Looking to become a CIO? Think twice before you leap

Many new C-suite entrants usually struggle navigating the first few months on the job because they are unprepared to manage office politics.
Victor Ekwere Jnr
Victor Ekwere Jnrhttps://oru.edu/
Victor Ekwere Jnr is the director for Innovation, Operations and Solutions at Oral Roberts University.

In 2019, I stepped into my role as the director for innovation, operations, and solutions at Oral Roberts University. In my few years on the job, I have had the opportunity to work with one of higher ed’s finest CIOs, Mike Mathews, and learned alot about the CIO role. Watching Mike has inspired me to improve my communication skills and vendor management. Needless to say, I have come to have so much respect for the position on college campuses.

Beyond ensuring that all campus technology systems are kept updated and functional, today’s CIOs have to continually keep up with the rapid change of technology, manage customer expectations and provide strategic insight for future technology investment for their campuses.

Many a time I’ve seen aspiring CIOs desire the job without taking into account its full scope. I get it! Who would not love to be an executive, have a seat at the table and influence campus-wide technology decisions?

If you’re lured by the “glamour,” think twice before diving into the “rigor” that comes with the next level of campus responsibility.

More from UB: ChatGPT, AI policies—and international students?

Below are some things that aspiring CIOs must think of before taking the job so that they are not surprised.

  1. Limited resources vs unlimited demands: Aspiring CIOs must understand that their institutions have limited resources to invest in technology but will have unlimited demands for it to work flawlessly at all times. The ability to manage limited resources while meeting, and when possible exceeding the ever-growing technological expectations of reliability and innovation will prove to be a key success factor for aspiring CIOs. From strategic budget decisions to investment rationale, CIOs need to manage stakeholder expectations while communicating investment priorities each budget year.
  2. Impact of AI on traditional IT support: According to a 2022 study by IBM, IT professionals are the champions of AI utilization in the workplace, with a commanding 54% incorporating AI technologies into their daily tasks. With the rise of AI, many technology questions can now be answered through simple prompts within an AI bot. Before long, campuses may begin to rely more on AI for real-time technology help rather than going through the traditional help desk route. One such AI solution is Air.ai, the world’s first ever AI that can have full-on 10-40 minute long phone calls that sound like a real human, with infinite memory, perfect recall and can autonomously take actions across 5,000 plus applications. Aspiring CIOs must be ready to grapple with the fact that AI will disrupt the traditional IT support models and prepare accordingly to upskill their teams for this inevitable change.
  3. Politics at the Executive Level: Politics is inevitable at every level of executive leadership. Many new C-suite entrants usually struggle navigating the first few months on the job because they are unprepared to manage office politics, or win friends and influence people to make decisions that favor or accept your decisions.
  4. Job volatility and turnover: The CIO job is stressful across all industries. According to TechTarget, the average tenure of a CIO is four years and this represents the shortest tenure within the C-suite. From staying up to date with the latest technology trends to dealing with student and faculty needs, college CIOs are constantly pulled in various directions. Eventually, this leads to high burnout levels and, in some cases, silent quitting. Preparing yourself for the volatile nature of the job is crucial in surviving in CIO roles.

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