Digital transformation: Your career at a crossroads

Carving out time to learn on the job is a common theme. Matthew Lee, CIO of career training and resume services firm ResumeGo, said over the years, he’s found himself needing to spend “an increasingly large fraction of my time each week simply keeping up with new technologies.” While there previously were only one or two primary solutions for a given task, he said, “now there are an overwhelming number of options that I have to study and choose from. This can be very time-consuming and distract me from my other job responsibilities.”

Often, Lee said he has to take time out of his personal life to learn and do research, due to the number of obligations he has while in the office during the day.

Applicant tracking systems are constantly evolving and getting more sophisticated over time, he explained, and he and his staff have to keep up with these advancements in order to thoroughly understand how they work.

“This has forced me to spend more time on the road, traveling to conferences and symposiums so that I can keep up with the latest technologies and developments in this area.”

The crux? To constantly evolve

Even CIOs who grew up in the dotcom world find it a challenge to keep their skills up to date. Shawn Williams, CIO of Koorsen Fire & Safety, said that although he’s been an IT leader for over 20 years, the landscape constantly evolves as technology changes. The tech field is seeing greater change than others, which means IT leaders must adapt or risk their careers.

“The challenges for individuals such as myself is, how do you continuously change or evolve in a space that is changing faster than any other revolution in past history,’’ he said So Williams has adopted a model of learning that he says is a constant loop: Learn, practice, grow, share.

“The value of the learning loop is not only for the individual but all things that interact with that individual,” meaning the organization and other individuals, he said.

Like the others, Williams has taken several steps to constantly evolve his skills, such as reading books on developing methodologies, networking with people to discuss new or evolving technologies and attending conferences that are focused on sharing and spreading knowledge of new evolving practices. 

“As the CIO of an organization, there are many loops going on at any juncture in time,’’ he said, and they could be technology or business-focused. 

It’s pretty much become a mandate that CIOs stay current since the job continues to evolve.

“Current CIOs are not just solely focused on technology,” Williams said, “but how do these new methodologies, technologies, and practices enable and drive value to the business and their customers.”

It’s worth noting that findings from the 2014 EY report "Born to be digital: How leading CIOs are preparing for a digital transformation" remain relevant today. You know you’re a digitally-ready CIO if you prioritize shaping the future of your business with the right technology, and are preparing your organization for change, according to the report. CIOs see digital as a significant opportunity “to fulfill their career aspirations.”

The successful ones have a clear, strategic vision of how technology will transform the business from operations and infrastructure, and know how to implement what is needed. They are focused on driving growth and the relationships they need to support it, and also ensure their vision is understood. Consequently, they seem to have better career prospects and are more highly regarded in the business, EY said. In short, these CIOs are “relentless innovators” and “courageous risk-takers.”