How to become CIO: A Cybr Mini-Series

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When we first started talking to Kevin Christ about having him as a guest on our Cybr Podcast, it was like we read each other’s minds. Given his extensive experience working directly with CIOs, and as CIO, we naturally wanted to lean on his experience to share career-building advice with our audience on how to progress towards that title.

The keyword there being progress — no one just wakes up one day with the title of CIO. They started at the beginning, went through a career path, and eventually ended up there. For some situations, it can take an entire career to get to that level, while for others it might have happened faster.

Regardless, there was some kind of progression. But what does that progression look like? When you’re a complete beginner, it can seem impossible to ever reach that goal. On the flip-side, if you’re already well into your career, it might also seem like a lost cause. After all, as Bill Gates is quoted saying:

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don’t let yourself be lulled into inaction.

Bill Gates

Regardless of where you are in your career, we structured this mini-series as 3 separate episodes to help you come up with what you need to focus on to reach that C level.

Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Start preparing to become a CIO now

Episode #01 link.

While some people will go through their IT career with no ambitions of ever becoming CIO, which is absolutely fine, chances are that this is not the case for you since you’re reading this.

So if you have aspirations of reaching for that title, even if you’re just getting started in your career, you need to start preparing now. In fact, starting early can turn out to be a huge advantage, so you’re in a great spot.

That’s exactly what we covered in the first episode of our mini-series with Kevin Christ on becoming CIO. In this episode, “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation. Start preparing to become a CIO now” we covered the main questions of:

  1. What does it even mean to be a CIO/CTO/Chief Data Officer, etc…
  2. Who makes it?

To answer those questions, we talked about:

  • What surprises people the most when they first transition to a CIO/CTO position? The short, not-so-obvious, answer: that position is not really about technology
  • What kinds of responsibilities does the CIO position come with?
  • How do you prevent getting stuck with your current skillset, knowledge, etc…, when the CIO role evolves over time
  • Kevin consulted directly for CIOs for a while before becoming a CIO himself, and he told us that once he was in the CIO seat, things weren’t always so clear compared to when he was a consultant. He shares what he meant by that and how he overcame challenges
  • Finally, we also talked about the typical paths one can take to become CIO

Build a career story that will kick open the doors to CIO with Kevin Christ

Episode #02 link.

In the second episode, we continued where we left off in the prior episode by discussing further the two main paths to becoming CIO, which are:

  1. From within IT
  2. From other business functions

Again, the reason for this is because being in that position is not so much about the technology itself — it involves understanding business needs and how to leverage technology to achieve those business needs.

That, of course, brought up a lot of discussions about:

  • What business knowledge one should know
  • What about for those who love the technical side but aren’t really interested in the business side?

Even from a technical perspective, a lot of people have specialties or things they’re very good at, but no one knows it all. Being in that position requires covering a wide facet of technical topics. So we talked about:

  • How can one go about learning the different facets of IT as they progress in their careers (versus potentially becoming stuck in one specialty, if that’s not what you want to do — some people are more than happy with that!)
  • How to get exposure to IT and business facets when they’re not necessarily part of your day-to-day job
  • Kevin also explained what he meant by “Don’t hide from the spotlight; don’t shine it on yourself”

Of course, this episode would not have been complete without mentioning and discussing that “now matter how brilliant you are, you can’t do it all.”

So you want to be CIO? Here’s how to stand out and make the cut

Episode #03 link.

Last, but certainly not least, we completed our 3-part mini-series with an episode for those who are mid-career and looking to break through to the next level.

This episode starts out with bad news…news that statistically speaking, the odds aren’t in your favor. Of course, we couldn’t just end the episode there, so Kevin and I talked about the fact that, unless you are the candidate on a succession plan for your organization, you must be willing to look beyond the organization.

Of course, that means you will be competing with other highly qualified individuals who also fit extremely well. So then where can you find opportunity? More importantly, where and how can you find the right opportunity. Kevin shares a number of different tips for this.

Finding opportunities is one thing, but getting the job is yet another. So, given this landscape, we then talked about what one can do to stand out when a CIO opportunity arises. This not only combines everything we’ve talked about in the prior 2 episodes but also more.

As Kevin says, you must “have a philosophy and a playbook long before you get to the interview.”

Conclusion

This was a fantastic mini-series that I thoroughly enjoyed recording with Kevin. Frankly, it didn’t really feel like we were recording anything…more so having a conversation over a drink.

Perhaps once things go back to normal (*ahem* hopefully 2021), that’s exactly what we could end up doing.

Until then, I (and I know I speak on behalf of Kevin as well when I say this) sincerely hope that this mini-series helps you on your journey to becoming CIO, and if there’s anything I/we can do to help you get there, don’t hesitate to reach out.

You can click here to listen to all of our podcast episodes, or you can also find the Cybr Podcast on your favorite podcast streamer.

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