SFU Graduate: Sandeep Sidhu

CIOCAN-SFU Leadership Graduate 2015:

What She Learned; How Her Organization Benefited

Sandeep Sidhu: Manager, IT Service Delivery, Capilano University (Vancouver)

Build the Toolkit; Balance Confidence with EQ

Sandeep-Sidhu_dHow did you get started on the program?
Before I enrolled in the LDP, I had looked around and couldn’t find any other credible program that was affordable, and “doable”. MIT and Harvard are offering what appear to be good executive leadership programs – but they’re so expensive!

Gary Munro, CIO at the Justice Institute of BC, and board director in CIOCAN’s Vancouver Chapter, introduced me to this program. Gary and I work very closely through our Higher Ed BCNET group – he had noticed my desire to grow as a leader. My ambitions have always been obvious to my mentors, and Gary really helped me formalize my next steps via this program. I can’t think of a better path for advancement.

The key attraction for me was the idea of real IT leaders sharing their experiences via face-to-face sessions and informal conversations.

This program is the cream of an MBA program for aspiring CIOs – so relevant!

Was the program what you expected?
I already have Masters degrees in Applied Science – Research and in Information Systems, so I think I had more post-graduate experience than the other students – I say this to show that I had high expectations going in.

And the program exceeded my expectations. It’s not death by power point, which is what you so often get. The way that experiences were shared was well organized for maximum take-away and immediate action. The six weeks learning and preparation segment before the face-to-face, was excellent and certainly is a core strength of this course.

How would you rate the quality of instruction?
The professors are outstanding – they articulate the theory and research very well, and support it by real life examples. Coming from a mix of research and IT practitioner background, I found this course to be the perfect balance between theory and practicality. Presentations and CIO panel discussions were priceless. I was able to take away simple tips such as “Talk in the business speak”, “Empower the business with information” and finally “Facilitate decision making”, and apply them right away.

Is the LDP Program a factor in taking the next step in your career? Did it build your confidence?
Confidence has never been a problem for me. Rather, the program was a huge factor in balancing my confidence with the emotional intelligence (EQ) required to go from a good to a great leader. I learned that leadership skills include humility, respect and listening. I learned that IT leaders must be connected and engaged with people. We need to understand how the people we lead think. I am thrilled that I got to learn these lessons – and I know they’ll be so important to my advancement.

What were your main takeaways from the program?
The program covered so many aspects of leadership from emotional intelligence to alignment with business strategy. Besides what I’ve mentioned before, I would say my three key takeaways were:

  • I have a toolkit of skills and knowledge that I can use every day.
  • Because of the CIOCAN Associate membership that is included with program registration, I now get to connect with a C-level professional network. The opportunity to learn in that network via CIOCAN events has taken my perspective to the next level.
  • I have an amazing network of other budding CIOs with whom I share experiences as we navigate through organizational and professional challenges.

The network seems to be a big part of the value proposition for you…
It was one of the most valuable things. I am in regular touch with three students from the program, one in Toronto and two in Vancouver. Some of us were together again in April at the CIO Peer Forum in Vancouver, where we got to network with CIOs from all over the country, and heard speakers on leadership and strategy (as opposed to technology topics).

Where is the value for you in the LDP and the CIOCAN networks?
First, on the LDP program we’re not at work. We’re with peers from many organizations, both public and private sector – we share so many successes and challenges. Nobody is judging us. There is a big trust factor. People who used to feel nervous gained confidence within the group. We have built our own support group. We also try to meet in person when practical.

Can you tell us about your Capstone project?
Prior to this course, I had been working with my CIO to align our IT Service offerings with Capilano University’s goals and strategy. In the Capstone project, I chose to formalize the plan and process. The choice of the project reflected my change in perspective – from the weeds to the forest view.

What was the impact on the organization?
I was able to:

  • Identify gaps between University goals and IT departmental goals
  • Demonstrate gaps between internal processes and service expectations
  • Establish a sustainable annual process for continual improvement of our service model
  • Get buy-in from our customer groups and stakeholders through consultation workshops

As a result of the project, I was able to secure funding and resources for IT, with a long term sustainable plan in place.

Did your boss support your taking the LDP program?
Most definitely! He is a member of the CIO Association, and although he has not taken the program himself, he is well aware of its value, and of the value of the CIOCAN peer network. He is pleased with my contribution to the long term planning process – it has certainly benefited the department.

How did the program affect your role, and the perception of you within the organization?
Because the Capstone Project gave me the opportunity to develop our first IT Strategic plan, I was able to demonstrate my ability to think and operate strategically, and to bring departments closer. Other leaders recognized my skills in building credible relationships. I formalized by ambition to grow as a leader, and I now have a strong network of internal mentors to support my growth.

How about outside the organization?
When people find out that I did the CIO Leadership program – it almost gave me a new “name”. Definitely put my name out there where I wanted it.

How has your perspective on IT leadership changed?
First, IT leadership is not about technology – it’s all about people. IT’s role is to facilitate conversation in the business. Second, a good network is absolutely key to success, both for you and for your organization.

Any last thoughts on the program?
The LDP was such a great opportunity to learn exactly what you need to know to become a CIO, and the Capstone project segment insists that you demonstrate what you can do. In other programs, you hope that you will be able to apply the lessons learned. This program builds the action right in – you have to become a change agent. It is an incredibly humbling experience to work with such experienced and astute professors and CIOs, I certainly feel very fortunate to have been part of this program.