WHEN SEARCHING FOR IT talent, the position of chief
information officer (CIO) may be the most difficult to
fill successfully. The impact of IT on business value
and organizational performance has been extensively
discussed in both the academic literature2, 11 and
the practitioner literature.
5 All the findings point
to the important role the CIO plays in the success
of the overall business. This makes it important to
understand the traits and characteristics effective CIOs
share and the educational and workplace experiences
that increase their likelihood of attaining and retaining
the CIO mantle, so organizations may be able to
identify and groom high-potential CIO candidates and
provide career advice to aspiring CIO candidates.
In the early 1980s, an in-depth look by Tanniru14 at
positions held by IT managers before they reached
their first leadership role identified
two primary career paths: business
and technical. A programmer or ana-
lyst entry position led to either a busi-
ness analyst or technical specialist
role. Each such role led to either an IT
leadership position or a technical man-
ager position. The past three decades
have dramatically changed both the IT
and the business landscapes. This is
an exploratory follow-up to that study.
The goal here, as it was then, is to track
the career paths of senior IT leaders—
CIOs—and use that information to
guide the skill development and career
progression of today’s IT talent.
More specifically, the research objective of this article is to identify the
defining career experiences and educational characteristics of the rungs of
the CIO ladder to provide insight for
both the firms that hire CIOs and the
IT professionals who aspire to be CIOs.
The career histories of many CIOs can
be discovered through social media
data and is the source of the data in
this study. We used an inductive methodology to analyze these histories in order to elicit the key identifying features
of IT workers who move up the CIO
ladder. We categorized the raw data
into industry and job types in order to
develop a framework that captures key
insights and themes that can be used
to guide the actions of aspiring CIOs
and the firms that recruit them. These
initial results suggest an approach for
helping workers with the potential for
IT leadership to achieve that potential.
We conclude with a discussion of future research possibilities for building
on these exploratory results.
Unlike the Tanniru study in the 1980s,
when data was collected from a conve-
to the Top:
of Top CIOs
Along the way, acquire technical expertise
and a master’s degree, even while changing
positions and companies.
BY DANIEL J. MAZZOLA, ROBERT D. ST. LOUIS, AND MOHAN R. TANNIRU
˽ Since the mid-1970s, the time required to
become a CIO has decreased significantly.
˽ The institution one graduates from
has no influence on one’s chances
of becoming a CIO.
˽ Many CIOs have no experience beyond IT.