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Making the Leap: How to Become a Board Ready CIO

Making the Leap: How to Become a Board Ready CIO

As an IT leader, you’ve led your organization during a period of immense change during the past few years. This change has led to differing responsibility, a constantly changing role, and even more risk in the face of cyber attacks. But now that you’ve led your organization’s evolution, maybe it’s time to seek an even bigger role—as a member of a company’s board of directors.

10 Ways to Become a Board-Ready CIO

This move—becoming a Board Member—was discussed at length at the Forbes CIO Summit and shared in a recent article on CIO Magazine, titled 10 Tips for CIOs Looking For a Seat on the Board.

Panelists included an all-star cast of CIOs who made the move from CIO to board member, including Linda Clement-Holmes, Procter & Gamble CIO; Andi Karaboutis, Biogen executive vice president of technology operations; and Stephen Gillett, former Starbucks CIO and Symantec COO and current Google Ventures resident.

1. Grow Your Knowledge—The Advantage of Being a Lifelong Learner

One of the biggest trends discussed was the ability of the CIO to learn beyond his or her current role. Learning the point of view of other roles helps CIOs to not only broaden their horizons, but find gaps other leaders may not see.

For example, Andi Karaboutis, Biogen executive vice president of technology operations, took classes in accounting, paired assets and financial management at Harvard University, as well as a biology class to prepare for her role at Biogen.

With learning opportunities more and more readily available, the idea of becoming a lifelong learner is easier than ever. Learning from sites such as Khan Academy or Udemy provide the basics, and Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, make learning from top-tier universities more accessible. See courses available at MOOC-List.com.

2. Become a ‘Known Quantity’ with Your Peers

Karaboutis says that while she didn’t actively lobby to be a board member, being a known quantity with a broad network of IT and business leaders helps immensely.

While you may dread the idea of ‘networking,’ it may be easier than you think. With organizations readily available for a niche in your area, building out your experience and referral net is simple and rewarding.

3. Bring Your Board Experience Back to Your Company

Without divulging trade secrets, there is immense opportunity to help your own company by becoming a board member at another. As a board member at Advanced Auto Parts and Blue Cross Blue Shield Massachusetts (BCBS), Karaboutis was able to bring back a lot of knowledge from CIOs at those companies for her own day job.

4. It’s More than 4 Board Meetings and a Paycheck

Know this. Being on a board, as well as being a CIO can be a daunting experience, and if you’re looking to join a board, understand that there will be a lot of travel, a lot of travel (Karaboutis, based in Massachusetts, needs to travel to Advanced Auto Parts for critical interviews before returning to her day job), and more. “If you take it on, you have to be committed,” she says.

5. If You Can Find a Local Board Gig, Enjoy It

Linda Clement-Holmes, Procter & Gamble CIO, was able to find a position on the board for Cincinnati Financial Corporation, located near her home and job. Even without the travel, exceling on the board still does require industry learning and immersion. Clement-Holmes needed to immerse herself in the insurance sector—the regulations, financial knowledge, and other investor-relations work.

6. Invest Yourself into Your Work

Remember that as a board member, you become responsible to the stakeholders and regulators. Clement-Holmes said, “You have a real responsibility to shareholders and employees. If a board gets sued, you as a board member play a role.” She and Karaboutis each had to purchase insurance policies to indemnify them in the event they are sued.

7. Don’t Get Hands-On

One of the biggest considerations for CIOs looking for a place on the board is that the role is governance and advice, not hands-on operations. “Nose in, hands out,” says Clement-Holmes.

8. Getting Approved is No Easy Task

Expect the board member vetting process to take years. With such an important role for everyone involved, Stephen Gillett, former Starbucks CIO and Symantec COO and current Google Ventures resident mentioned in his vetting process heading into Chipotle’s board.

As the recruitment process is done years in advance, expect a strenuous vetting and learning process.

9. Meshing with Management and the Board

Gillett says cultural fit and strong personal relationships with board members is essential for any new board member. Part of the long vetting process, Gillett faced interviews with the management team and board to gauge the fit with future coworkers. “Don’t just accept the first board position you get offered,” he says. “Make sure you’re in an environment where you get along with [the board].”

10. Embracing the Digital Revolution

Gillett says Ells and Chipotle’s board valued his experience building out Starbucks’ digital capabilities because the fresh Mexican purveyor is bolstering its own digital presence, including mobile payment software, a loyalty rewards program and IT expansion.

The last point, embracing digital transformation, is something that is important not only for the board, but for your current role as well. We discussed this trend in our recent blog, CIO vs. CTO, Who Gets a Seat at the Table, highlighting important ways the CIO can evolve for the future of his or her own current role.

Conclusion: Board Ready, Future Ready

Whether you’re looking for your shot on a board of directors, or just looking for an opportunity to lead a future-ready IT Organization, growing as a CIO requite planning and decision making. Learn more about what it takes to be a future-ready CIO on a recent Brittenford blog, What the CEO really wants from the CIO, as well as Ten Strategic Technologies that Should be on Your Radar in 2016.

Ready to take the next step for your company? Learn more about Brittenford CIO Advisory Services and read through the brochure below, and see how we can help you take your role above and beyond while maximizing your company’s success in its industry. Contact us for more.



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