Want to be a top CIO? Invest in your ability to cross cultures

Those who want to be CIOs of leading global companies can no longer rely on their IT experience alone, says Gartner’s Ken McGee – they need experience not only in other departments, but in other countries and cultures as well.

“Every three years since 2007 we have surveyed the world’s largest professional recruiting firms, with customers among the Forbes Global 2000 list,” says McGee, who is a Vice President and Gartner Fellow. “The trend is clear: CIOs do not need to be engineers or computer science majors, although they do need to have a solid track record in IT functions. What CEOs are looking for most of all is well-rounded people who can understand business needs from having lived them, not studied them.”

“The single most prominent word in the latest round of research was ‘leadership’ – not management,” says McGee. “CEOs know that leadership is a contact sport. They want CIOs who’ve managed both IT and something other than IT; and they want people who have lived and worked outside their native countries and can think beyond the limits of their own experience.”

McGee points out that this eliminates more than 90% of the world’s 12 million or so current IT practitioners – and provides a clear guideline for those with CIO ambitions.

“If you have a career goal of becoming the CIO of a Global 2000 company, you need to be asking yourself two questions right now,” says McGree. “First, when do I leave IT to get experience in other business functions? And second, when do I leave my home country to gain a global view?”

This shift in priorities reflects the fact that “the number one challenge for the next few years is not technology but culture,” says McGee. “CIOs need to be able to manage cultural differences between staff across national boundaries, between different business functions and between customers, the business and suppliers around the world.”

McGee will unpack further aspects of the research at the Gartner Symposium Africa, to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from September 16-18. For more information, visit http://www.gartner.co.za/symp2013.


Share this article
Want to be a top CIO? Invest in your ability to cross cultures