 2006-12-20
Executive Editor
Anna Maria was assistant managing editor Forbes.com. She held the posts of news editor and executive editor at Internet World magazine and was city editor and Washington correspondent for the Connecticut Post, a daily newspaper in Bridgeport. Anna Maria has a B.A. from the University of Rhode Island.
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