Memoirs of a CIO in Transition

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What happens when a CIO gets a bunch of free time on her hands? Two weeks ago, my position was eliminated, so I find myself qualified to answer this question.   It is interesting what replaces all of the corporate and techie stuff that fills the head day-to-day like the next upgrade, the next release, the current crisis, and the on-going team challenges.  For me, in no particular order of priority (prioritization is really not too important right now), it has been something like this:

  • I can’t get that stupid Justin Bieber song out of my head…
  • Wow, Microsoft Office costs how much?
  • Boy, my husband chews loudly!
  • Never noticed how many hours there really are in a day…
  • Why does everyone want to meet at Panera? Maybe I should buy stock in that place!
  • Interesting, I already look ten years younger!

In this day and age, it is inevitable that most of us will find ourselves in transition from one job to the next unknown adventure at some point in our careers.   After 40 years of steady employment, I find myself in this strange limbo land.  To the casual observer, this might seem to be a sad or even desperate situation.  However, it is actually an interesting and exciting time for me.  The way I look at it, I have been so busy for so long that I have never paused to consider what I really want to do for me.  I believe that it is possible to be busy doing the things that I love to do AND to have that align with the causes that mean the most to me.  That takes dedicated thought and a nudge to overcome the fear of taking a leap from what has always been.  Nudge received. Challenge accepted.

I am leaving behind a CIO role after two and a half years.  I am not the first CIO (or the last) to find myself in this situation.  Being a CIO is fun, crazy, and somewhat tenuous.  You are on 24×7, since technology doesn’t rest and the business has to operate no matter what.  You are also running against the clock to move the needle, implement strategies, and show value before the business environment changes.  This means flipping priorities and possibly making previous efforts irrelevant.

When all is said and done, being a CIO is somewhat analogous to being in an executive boot camp.  You learn and experience a lot in a very short time.  That’s valuable training for whatever a person wants to do.  CIOs are made out of some strong fiber.  It is not a job for the faint of heart, and, if you are one for any amount of time, you truly need to be prepared for almost anything.

I thought that if I ever ended up unemployed I might turn out to be one of those people wearing my sweats all day, sitting on the couch with my Cheetos®, cats hanging out with me (and I don’t even have cats), and watching reruns of Jerry Springer.  I have been surprised though that I have been busier than ever.  I’m still waiting for the sleeping in and the naps, but that can wait.

There is no big rush to find my next gig, so I can’t say that I have landed anywhere yet.  After all, it has only been two weeks. However, I have some things for other CIOs and CIOs in transition to consider:

  • If you are not engaged with the community, start ASAP! I have a passion for the community and serve on several boards.  This has been the most rewarding and supportive thing that I could have invested in.  My fellow board members have supported me while I was CIO and now that I’m in transition.  Turns out that they want me for my experience and contributions, not just for my previous role.  This is one reason I am so busy now.  I have time to contribute more to these organizations while I figure out what’s next.
  • It’s not personal. Things change, and the needs of a company evolve. If you aren’t part of the go forward plan, it’s really okay.  It’s business, and there are plenty of needs out there that may fit your talents even better.
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Life is too short for negativity. Even those that just feel sorry for you (albeit well meant) are draining on the energy.  It is interesting to see who comes out from the crowd as the guardian angels of positivity.   For me, some were expected and others were a nice surprise.  Focus on those people.  It’s like recharging the battery!  I especially like those people that congratulate me.  That is the ultimate compliment that you add value and have talent.
  • Focus on the possibilities. It’s tough to stop thinking about all of the things that a CIO has to consider all of the time. However, it’s not your problem anymore, and there are other people who now have that responsibility.   Your goal is to focus on the future and what is next.

In the short time I have been in transition I have read five books, gone to lunch with someone almost every day, written blog postings, talked with a lot of people about potential new roles, accepted the opportunity to be an adjunct professor in the Fall, and started investigating a new business that I have always wanted to do with my brother.   Exciting times for sure.  I can’t wait to see where all of this goes.  I’m sure it will be wonderful whatever happens.  Looking at everything I have going on right now makes me think I need one of those naps!

Diana Tullio

Business oriented leader with experience in leading large scale change in both business and technical environments. I desire to continue in roles that allow me to lead the enablement of business objectives through smart solutions including excellent processes, optimal organizational structure, and targeted technical solutions.

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