CIO Career Path: How to Become a CIO


Rebecca Gasser, CIO at Omnicom Health and fitness Team, realized in university that she desired to be a CIO. She started out her profession in IT as a senior analyst in desktop certification and desktop engineering. She moved up the tech ranks from there, turning out to be a desktop software manager and a chief in her company’s international project administration purpose. She landed other leadership roles, which includes director of application help and head of product. Together the way, she gained a master’s degree in information techniques and a Grasp of Enterprise Administration.

Believing she needed a broader assortment of technical, managerial and leadership ordeals to carry on her ascent, she uncovered a situation as a VP of IT, which laid the groundwork for her recent placement. She was named CIO at Omnicom in 2021, satisfying a two-10 years quest to turn into a corporate leader.

As CIO, Gasser is the senior authority on information techniques within the business. As this kind of, she plays an essential part in shaping how the business will use technological innovation to progress its targets. Like all CIOs, she need to comprehend how recent and rising technology capabilities can guidance and change the way the company performs and how it provides products and expert services. Succeeding at this do the job involves owning a complementary mix of technology, enterprise and government experiences.

Numerous CIOs achieve those requisite ordeals by performing their way up the proverbial expert ladder in company IT departments, adhering to a path that appears to be like substantially like Gasser’s. Many others, although, occur to the CIO occupation right after doing work in enterprise functions and entrepreneurship or just after holding the chief engineering officer (CTO) or a different large-degree non-IT place.

Several pathways to a CIO occupation are legitimate, in accordance to the CIOs and gurus on corporate leadership roles we interviewed. They agreed there is no one way to get to the CIO write-up, though there are common anticipations on what qualifications candidates must possess to land and do well in the purpose.

CIO Career Path: How to Become a CIO

What is a CIO?

The CIO posture is one of the more recent C-suite roles: The title dates back at the very least to the 1980s, even though most corporations extra the executive-level publish in the subsequent a long time.

The part has advanced appreciably from its earliest times.

The CIO task initially centered on the successful shipping of engineering expert services, with reliability and uptime becoming the principal actions of good results. But the CIO publish turned a lot more strategic as companies grew to become ever more reliant on know-how to run and compete. As noted, CIOs are envisioned to not only understand how recent and rising technological innovation abilities can help the organization’s present merchandise and companies but also how tech can condition its potential offerings. As know-how is a component of nearly just about every job in the organization, CIOs need to also be certain the supply of reliable and user-helpful IT instruments and products and services.

Management features and improve management abilities have turn into critically essential in this task. Govt advisors and management consultants stated that thriving CIOs ought to first, have a deep comprehending of how engineering can remodel their businesses and second, be outfitted to lead that company transformation.

“In the past, ‘executive’ was not hooked up to the CIO job it was basically the person in cost of technologies in the firm,” explained Daniel Sánchez Reina, vice president analyst in the CIO practice at Gartner, a tech analysis firm. CIOs today care strongly about the firm’s enterprise targets and how to achieve them.

“The executive state of mind is key currently being the individual in charge of technology, that is secondary right now,” he said.

What does a CIO do?

A regular CIO’s record of tasks has grown as the part has developed, according to several tech executives and government advisors.

“It truly is a considerably much more complicated role these days, because so significantly more of enterprise is primarily based in technological know-how, and there is so considerably extra where by technologies is the answer,” reported Jeff Wong, worldwide chief innovation officer with expert services agency EY.

Rick Harris, controlling director at the government research organization Raines Global, who conducts lookups for engineering executive positions and their immediate studies, stated CIO tasks range from 1 group to the future, but in general the organization’s prime IT executive does the adhering to:

  • oversees technology parts offered by dozens, even hundreds, of suppliers, including individuals that run on premises in their individual details centers or, increasingly, off-website in hosted servers as portion of cloud computing
  • orchestrates a engineering stack that contains hardware and software package picked, ordered and preserved by their possess IT department as effectively as technologies chosen and deployed by citizen builders and particular person organization models
  • collaborates with executives within just their group to craft small-term, mid-phrase and extensive-expression company strategies
  • advises management on how present-day and rising technologies can assistance objectives and develop new options for cutting fees, bettering productiveness and escalating profits as nicely as introducing new merchandise or solutions
  • builds a capable management construction and group of IT experts, analyzing the suitable mix of employees members, contract workers, vendors and other exterior partners
  • generates a workplace lifestyle that fosters the pace, versatility, staff development, innovation and retention needed to compete in modern electronic age
  • implements proper specifications, controls and practices, this kind of as DevOps and Agile advancement principles that aid meet CEO and board’s goals and
  • handles all these obligations within set up budgets.

Harris noted that the style and scope of operate will differ by enterprise sizing: CIOs at larger businesses are concentrated extra on location policies and taking care of the administrators who oversee the teams carrying out the do the job CIOs at modest and even some midsize corporations are extra likely to have more immediate involvement in the working day-to-working day function of managing the IT division.

