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How to become a CIO: A cheat sheet

If you want to follow the path toward becoming a CIO, here’s your guide to salaries, job markets, skills, and common interview questions.


Photo: iStockphoto/Sladic

Business leaders are responsible for guiding the company and its employees toward successful goals; In order to do this, leaders must hire the best candidates to support their employees – but the responsibilities don’t stop there.

Most big changes in organizations start at the top: diversity and inclusion efforts, digital transformation initiatives, mentorship programs, skill prioritization and reskilling, cybersecurity measures, and overall objective assessment. These movements are usually set by those in the C-suite and performed by other executives and managers.

We see: How to Build a Successful Career for the CIO (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)

However, planning and implementing an organization’s technology strategy rests with one specific leader: the Chief Information Officer (CIO). CIO is the executive face of the technology division of the entire business, and requires an individual with great technical knowledge and communication capabilities.

Other members of the C-suite include the CEO, Chief Digital Officer, and Chief Technology Officer – all of whom are commonly referred to as CXOs. CIOs are sometimes mistaken for CEOs, but CIOs are more responsible for shaping the technologies or technology strategies that help grow the business externally, given the needs of customers, The Telegraph reported. Instead, CIOs handle the inside, managing the internal IT infrastructure.

This cheat sheet is available for download, How to Become a Chief Information Officer: Cheat Sheet (Free PDF).

What does the chief information officer do?

The main responsibilities of the CIO are to work with other members of the C-suite and the Technology department to create the best technology game plan for the business. The Learning Guide to Being a CIO of Indeed outline the following common CIO tasks:

  • Analyze the technology used in the design, development and management of the company to ensure its accuracy and efficiency
  • Collaborate with CEO and project managers to evaluate resource use and allocation
  • Overlook the progress and development of the company’s communications network
  • Design a sufficient broadband communication infrastructure that can support remote access
  • Compile a cost-benefit analysis for each IT workflow change
  • Suggest software and hardware upgrades as needed that improve operations and fit budget constraints

The rise of technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and big data analytics, has created new challenges and responsibilities for IT managers, according to a post on The Balance Careers.

8 things that should be on every CIO’s to-do list, Moshe Krank, chief technology officer of Ness Digital Engineering, said in an article.

We see: 5 Useful Recruitment Groups to Access Top Tech Talent (TechRepublic Premium)

Additional Resources

  • The State of Women in Computer Science: An Investigative Report (Cover Story PDF) (TechRepublic)
  • Low Code Platforms: An Insider’s Guide (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)
  • CXO: More coverage to read (TechRepublic on Flipboard)
  • Why are CIOs important to organizations?

    As technology continues to evolve, successful workplaces are forced to follow suit. According to Monster’s latest report “The Future of Work, Global Outlook 2021,” 87% of employers say they struggle to fill jobs as a result of a skills gap. One-third agree that the gap is larger now than it was in 2020.

    We see: All TechRepublic cheat sheets and smart person guides (TechRepublic)

    However, employees—and the organization as a whole—can’t upskill if they don’t know what technology trends are most useful, which is where CIOs come in. Digital transformation projects are not only essential to business success, but also to business engagement. The purpose of CIO is to ensure that the organization invests in the best technology. Without a CIO, organizations can lag behind technology trends and become irrelevant.

    Additional Resources

    What is the difference between CIO and CIO?

    CIOs deal with the broader strategy and communications with other members of leadership, while CIOs are more responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations. Key tasks assigned to IT managers include communicating with vendors, overseeing the operation of server systems, supporting the implementation of software and hardware upgrades and identifying security vulnerabilities, according to Indeed’s IT Manager Job Guide.

    We see: How to avoid CIO and CFO conflicts due to cloud spending (TechRepublic)

    The career guide explained that most CIOs in medium to large-sized companies typically report to a C-level executive. This means that they are the ones who implement the software and hardware upgrades decided by the CIO, as well as communicate known vulnerabilities so that the CIO can Information section of defining next steps within the organization.

    What are some paths to becoming a CIO?

