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UPS and Downs

UPS and Downs

What's the big deal about being on the executive group anyway?

I keep reading about the failure of CIOs to get the nod to move into the corner office. Now I admit that the corner office, complete with the glorious views through wall-to-ceiling glass, the massive mahogany desk, a leather couch, and the mementos from numerous overseas trips adorning the 17th-century solid-wood credenza does have its appeal.

But my office is not without its merits or charms.

Okay, the carpet has seen better days and it's just as well that the White Pages are available on the Internet because if I moved the hard copy the desk would topple over. Sure you have to breathe in to turn around. And while I wouldn't call my chair ergonomic, it's big, executive in style and at least one person mistook the leatherette for the real thing. And mementos? Well, I can give you bric-a-brac galore. At last count I had over 45 different pens (not Montblancs, but they all work). I have at least eight imitation leather compendiums. I could drink my coffee out of a different cup every day if I so desired. I have enough golf shirts and baseball caps to last me and my two boys the rest of our lives. Closest to my heart, though, is my trophy-mounted power supply. It's the computer room UPS that "conveniently" caught fire one Friday night just as my team and I were preparing to leave the office - or so we thought. My wife says I shouldn't have gone to all the trouble of mounting the thing, claiming it would have been easier for me to tell the truth about why I didn't get home until 3:30am the next morning. Talk about trust.

But enough about my office and back to that corner office, which according to all and sundry we CIOs should be aspiring to. Let's face it, while we have good maths skills, most of us don't have the entrepreneurial skills required to devise ways of keeping companies afloat just long enough for the directors to shovel wads of cash into the back of their BMW convertibles, resign and then claim that they've been harshly treated and in reality haven't got two bones to rub together. And how can we hope to compete with the charismatic personalities of some of those slick marketing types? People say that IT over- promises and under-delivers, have you ever seen one of these guys in action?

If you have genuine ambitions for the corner office, then you need to make some changes quick smart. If you want to get in via the marketing route, the first thing I would do is run out and buy some shirts with French cuffs (don't forget to pick up cufflinks as well). I would then spend some time at the local tanning joint and maybe get my nails done. And if I had any hair I'd probably think about some blond tips. If, on the other hand, you prefer the finance option, it's a much simpler conversion: just swap your scientific calculator for one of those financial ones, everything else pretty much works.

If you manage to get through these basic - albeit mostly sartorial - transitional steps then you're ready to take the BIG ONE. It may sound extreme but it's crucial to corner-office success: You have to quit as CIO. Then it's back to school for a quick postgraduate qualification in finance/commerce or economics. If you're prepared to cough up some serious cash (and don't need to help support a family) an MBA isn't too hard to come by. Armed with your newly-minted qualification you're ready, willing and able to land that accounting or sales/marketing job. All that's left to do is to display the same commitment that took you from tape jockey or punch card operator to CIO. If you don't know what a tape jockey is (or was), or indeed have no idea what punch cards are, then you're probably young enough to have a crack at CEO.

But swapping the "I" for an "E" isn't for everyone. And it's a good thing, too. After all, how many CEOs are up for sticking around until 3am to fix the UPS?

Anonymous has been a CIO at household-name companies for more years than he cares to name.

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