IT leaders seeking new opportunities these days won’t just see titles like CIO, CTO or IT Director, they’ll see Senior Vice-president of Business Transformation or Executive Program Director Digital Strategy and Innovation.   Changes to traditional work practices have also created virtual roles where a single leader can provide a range of strategic and executive services to a range of clients who couldn’t otherwise afford (or don’t need) a full-time leader of that calibre.

Brian Kuhn, Virtual CIO at Soft Landing describes his role as: “The “virtual” in vCIO means that I serve as a varying-sized CIO for a variety of public, private, and non-profit sector clients across a variety of industries. An overarching descriptor for my work is Customer Success Management. I seek to build strong meaningful business relationships and look for ways and areas to help clients improve or transform their business through technological innovation. More specifically, I provide CIO-like services that support strategic continuous improvement through thoughtful adoption, change management, and careful governance of technology.”  Brian’s full article can be found here: https://www.softlanding.ca/blog/what-is-a-vcio/

The new IT leadership goes beyond job titles.  The most challenging roles in an organization are often the ones a CIO or SVP hires an external consultant to handle: e.g., the executive program manager of a strategic transformation initiative or the senior business architect responsible for a master data management project, or development of a strategic governance process.  The experience (and battle scars) earned during these projects pave the way for the consultant to prove highly effective in a senior operational or executive role: but these candidates are sometimes overlooked by hiring managers because they lack a conventional role in the organizational hierarchy.

This traditional thinking, can also pigeon-hole candidates looking to step into their next role or enrich their current professional experience.  For example, in some business transformation roles, having a strong IT background can even be considered a disadvantage, with the (false) assumption that technologists are single-track thinkers.  Similarly, leaders with a strong business background – who instinctively know that technology could be the key to survival – often don’t know how to crack the IT code to deliver business results.

So, how do current and future IT leaders build a diverse and resilient career in this dynamic environment?   Some tried and tested ways include

  • GROW – ensure your skills, knowledge and abilities match the current environment
  • EVOLVE – be open to non-traditional roles and experiences that match your skill set
  • SHARE – build a peer trusted network.

The Technology Leadership Program offered by SFU Beedie and CIOCAN is an excellent way to build your leadership skills and strategic perspective to be ready for tomorrow’s opportunities. Faculty members and industry experts will guide you through online modules, facilitated discussions and a self-paced change project. This year’s program, starting in October 2020, is completely virtual and actively encourages IT leaders in all roles and organizations to join an invaluable network of peers from across the country.  The program is designed to fit your busy life.  More information can be found here: https://beedie.sfu.ca/programs/executive-education/technology-leadership-program.

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