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The Single Most Important Lesson I’ve Learned Working In Information Technology

Not all lessons are created equal.

Some lessons we learn are small. They are little reminders along the way of what truly matters.

Other lessons are giant. They fundamentally change the course of our entire lives.

Over the past 25 years working in information technology before starting my executive search firm, this is the single most important lesson I’ve learned about the industry:

The head of IT might be a finance person

When I started in the space in the 1990s (that sounds so far back in history today) I thought you could rise to the top of the IT organization by working hard and getting promoted until you reached the top IT job of CIO. I made my plans to be in each job on the corporate ladder for 3 to 5 years until I made it to the top.

Then I noticed something after a couple of years. The person in that job was never an engineer or developer. They were always people that were consultants or finance people. Every person in the CIO role for just about every company I’ve worked for, and I worked for 8 different companies over my corporate career, did not have a technology background.

I wrote a post about the best advice I got was to get an MBA. I understood why when I started see this trend. The IT department at the highest level is looked at as an investment first. Because of that the leadership team has to have more of a business background to manage the technology and the investment in the capabilities that it provides for the company.

I wish I knew that early in my career but it makes sense now as I run my own firm. I treat our technology as investments in our capabilities to help us achieve what we are designed to execute.

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