CIOs in Transition

Between gigs? Learn how you can take advantage of CIOCAN’s new “CIO in Transition” Program.

Anyone who has reached a senior position in IT has been laid off or fired at some point in his or her career. In CIOs in Transition, we will feature regular interviews with CIOs on their transition experiences and lessons learned, with links to pertinent information that can help you reshape your career.

Dave Codack is a member of the National Board of the CIO Association of Canada, responsible for the Marketing Portfolio. His most recent position was “VP of Technology Networks” with the TD Bank. He has been an entrepreneur as well as an executive with large multinational organizations within the Automotive, Health Care, Aerospace, Computing, Telecommunication, Insurance, Construction, Retail and Financial Services sectors. He has worked in 29 different countries in various capacities and has managed staff in 4-5 continents. He is involved with universities and colleges through Mentorship, Advisory Boards, Judging and Awards.

Q1 According to Forbes Magazine writer Deborah Jacobs in her article “What to Say on LinkedIn After You’ve Been Laid Off”, one of the most important things an executive can do is resist the urge to crawl into a hole, and promptly announce his or her “looking for opportunities” status. This could be in the form of a different title that reflects aspirations. What has your experience been?

Codack: It is critical to identify and work the network you have built, right from the get go. You need to segment them into tiers: tier one are those you know well that can help you get on your feet and market you to others; a second tier of those in a similar industry that you know but not as well, and; a third tier are those your network has opened up to you in the same or other industries where you are not known as well but could be just as effective. Work with headhunters, but be mindful that most prospects do not come from them.

Q2 The literature suggests that given current economic realities and rapid change, “there is no shame in being laid off”. Would you agree?

Codack: Well this sounds like a reasonable theory but when the market is humming along at a reasonable pace, there is a perceived stigma for someone that is let go. Some express the view, ‘that if you were good, this wouldn’t happen to you’. This is also how headhunters behave: if you are not employed they perceive you are less marketable. This view isn’t prevalent with everyone, but be prepared at an interview to explain “why you were let go.”

I have seen some people reeling from the experience of being let go – they either crawl into a shell or become cynical and bitter. Only you know how well you really performed. If you are satisfied with your performance while employed, then realize that this can and probably will happen to good leaders eventually. “Cultural fit” and personalities will trump accomplishments any day, and good people can be a victim of that. And, you need to understand that this is a firm’s right and authority to make changes—this happens even at senior levels and you cannot take it personally.

Q3 Did you take some time away to regroup? Was this valuable?

Codack: I personally didn’t but everyone else I knew that had this happen recently did. Some wanted to find themselves; others wanted to determine what they really wanted. I regularly spend time analyzing my performance and thinking about what jazzes me, what I want to do. So, when the event happened, I really had a plan in motion and while executing it, kept my eyes and mind open to other opportunities that I had not considered. It is an exciting time as well as a nerve-racking one. I suggest that you enjoy it and use your time to both regroup and execute. I did take some personal time along the way but never for a protracted period.

Q4. Your board position with the CIO Association means that you have a very connected network of IT Leaders in place. How did you use that network?

Codack: Volunteering is an important part of a well-rounded executive’s career. It brings another dimension or two to one’s work, but also fulfills aspects that aren’t covered through regular employment. I encourage all IT leaders to volunteer consistently throughout their careers. When you find yourself unemployed, your volunteer contacts become part of your ‘tier one’ search and are valuable at opening up doors for you. My CIOCAN network was an important part of my “tier one” search.

Q5. What advice do you have for other CIOs who may experience a lay-off in the future?

Codack: The best advice I can give is: attempt to network each and every day. Don’t wait for a crisis. Arrange coffee, lunches, dinners each week. You could adapt my method, for example: aim for 3 heavy days in the city with 3-4 meetings each day, and use the other times during the week to plan and get yourself in the right place for your next role.

Sources for CIOs in Transition
Forbes “What to say on LinkedIn When You’ve Been Laid Off”
Forbes “10 Things To Do When You Lose Your Job”
Job Interview Tools