How to Become a CIO
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How to Become a CIO

Pambudi Sunarsihanto, Human Resources Director, Blue Bird Group
Pambudi Sunarsihanto, Human Resources Director, Blue Bird Group

Pambudi Sunarsihanto, Human Resources Director, Blue Bird Group

It's a sunny morning in Jakarta, I just took a shower and there's still time to relax before going to the office. Normally I would play FIFA 21 on the PlayStation 5 before leaving. Suddenly my “Samsung Fold” rang, I saw the number, “Lidya”, a friend of mine who is HR Director at a European company in Jakarta. "How are you, Pam? I'll change it to a video call, okay?"

I met Lydia again at ITB (Bandung Institute of Technology), majoring in Industrial Engineering. Although in the end, I chose to go to France, I studied Computer Science there and continued my master's degree in Artificial Intelligence. Several decades later, I did a career transition career, became an HR Director at a company in Jakarta, and met again with Lidya who is also the HR Director. Since then I have often met and chatted with Lidya. We often discuss the challenges we face in business and also in the HR world that we are engaged in.

That morning Lidya was ready to go to the office, dressed trendy, with a hijab that was very "a la fashion", and light make-up, the style of an HR professional who was very elegant even though she couldn't hide her natural beauty.

Lidya said, “Pam, we need CIO (Chief Information Officer). It's so hard to find, isn't it?”

Lidya also said, "Nowadays, he is a very "nerd" person, very good at programming, understands IT and technology issues, but cannot be a good leader for his subordinates. And worst of all, they can't manage their stakeholders. Then it is difficult to produce what the business wants.” We also discussed it, because it turns out that several companies are experiencing the same problem.

After finishing the video call, I put my blue tooth on and called my other friend, Jimmy, an HR Director at a large startup company in Jakarta.

 "Jimmy, how are you?" "Okay, Pam. How can I help you?”

"My friend is looking for a CIO, do you know anyone?"

“Ha…ha...ha…, how come I have the same problem? I'm also looking for the CIO, bro."

"Well, where's the old CIO?"

"It's a bit difficult, man, he's a very nerd. IT expert, programming expert. But can't deal with people. Can't lead the team, can't manage the stakeholders”

Huh? Deja vu! It turns out that several companies have the same problem.

Of course, there are many cool and very successful CIOs, they are very good at IT, and have also become great business leaders.

But it turns out that there are still two phenomena:

a) CIO who is good at IT but is not able to become a business leader

b) Many IT programmers are confused, what should they do to get promoted, what should they do so that they can learn to be good business leaders?

 This article was written to answer the two phenomena above. So that IT practitioners can find the answer. And also especially so that IT students understand this from an early age, and can prepare themselves since they are in college.

OK, now let's talk...

Students are studying IT certainly experience this: when you study IT, you are amazed at what computers and software can do. And it makes us so passionate and amazed. As a result, we are obsessed with computers, programming, and competing to create sophisticated programs, even taking part in outside training, taking as many certificates as possible. Obsessed with IT.

I knew this. I faced the same experiences. In the past I had to solve Artificial Intelligence problems with Prolog and Lisp (now many are already playing with Java and Python), I could spend two days and two nights, and couldn't sleep if the problem wasn't solved. We obsess, live for computers, sleep on computers, and dream about software.

Start thinking, when you become a leader, how do you motivate your team to achieve common goals, how to overcome conflicts that occur, how to continuously create a positive and productive atmosphere

And finally, we graduated and worked as IT programmers. And it turns out that the reality of the workplace is very different.

When you are in college, you spend a lot of time on your computer. At work, apart from you dealing with computers, you also have to get along with humans a lot (many people, colleagues, bosses, and our stakeholders). I was in shock at that time. I know how the computer thinks. It turned out to be very difficult to understand other humans. It's hard to understand one girlfriend, let alone understand many people. Until now, many still struggle to understand how his wife (or her husband) thinks, seriously! Things will be more complex in the workplace where we have to manage boss, peer, and team members.

And this is where it turns out that we need new skills, social skills, understanding of how humans interact.

Why is this important? Because if you have just become a programmer, then your life may be simple. A supervisor or manager will come to you with requirements, and you are struggling in front of your computer layer to solve them.

When you are a CIO…

- You work closely with the CEO and all members of the Board (of Directors)

- You are responsible for the overall strategic technology planning for the organization

- You develop and improve strategic planning, processes, and procedures related to the organization's technology.

