Navigating your future as an IT executive calls for a focus on both your skills and your personal goals. To succeed as an IT leader, you have to develop a set of traits that will serve you and those around you in the near-term while keeping an eye on professional and personal experiences that will benefit you in the long-term.

In today’s increasingly complex and competitive tech environment, we are seeing an acceleration in terms of both skills and job function in the market. What used to take 10 years to architect, lead, and develop in IT now may take only 10 days. Businesses are also becoming increasingly digital and data driven and are facing new and evolving cyber risks. These combined forces have significantly changed the required skill sets of IT leaders, unlocking opportunities for CIOs to elevate their stature in a way that can open future career opportunities.

To dive deeper into the topic of career progression and transition in the field of tech, our IT Executive Practice hosted its second virtual Diamond CIO Council meeting in June, bringing together more than 40 standing, retired, and in-transition technology leaders from across multiple industry verticals. Rhonda Vetere, CIO of Herbalife Nutrition, seasoned C-Suite executive, and passionate global leader in technology, served as our guest speaker and shared insights on the CIO lifecycle, including how to use personal passion to help drive the optimal career transitions. The session provided key insights and takeaways for any technology executive planning a future career move.

Make time to strategize, plan, execute, and continuously network.

The power of the network—and those friendships you build—affect your personal brand, as well as your future opportunities. Make time to build and foster relationships. Identify people in the right roles and within your network who you can call during challenging periods in your current role or when looking for a change. Skillset requirements for technology executives are continuing to evolve in both sophistication and complexity – making it extremely important to intentionally build a network of individuals that have diverse backgrounds and experiences and can share their experiences and lessons learned. Be intentional about expanding your network to ensure you have the right resources to call on for advice, ideation, brainstorming, and even favors.

Be intentional about building your personal brand. Give more to gain future opportunities.

While we often think about our company brand, it’s important to remember that you also have a personal brand to build and manage. Your personal brand is more than a title – it’s the perception or impression others have of you based on your experience, expertise, competencies, actions and/or achievements within your company, community, or marketplace at large. Think about your personal brand – is it reflective of who you are? Is it helping to support you to grow both personally and professionally? If not, acknowledge what changes you should be making and build those changes into your career roadmap.

One way to help shape your personal brand is to be more open to sharing your unique qualities and talents with others in your network. Be open to not only sharing your hard skills and tech talents, but also your hobbies and passions. And make time to listen to others on a more personal level – find out who shares your same values and personal interests. In many cases, future opportunities come from meaningful connections made within a person’s network that share common personal interests with one another (e.g., volunteer work, boards, sport/athletics, etc).

Identify your current status, as well as your aspiring future status.

This may sound simple, but often leaders find themselves in situations where they are looking for a “change,” but have not yet identified what that change entails. Determine where you are – a CIO in residence, transition, or eyeing a board position. Look at the hard and soft skills that you currently have and how they align with the expectations of your current role. Then, determine how those same skills translate to your aspiring future status. Meticulously assess your challenges and areas for growth and think about what you can do to make yourself more marketable. Tap into your network for advice on how to sharpen specific skills to best position yourself for future success.

Consider how your personal goals can translate to professional goals.

A key point of advice from Vetere during the Diamond CIO Council was to keep your mind and body sharp through mental and physical training. Mental and physical health play an integral role in helping executives achieve successful careers, and often these are areas that are easily ignored or treated as less of a priority then on-the-job work demands.

While at work, CIOs are focused on training and supporting their teams to ensure the business is thriving. It’s also important to do the same out in the world. Making yourself more marketable for a new position requires keeping yourself both professionally sharp for your next role, as well as expanding your horizons (and thus your network). For example, basic activities in your community – like coaching a kids’ baseball team, helping at the local food pantry, or training for a marathon – provide leadership opportunities and life lessons that can translate back to your work environment. Put simply, broader personal experiences and mental training can enrich both your personal and business life.

For Vetere, her moral compass aligns with athlete, wellness, health, community involvement, and technology. Competitions in triathlons and marathons keep her physically and mentally sharp. She is an active leader whether mentoring students, athletes, or professionals and much of her personal training directly translates back to her success as a leader in the technology industry.

Your value as an executive begins with you.

Today’s technology executives are challenged to keep pace with new and evolving business demands, while also making time to plan for their futures. The most important lesson learned from the recent CIO Diamond Council is that your value as an executive begins with you. Take stock of your personal brand and build and foster relationships with a meaningful network of individuals that will help you enhance your brand and skills. Make time to focus on both your tech skills and personal goals and prioritize mental and physical health as much as you prioritize the health of your business. These actions will help you think about what matters most to you and help shape your future roadmap as a leader.

If you are interested in joining JM Search’s Diamond CIO Council, or to learn more about future CIO-focused events, please reach out to Bill Hogenauer.

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