June 5, 2008 By Merrill Douglas
Photo: NASCIO's Doug Robinson -- "If you want to be a CIO you have to be a person who makes things happen."
Although there is no tried-and-true way to become a government CIO, a number of career strategies have evolved for professionals who aspire to the position:
While a grounding in technology is important, it's not enough. With a background in general business, CIOs can better understand their organizations' business imperatives.
Rather than an MBA, aspiring public-sector CIOs might pursue a Master of Public Administration in order to better understand the public sector. Shark suggests a similar path of attending a school of administration and minoring in technology. Professional development programs for IT professionals also provide an advantage for public CIO hopefuls.
While an advanced education is advantageous for CIOs, experts note that there's just no substitute for experience. This may include networking with internal customers and peers, going to conferences, and volunteering. Doug Robinson, executive director of the National Association of State Chief Information Officers, also recommends seeking out assignments that help build leadership muscle. "If you want to be a CIO ... you have to be a person who makes things happen," he said.
Other requirements for up-and-coming CIOs include: curiosity, communication skills, negotiation skills, being able to collaborate and work across agencies, and the ability to work with agency executives as well as legislators.
The bottom line: Public CIO hopefuls must cultivate their IT expertise, business and political acumen, and real-world management experience in order to keep up with the continuing evolution of the position.
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