The Path to CIO: Vertical, Horizontal or Somewhere in Between?

Like becoming a professional athlete or an Oscar-winning actor, earning the title of CIO is the goal for many young, ambitious hopefuls in the IT field. It’s a glamorous and prestigious role, requiring top-notch technical skills and leadership prowess.

But in an age of fluid careers and competitive markets, the route to the executive suite can be hard to navigate, especially for recent grads and young IT professionals. The question on many minds is: Should I specialize within one vertical industry or develop technical skills that translate horizontally across areas of business?

“If you’d asked this question 10 years ago, you would’ve found that the deep technical skills were what people were focused on,” said Mary Price, a leader of the CIO recruiting practice at Russell Reynolds Associates in New York. “[But] the world has changed significantly, especially recently, and it’s moving towards a business focus. So you still have to have the underpinnings of technology, but CIOs are becoming members of the table at the senior-most level.”

Although this might not impact your first job search, it’s important to think about as you’re looking to progress in your career. That is, as an IT professional today, you’ll increasingly be expected to straddle two areas of knowledge at once.

This shift is partly due to the gradual integration of technology into everyday life. Think about it: When you wake up in the morning, you might check your e-mail, send a few instant messages, call a friend…


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