What it takes to succeed as a CIO today

Caldwell’s Shawn Banerji, Managing Partner of Data, Digital & Technology Officers Practice, joins Dan Roberts of CIO, to discuss tech talent trends and predictions and what CIOs need to pay attention to. Learn more in the excerpt below.

Dan Roberts: What are some of the macro trends you’re seeing that are affecting the technology industry and market for talent?

Shawn Banerji: We are in a very interesting period. It’s kind of like the Dickens classic, A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness.” There are all these contrary and contravening forces going at it, and so many global mega trends are up in the air right now.

Looking at the significant trends towards globalization over the last 20 years, is there going to be a great decoupling, and if so, what does that mean? What are the economic and organizational implications? Technology is a central lever in this. There’s increasing talk around what can or cannot be exported from this country to other parts of the world. China, for example, has an alternate universe as far as social media and ecommerce are concerned.

It’s a fascinating time for functional technology practitioners. Whether you’re a CIO, CTO, chief digital officer, a data leader, cyber — the opportunity for these leaders is unparalleled when you consider the impact that they can make on their enterprises and on their industries. But it has never likely been more fraught with challenge. And the temperament and the patience on the part of many stakeholders has contracted. People always like to talk about CIO tenure. Why is it two or three years? Well, in some cases, it’s because people come in, they accomplish, and they move on. But we’re also seeing that, if you can’t deliver measurable results in a relatively compressed timeline, the patience to see it through isn’t necessarily there.

Dan Roberts: There’s a lot of discussion right now about turning your CIO into your next CEO. What are your perspectives on that?

Shawn Banerji: It’s a logical continuation in terms of career trajectory for many CIOs. If technology is the nerve center and the enabler for everything in the business, their process orientation has to be high. Invariably, they will have had success around business transformation and change management. They’re going to have a reasonably high level of technical fluency. It’s a logical path.

I think the big question that remains is, do these individuals truly possess the strategic vision that’s needed to serve in that leadership role? I think COO is the more obvious destination for many of them, but that is not to say that there aren’t exceptional individuals. Finance has often been the proving ground/breeding ground because boards gravitated to this person’s mastery of the numbers, which hasn’t always worked out either. So I think we’re going to see more of it. But it’s TBD if it’s going to be some kind of crescendo tidal wave.

Dan Roberts: Why should someone who’s not looking for a new job connect with an executive recruiter? What’s the benefit of that relationship?

Shawn Banerji: A career doesn’t just happen to one any longer. You have to own your own career. If you have a credible recruiting relationship, that can only serve to benefit you, whether it’s market intelligence, hearing about specific opportunities, compensation questions, what I should be paying my people. We come across so much information and we’re more than happy to usually share it and refer you to other resources. These things can either be transactions or they can be an investment in the relationship.

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