In this digital age, it’s unlikely you’ll find an industry that doesn’t rely on technology to some degree. And as the importance of tech grows, the technical roles that exist at an executive level within a company do too.
Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) are C-Suite roles that have grown in importance in recent years. But what’s the difference between the two positions? And if it’s your mission to become one, how do you get there? Let’s take a look.
What is a CIO?
The CIO or Chief Information Officer oversees all in-house technology and digital processes. It’s not uncommon for an IT department to sit separately to the rest of the company, and it’s the CIO’s role to ensure greater integration within the business.
The CIO will not solely operate within the technical department. If the sales department, for example, wish to digitise, automate or improve their offerings, the CIO will oversee the project.
A CIO will manage the technology infrastructure, deploy technology to improve business processes, collaborate with ISPs to drive productivity and, in short, work to increase the company’s bottom line.
What is a CTO?
The CTO or Chief Technology Officer works to improve the company’s IT infrastructure to increase sales or improve the customer experience. Even if the business doesn’t operate within a technical or digital industry, the CTO ensures that their technical offerings are on point.
A CTO will be responsible for the company’s customer-facing technology. They will constantly review existing tech to keep it aligned with customer needs, manage engineer and developer teams and, in short, work to increase the company’s top line.
While the roles differ, there are a number of qualities and characteristics that will be required, whichever position you aspire to.
What skills and attributes will both a CIO and a CTO require?
Education and experience
It’s not uncommon for a business to expect an incoming CTO or CIO to have a high level of education, and ideally an MBA. The C-Suite roles require a high degree of intelligence in dealing with complex processes, budgets and governance, and a formal education is a straightforward way of ascertaining such intellect.
However, there are outstanding examples of people within the roles who have nothing more than a BA, sometimes in a different field entirely. A potential employer will want to trust that you’re up to the challenges of the role, and experience, confidence and professional training could be adequate in convincing them of this.
CIOs and CTOs require wide-ranging technical knowledge. And, as well as technical know-how, it will also be useful to have financial and organisational acumen. As we’ve covered, both job roles need to have one eye on the needs of the whole business and operating in a technology bubble is simply not an option.
Following industry websites and the blogs of high-achieving CIOs and CTOs could be a great place to start. Sign up for any advanced IT or business training that’s offered in your current role and learn all about the business side of your company.
Whatever the differing career pathways of existing CIOs and CTOs, they all have one thing in common: a wealth of knowledge.
While knowledge, training and education will get you so far, there are a number of personal attributes that you’ll require to succeed in these roles – and the most important is leadership.
You may have managed a team before, but have you ever steered the ship? There’s a difference between a manager who oversees others’ work and a leader who gets the very best from their team.
With knowledge of your industry and the ability to motivate and lead a team, you’re well on your way to achieving your dream job role.
Confidence and communication
As with most C-Suite positions, becoming a CIO or CTO will be difficult for the office wallflower. If you’re not comfortable speaking in front of large groups, then consider taking a public speaking course to build your confidence.
Communicating effectively and showing passion and enthusiasm for what you do will prove invaluable in your quest to achieve one of the coveted job roles.
The position of CIO or CTO can’t be obtained overnight. It will usually take years in the industry before you’ve developed the knowledge, acumen and skills to carry out a C-Suite role effectively.
Also, once you do achieve your desired position, the job isn’t easy. You’ll be expected to be on call should any major issues arise, and be expected to work until the problems are resolved.
The pathway to becoming a C-Suite executive
For any executive role, job progression is rarely linear. It’s usually a hard-fought graft to get to the top.
Agil8.com recently shared a very interesting interactive that charted the rise of some of the world’s most prominent CTOs. It indicated that it usually takes an average of 24 years from leaving education to becoming a CTO.
It also worked out that most CTOs will have worked in four companies, in a total of eight positions with five years being the maximum in any one role and one year being the minimum. Phew!
But don’t let that put you off. The number of CIO and CTO positions is expected to rise over the coming years, as companies begin to rely more and more on technology and IT to improve profits.
The final word
If you have a deep commitment to technology and innovation, and the drive and desire to excel in your career, then the roles of CIO or CTO are very much available to you. If you stay up to date with industry news and grow your knowledge and personal skills at every opportunity, then there’s no limit to what you can achieve within the technology industry.
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