    The career path to becoming a CIO isn’t predetermined or linear – it’s often a long and winding road to getting to the top. Common education requirements to become a CIO include a bachelor’s degree in computer science, software engineering, information systems, or a related field, often a master’s degree in business administration or information technology.

    Otherwise, qualifications often come down to experience, according to the DNA of a Hays CIO report. The Indeed CIO job description lists a minimum of eight years of experience in information technology and resource management, with candidates with at least three years at the executive level preferred.

    We see: Special Report: Digital Transformation: An Operations Manager’s Guide (Free PDF) (TechRepublic)

    However, the Hays report found that most CIOs (31%) have 15-20 years of experience in a related field before becoming CIO. About 26% of respondents reported having 10 to 15 years of experience before making the jump. Although there was no clear path to becoming CIO, the more experience one had, the better.

    Additional Resources

    What are the skills needed to become a successful CIO?

    In addition to degrees in education and experience, CIOs need a diverse skill set. She has already identified the following 10 skills that are most in-demand for CIOs:

    1. project management
    2. Agile Project Management
    3. Enterprise software development
    4. budget
    5. enlistment
    6. business intelligence
    7. succulents
    8. VMware
    9. Data warehouse architectures
    10. Microsoft SharePoint

    Indeed also recommends that those wishing to become a CIO follow these steps:

    1. Get a four-year degree.
    2. Gain experience in project management.
    3. Determine a specialty or niche.
    4. Gain experience in IT governance.
    5. Get an MBA

    For more general and evergreen skills, CIOs need strategic planning skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills, and change management skills, according to the post on The Balance Careers. Being at such a high level of leadership, CIOs need communication skills as much as they need technical skills, the post states.

    Additional Resources

    What is the average salary for an information department manager?

    As one of the highest paying cybersecurity jobs, CIOs earn an impressive salary. Based on 392 salaries reported on Indeed – last updated in February. 26, 2021 – The median annual wage for a CIO in the United States is $126,812.

    Payscale has found that experience can make a huge difference to CIO salaries. An entry-level CIO in the US with less than one year of experience typically earns an average of $103,519, but that number jumps to $181,468 for CIOs with at least 20 years of experience.

    Additional Resources

    What are the most important markets for CEOs?

    The 10 US states with the highest average annual salaries for CIOs, according to ZipRecruiter, are as follows (as of March 2021):

    1. Washington ($177779)
    2. New York ($969 166)
    3. New Hampshire ($161.663)
    4. California ($158.529)
    5. Vermont ($152,595)
    6. Massachusetts ($152,258)
    7. Wyoming ($149,258)
    8. Idaho ($149,183)
    9. Hawaii ($147,694)
    10. Maine ($146.817)

    In general, the market for CIOs is very positive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is expected to grow 12% by 2026, faster than the overall employment growth of 7% across occupations in the United States.

    Additional Resources

    What are typical CIO interview questions?

    Some of the most important questions potential CIOs may face during a job interview include:

    • This company may need to purchase and implement a new IT system at some point. As the head of the IT department, how do you convince [other executives] Is the system useful?
    • Let’s say you’re experiencing a budget cut for your IT department here. How will you deal with this decline and prioritize the various information-based projects?
    • Talk to me about Agile Project Management as it relates to IT. What type of management style do you use and when do you use it?
    • Have you had to deal with useless IT requests from other company executives in the past? How did you deal with these problematic requests?
    • As the Head of IT, what types of resources will you use regularly to stay up-to-date with the latest technological developments in the IT industry?

    Additional Resources

    Where can I find career resources for CIOs?

    Other than pursuing a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field, aspiring IT leaders should consider studying degree programs. The Enterpriser project has identified the following seven top IT management certifications for CIOs:

    • Project Management Professional (PMP)
    • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
    • CompTIA Project +
    • Certified ScrumMaster (CSM)
    • Product management from the pragmatic institute
    • ITIL
    • Certified in Governance for Enterprise Information Technology (CGEIT)

    Additional Resources