How Do I Get to the Next Level in My Career?

July 12, 2017

I currently am an IT Manager in my organisation, but seeing the growth of the company, I predict that we will need a CIO and/or CTO within the next 18 months.

I want to make sure that I will be the logical choice for this position when the time comes, but how do I go about it?

Learning by doing may have been good enough until now ... But is it still?


One of our IT Leader Mastermind groups recently tackled this question. Here is a summarised version of the outcomes.

The Mastermind Answer

First of all, congratulations! The most important first step towards growing in your career is making the firm decision to actually do so… and by asking this question, you show that you have done just that.

But be clear as to what role you really want to go for and what you are suited for. You mentioned CIO and CTO. There are some material differences you need to be aware of and it usually requires different types people. Read up on the internet and talk to people who know you or even your HR department to determine what a good fit might be for your future self. Is it maybe yet a different role?

Now it is time to map out how to get there. (And for the rest of this answer we assume that you settled on becoming a CIO.)

As an IT Manager you are most likely more than adequately trained on technical topics. Don’t default to more technical training just because it is what you know best or you fear losing your touch. Look at what is needed for your future role – chances are that you will have to focus on business management and soft skills.

An MBA is often seen as the gold standard for the step into business management and many people would attest to that. Beware, however, that few people will have the means (financially and time-wise) to pull through that one. If you do decide on an MBA, you will need the full support of your family as it will put your social life on hold for the next year (fulltime) or three or more if you study part-time.

Self-study is on the other side of the spectrum with lots of options in between.

Choosing a certification is very difficult as there are lots of specific courses but very little that really looks at things holistically. Spend some time on research and map out a Personal Development Plan. Here once more the HR department could greatly assist you.

If you are not yet ready for a longer-term commitment and first want to do one course, then consider learning more about Agile Project Management. An Agile mindset is hugely important to business agility which in turn is key to Digital Transformation of any organisation. You should immediately be able to implement what you learn there.

And whilst we are at implementation: Introducing enabling technologies in more sectors of the business, in a way that the results are visible and clearly measurable, is a sure-fire way to get you noticed. But this is a topic for another day and another Mastermind.

Some More Insights

  • We at Xuviate believe that every growth-minded mid-sized business will appoint a Chief Information Officer (CIO) within the next 3 years. Unfortunately, not many current IT leaders will be ready – read this blog to find out why we say so and how you can prevent being one of them.
  • Xuviate have a while ago done an in-depth study of the Career Development Options for IT Managers in South Africa. Have a look what suits you. And please do feel free to leave a comment below if you feel that you have another option that your fellow IT Leaders should have a look at…
  • If you decide to go for self-study or even want to learn just-in-time, have a look at the section on Digital Transformation of the Xuviate blog as a starting point and to get ideas for hot topics to research.

Pro Tip

  • Try and find a senior business leader inside your organisation who is willing to mentor you. Many organisations have formal programs doing this, but even if not, it is often possible to find a leader who is willing to assist. Identify someone and ask them – the worst that can happen is that they say no…

Other Links

  • There obviously also is the question whether you really want to stay in IT all your life. The Spiceworks blog Do you have an IT exit plan? does bring up that topic – have a read in the comments what others think. And on the same topic, I can recommend asking yourself if you Live Your Legend.

About the author

Business Agility Coach | Abundance Thinker | Helping Mid-Market Companies Evolve by Using the Kanban Methodology
- As trained Industrial Engineer with close on 25 years' experience as IT Professional and Business Executive in the mid-market IT industry, Mathias Tölken loves to share his experiences and expertise with others.

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