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18th Aug, 2022

Kevin Dainty
Kevin Dainty
Job Title
Client Relationship Manager

The technology sector is constantly evolving – and so are the roles found within it. 

For those involved in information technology, there is a clear progression ladder that professionals can take who are aspiring to grow, develop and lead. This often involves moving into more senior roles and eventually into a chief information officer position. 

So how can you make the step up to that level? What skills and traits should you be developing? What does a CIO do day to day? I spoke to Karl Hoods, Chief Digital & Information Officer at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, to find out.

Q: What was your journey like to becoming a CIO?

A: My journey started as a youngster interested in technology and computing. I had a ZX81 home computer and then moved through and did an information systems management degree, which was a combination of programming, business management and technology management.

From there I moved into start-ups where I was a web developer working in sporting events, before progressing through to development. I then began working with development team leaders, project and programme management, before taking on wider roles in a mixture of organisations from start-ups through to consultancies and the public sector.

Q: What would you say are the key skills and attributes of a CIO?

A: It’s very much a stakeholder/people management-type role.

It's predominantly about people – managing your own team, leading them, setting a direction, getting buy-in, and building that capability as you go along. Then it’s being able to sell that to the rest of your organisation and be that bridge between the business and the objective that it's trying to achieve, and then look to see how technology can support that.

For more information on the top skills required to be a successful CIO, click here.

Q: What has been your biggest career success?

A: I've always enjoyed the ‘turnaround’ situations where you've taken a team that's either had under investment or isn't performing particularly well, and then changing that so it becomes a high performing team.

My last few roles have been very much about investing in people, really looking at what you can do with the resources you've got. The easiest thing to do as a CIO is to come armed with your readymade strategy and team that you've worked with before, but there's no challenge in that.

The focus should be on how you can really invest in the people in the place that you're in, help them to grow and then help the organisation achieve what it’s set out to do.

Q: What are the biggest challenges that you've faced in your role?

A: I'm a natural introvert. So being visible and being out there has always been something that I’ve found challenging – a bit like imposter syndrome. It's always a bit more of a push to step forward.

But if you want to move into leadership, you need to get over it and push yourself – the more you deal with it, the easier it becomes. It’s definitely something I've had to work at over the years.

Q: What are the biggest challenges that you've faced in the marketplace?

A: The pace of change and the change in expectation from your user base has grown exponentially.

We're having to react much more quickly, deal with demand and a change in expectation. The whole consumerisation of technology bleeds into the workplace, so you have to try and keep pace.

It's an interesting challenge.

Q: How has the CIO role changed?

A: The role of a CIO has changed from ‘order taker’ to ‘facilitator’ of business objectives.

It used to be that the IT department said, ‘this is what you get, get on with it’, whereas we're not in that world anymore. We should be operating hand-in-hand with the rest of the organisation; we have to view ourselves as being integral to everything the organisation does, because while you’ve got a degree of separation, you’re implying that the IT department is a bit different.

What's the end goal in mind? How are we adding to the bottom line? How are we increasing output? – whatever it may be for whatever industry you're in. There's no longer a day where the IT department or the CIO says, ‘tough, you get what you're given’ and that's it. It just doesn't operate like that anymore.

Q: What tips would you give to an aspiring CIO?

A: Get some experience. If you can work with a mentor, or with an advisor that can give you some insight, it helps with that practical experience.

Also, shadow another CIO or shadow somebody stepping up into that role and see what you can find out about doing the job because it can be a big shift depending on your background.

The other thing to do is network. Back in my early career, it wasn’t something that I particularly wanted to do, or thought was valuable, but I've got an extensive network now, which is brilliant. Anytime you've got anything that you want to discuss, any issues, any ideas, there's always somebody there that you can have a conversation with.

Be the master of your own destiny. Look for opportunities and look to grow inside the organisation you're in because that's the easiest place to do it. I think once you move to another organisation, you've got that initial bit of inertia that you need to get over about proving yourself and settling in, which can make growth a bit more difficult or take a bit longer.

Grow where you are, and then when you're ready to make the move, you'll have a good tool set to stand behind you.

If you are looking for a talented technology professional for your business, or are looking to find your next role, contact your nearest Reed office.