- You lead the new technology initiatives and evaluates their impact on the business.

What happened? You will spend a lot of time with your CEO, with other Directors (CFO, Sales Director, Marketing Director, Sales Director, HR Director etc.), discussing with them what the business needs. Then you are busy networking with external, what is the most advanced technology. Then with your team together design and develop the technology architecture that the company needs in the future. After that you will return to the CEO and Board of Directors, to make sure that they agree with your architecture and strategy (remember, many people will have different interests). After the ping pong party (back and forth meeting to explain and get commitment), then now you will start implementing it.

Easy, right?

Wait a minute.

 When you implement it, you will manage tens or hundreds of your subordinates, almost all of whom are millennial IT graduates, who are difficult to manage.

What is the problem?

- Every year the need for IT programmers increases, many other companies secretly want your good people (if the bad ones? No one else will!). Sometimes, you worked hard to recruit and train them, and they can be hijacked by other companies who increased their salary by 60-70 percent. What are you going to do about that?

- You manage tens and hundreds of employees with different characters, all of whom have to work in unison (the cool term is Teamwork), it is a nice word, but you still have to manage those conflicts, fights, stay quiet, and don't want to work together? What do you do?

- As employees they must be promoted (so as not to run away to other places), in order to be promoted you must train and coach them (search on Google what is coaching). Even though your time is running out to manage your stakeholders (CEO, other Board of Directors), networking with externals, planning and leading the implementation in IT. When is the time to coach subordinates?

Now you see, the CIO life is not that easy.

Yes, the pay is great too. Now the annual salary of a CIO, based on the latest survey, varies between 1.1-1.9 billion / per year. That’s 130,000 USD per year, excluding the benefits and bonuses.

Do you think with the big salary comes easy work? Keep dreaming! But that doesn't mean it can't be achieved, right? You can achieve your dream if you know how to learn it. This is where you need to learn from an early age, what do we have to learn?

Three things: IT expertise, Leadership, Stakeholder Management. Keep reading…

a) IT expertise: obviously, this is important, it doesn't mean you are a business leader who is good at interacting with other people, and then you don't need to be good at IT anymore. You still have to be an expert here. Learn as much as possible. Sharpen and update your knowledge to keep up with the times. Get an international certificate to prove your skills.

Imagine that nowadays, information and data will determine the competitiveness of companies. And companies must use the most sophisticated and relevant technology (and sufficiently cost-efficient) so that they can collect/manage data and information to get to know their customers, develop products/services that are most suitable for customers, offer them to customers, attract customers to buy. Your product, and measure their satisfaction to improve your product.

See how important is the “information” for your company, hence the importance of the CIO's role. Then you must understand all the latest technology, architecture, and design required for the most updated system and platform at this time, vendors/partners available to help you.

All that is needed so that you can propose the most relevant IT system for your company.

b) Leadership

Learn to be a leader since college. Take part in many campus activities, organizations. You don't need to be the chairman, but you can also be teamwork or team member who contributes well. The more you interact with other people the better your experience will be.

Be open, continuously improve yourself, ask for feedback from your friends in campus organizations: - What good things have you done while working in a team (CONTINUE!)

- What things do you still need to improve on (LISTEN, LEARN, IMPROVE!)

Start thinking, when you become a leader, how do you motivate your team to achieve common goals, how to overcome conflicts that occur, how to continuously create a positive and productive atmosphere? Read the theory, put it into practice in organizations on campus, evaluate the results and improve again!

c) Stakeholder Management

This is the most difficult. But it can be learned and practiced. Hang out a lot with people who are more senior than you, lecturers, Start-Up founders, or anyone else. Convey your desire to help them (voluntarily). Understand what they want, influence what you can do, run a project together, and evaluate the results.

Learn a lot about “influencing skills”, how to influence others.

The problem is to influence them, you also have to know them, speak the same language, and automatically you have to master their business. That means you have to study Marketing, Finance, Sales, HR, and other critical areas. You can take an MBA, study on your own, or make close friends and learn from those in the field. The point remains to understand the contents of your stakeholder's brain before you speak and influence them. Your ability to influence them (influencing skills) you have to learn the theory, you practice in organizations on campus, evaluate the results and improve again!

So remember, if you aspire to be a CIO, and I'm sure you will be able to achieve it, learn these three things since you are in college:

- IT expertise

- Leadership

- Stakeholder Management

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