Every CIO has that moment where they are contemplating their career options and trying to work out their sweet spot. Your starting point is just being sure of what your own strengths are and what really challenges you.
Once you are a CIO, then finding the right next role for yourself is about kissing lots of frogs. As humans we all want to belong and have a sense of purpose. For most of us, there is a craving to contribute and be part of something bigger.
If you are already in a CIO job that you don’t enjoy or in-between; there is some real critical elements of getting that next challenge.
Too small, too big
To be able to find your sweet spot is actually not that easy. There are always CIO searches that are underway, but they are either ‘too small’ and you know this immediately. The trick is that if you come across as judging roles purely based on scale and size, then you come across as arrogant.
Similarly, head hunters will invariably either not consider you for a role as they perceive it is ‘too big’ and for such a position the board or CEO wants a candidate who has done that before.
The truth is that the more senior CIO role you are after then getting a role that is your ‘sweet spot’ is really not that easy. There are exceptions to this rule, and some individuals who are exceptionally networked will relay between executive roles with little fuss.
The sweet spot
In my view the sweet spot is actually a leadership role that you can manage but at the same time also stretch you. Having that stretch is the challenge that provides the learning and development for your role.
Every CIO needs stretch, and when you are stretched then you will take your team into unchartered territory. In other words it is a true learning experience.
Should you feel that level of tension, and then you are in your sweet spot.
Great job, great company, great boss
The ideal world is when you are able to find a CIO role in a great company with an outstanding boss. During the interview process, the insights that you gain are able to confirm your own initial thoughts around these criteria.
There is an old adage that you can select your partner but can’t pick your boss. While there is a degree of truth in that saying, and you can get a very good idea of the culture of an organisation and the general culture of the place.
The acid test is actually how things operate when something goes wrong or not exactly to plan. To me that is the true test of how supportive is your manager and do they have your ‘back’ in the tough times. In this case only time will tell.
You have hit the jackpot when you have secured a CIO gig with a great job, great company, and great boss.
Finding your right CIO role
That role is waiting for you, but for most it is a long and exhausting process. At times you feel that you have perhaps repeated yourself, as one interview and another can start to morph into each other.
Having strong integrity in this process means that you only pursue roles that have that right combination of stretch and comfort.
It is your past experience that qualifies you to be a candidate but at the end of the day what counts is your demonstrated behaviours which get you the job.
David Gee is the former CIO of CUA where he recently completed a core banking transformation. He has more than 18 years' experience as a CIO, and was also previously director at KPMG Consulting. Connect with David on LinkedIn.