What Does It Take for an IT Pro to Become a CIO?

By Kathy Harris

Exceptional technical skills are only part of what qualifies a technology professional for senior management. Those with an eye on the C-suite also need to understand how technology can transform the business and increase shareholder value.

Following are 10 skills that tech-savvy professionals who aspire to the coveted CIO or CTO role must master.

Develop excellent communication skills. Upwardly mobile tech-savvy professionals realize how important it is to communicate effectively with both the business and the IT sides of a company. So how does one become a good communicator if it’s not a talent that comes naturally?

In today’s agile environment in which a collaborative approach is essential, IT teams are encouraged to engage both with one another and with business stakeholders. Use opportunities in meetings to hone your communication skills and practice active listening. Be prepared for both formal and informal meetings with colleagues and go to meetings ready to participate.  

Become the transformational leader you would want as your manager. The ideal CIO is both a good manager and a motivating leader who understands the business vision, can communicate goals, engage the team and deliver results. Know the difference between managing and leading and understand that both skills have value. Managers often tell people how to do things, while leaders are role models who lead by example.

Leaders are only as good as their teams, so building, managing and cross-training your team is an essential skill. As the team builder and manager, you’re always in recruiting mode, which means you’re always looking for opportunities to add talent to your team. Ultimately, the CIO needs to be capable of building and leading strong, nimble and diverse teams to manage the technology.

Technical competence is critical, so stay current on tech innovation and advances in your industry. Avail yourself of the most advanced technical training. Seek out learning and development opportunities. Look at your benefits package to see whether your company will foot the bill for ongoing training or online courses. The future CIO needs to possess a diverse background in myriad technologies.

Know your industry and understand its business problems. Understanding technology is critical, but so is having a solid understanding of the business drivers. A great manager sees technology as an effective tool that solves business problems. Become a specialist in the projects that are assigned to you. Ask a member of the sales team about the business issues that affect customers. Take the initiative and talk to internal thought leaders who are involved with key projects.

Recognize the financial responsibilities that come with senior management positions. Senior managers have financial responsibility for their departments, so look for opportunities to learn about departmental budgets and headcount costs.