Qualities of high-performing CIOs
What does it acquire to be a CIO? These are the characteristics typical of the field’s very best and brightest.

Why are CIOs vital to organizations?

As the CIO’s role and its record of duties has evolved so has the CIO’s significance within just an organization.

“The CIO is central to the future of the business simply because they can unlock what is achievable for that firm,” Wong mentioned.

McKinsey & Co. mentioned in its 2021 CIO report that the great importance of CIOs has elevated mainly because “businesses’ prime targets are unreachable with out technologies.”

IBM’s 2021 CIO research, “The CIO Revolution: Breaking boundaries, producing value,” which queried 3,000 CEOs on which C-suite executives were being most essential to their organizational good results, observed that CEOs constantly stated CIOs and CTOs jointly in the top rated a few. “Amid CEOs at major-carrying out corporations, technological know-how leaders had been second only to CFOs,” the report said.

On It really is function all through the COVID-19 pandemic, 77% of the CIO respondents explained that their teams “played a critical purpose in their organizations’ response to the pandemic.”

Contrast that with IBM’s figures from 2011, when “only 1 in 5 CIOs ranked on their own as a significant enabler of small business/business eyesight.”

To enable a company vision, nonetheless, Gartner’s Sánchez Reina pressured that CIOs have to be in a position to broadly communicate the benefit of their technology strategy.

“The CIO has to be a digitalization orchestrator for the complete group, and to do that, they have to come to be influential enough to get the get-in of their colleagues in their C-suite,” he stated. “The CIO of the previous failed to do this they were constrained by the partitions of the IT firm.”

What techniques and qualifications are essential to turn into a CIO?

According to Gartner’s “2021 Evolution of CIO Responsibilities Study,” CIOs “increasingly get the job done on business-degree initiatives past their classic IT supply govt roles” 83% of responding CIOs explained to Gartner they have “contributed significantly to enterprise govt initiatives.” Also, CIOs noted that they envisioned to carry on to lead to the transformation of key small business procedures and small business capabilities, the hybrid office, new means of performing and business technique advancement in the yr ahead.

In the Gartner report, “Critical Ability Sets That CIOs Have to have to Be successful in 2022,” characteristics cited by CIOs as being critical to their success bundled the next:

  • means to affect stakeholders
  • capable communicator
  • savvy negotiator
  • possessing business enterprise acumen and fiscal management expertise

Gartner’s Sánchez Reina also cites the ability to handle and mitigate threat as a crucial talent.

Evolution of the CIO role.
The CIO role in the organization has modified as IT has grow to be integral to small business results.

How to turn into a CIO: Instruction, instruction, practical experience

Govt advisors, recruiters and CIOs on their own agreed that aspiring CIOs can gain the expertise they have to have by means of a mix of education, coaching and working experience.

Omnicom’s Gasser is an instance of this combine. Gasser explained her work experience at pharmaceutical agency GSK and then at facility routine maintenance business Ferrandino & Son manufactured her a effectively-rounded technologist. Instruction and teaching were also essential. In addition to her bachelor’s diploma in enterprise management and her master’s levels, Gasser acquired instruction in management and project administration skills these types of as Six Sigma and Scrum improvement. She also labored with coaches and company partners to acquire leadership skills and interpersonal abilities.

“CIOs have to be great individuals professionals. You won’t be able to get to CIO with no superior men and women competencies like coaching and mentoring,” she claimed.

Gasser said this complementary combine of skills and expertise is necessary for CIOs right now as they ought to be collaborative strategists instead than “command-and-handle” leaders. It goes without the need of declaring that CIOs have to be experienced in talking the language of the organization, she added. They should realize how their companies run and make cash, have insights into their organization’s marketplace and demonstrate visionary capabilities to thrive.

Wong experienced a very similar listing of organization and communications expertise. “I might still appear for a specialized depth — either working experience or a degree, major practical experience with rising tech, which in present day planet indicates AI and blockchain, and an potential to consistently grow their understanding in that region,” he said.

Climbing the career ladder. Early-era CIOs came pretty much exclusively from the IT ranks. They commonly worked their way up from entry-level positions on the help desk or in programming by analyst, manager and director positions, experts said.

In distinction, aspiring CIOs now have a number of pathways to the position.

Sánchez Reina mentioned Gartner analysis has shown that about a third of CIO positions now are loaded by professionals without the need of IT backgrounds, a reflection of the role’s enterprise-oriented emphasis as effectively as the growth of technologies acumen among the employees in general.

“It also displays that the govt ingredient of the CIO purpose is more important right now than it was in the past,” he added.

What is the typical salary of a CIO?

According to occupation website Zippia, CIOs generate an average annual income of $131,740, with the common starting off income for CIOs coming in at $84,000. Its assessment also identified that the leading 10% of optimum-paid out CIOs receive $200,000 or much more.

Meanwhile, job web site PayScale place the normal foundation wage for CIOs at $168,680.’s figures have been increased, stating that the median chief information technological innovation officer salary in the U.S. is $293,562 as of April 2022.