DNA of a CIO

Hays is a global professional recruitment group that recently published a report titled “DNA of a CIO”, in which they interviewed more than 50 IT Leaders from Director level to CIO/CTO or above, in April 2017.  Our CTO, Mike McKinney, was one of them.

Interview with Mike McKinney, CTO of Marick Group

Was IT always your career path?
At first, I wanted to be a History Professor! I enjoy speaking with people and sharing ideas/knowledge.  I’ve always been fascinated with technology, taking things apart to see how they work, sitting in front computers endlessly teaching myself anything and everything I could get my hands on. Come to think of it, IT possibly HAS always been my career path whether I knew it or not.

Have you ever second guessed your career path?
No, I am a firm believer that there are some people who are “wired” for technology. Once I was exposed to the technology field, I felt I was one of those people. There are a few different camps when it comes to choosing a career path. Do something you love to do or something in which you excel. If you are lucky you may accomplish both. If someone excels in a technology field, it has likely taken them quite some time to get to that point. There must have been some sort of affinity for the content to stick with it.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
There are many things about my job that I enjoy, but I would say at the core it would have to be solving problems.  Marick Group provides solutions to our customers by first establishing a deep understanding of their business, motivators, and desired outcomes. Providing solutions that directly impact the business while leveraging the most efficient methods and technology, educating employees and customers about technical efficiencies, and continuously learning are just a few things that make the technology career path an enjoyable one.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path?
There is nothing that can stifle career growth and even hurt an organization like becoming the “guru” for a particular solution. Some believe, usually early in their career, that knowledge hoarding is a good way to protect or advance a career. Fortunately I learned this to be false very early on.

How did you overcome this?
Share everything you learn. Focus on building the whole team rather than a select few. Foster transparency and communication to elevate the entire team.

What technical skills are integral to the role?

I feel it is important to have a broad understanding of how technology works on multiple levels while spending some time gaining expertise in a particular area. The technology ecosystem today is extremely vast and would take multiple lifetimes to become a true expert in everything. Make learning new technology and solutions a primary skillset. Organizations look upon their CIO/CTO to provide technology solutions and leadership across many different areas.

What soft skills/characteristics are integral to the role?
The most important soft skill one needs to advance in most fields would be listening.  Confidence and experience can sometimes prevent new ideas from surfacing so listen to your mentors, listen to your peers, listen to your team.

What is the one thing you have to have to be a CIO in your opinion?
Absolutely must have a strong foundation in technology, but also a desire and ability to understand how technology facilitates the success of the business.

In your opinion, how important is networking?

Networking in any profession is very important for meeting potential customers to potential partners to potential coworkers. Being engaged in communities and networking is vital to gain a more comprehensive understanding of key concerns in your particular industry as well as gathering information to make informed decisions about future vision and direction.

In your opinion, how important is social media for networking/helping one achieve their career goals?
Social media can be a great place to make acquaintances – but one needs to follow up by establishing real dialogue to determine how certain network connections will be beneficial to both parties.

Compared to 5 or 10 years ago, how would you say your role has evolved?
Certainly having oversight of the whole picture rather than a specific section of a solution. IT leaders need to be able to identify how different parts of the overall solution will fit together. Given this, my role has changed from being very specific to certain solutions to being more a part of the overall vision and direction. Balancing individual contributions with leadership is something CIO/CTOs from small companies need to keep in mind.

What advice would you give to the next generation of professionals aspiring to become a IT leader?
Dedicate yourself to learning. Among your skillsets, count continuous learning as one of the most important. Don’t focus on titles or climbing ladders, staring at the next step on a ladder will blind you to how much else is out there. Career paths are not always as clear as they might seem. In some organizations, the defined career path might have a Senior Engineer expected to become a Project Manager. Which, one can argue, is a completely different skillset entirely! Strive to provide value wherever possible, understand the big picture, define your own path.

As an IT leader, what keeps you up at night?
Certainly, among other things, the ability to find top talent. Technology continues to grow at a tremendous pace and requires adept learners as well as talented technologists. Just because someone you hire today is at the top of their field doesn’t mean they will remain there for very long. I’ve heard it said many different ways over the years but it still rings true, “the cutting edge of technology dulls by the microsecond.”

What are you doing to keep growing your career?
Continuously learning. Becoming stale and losing sight of technical skills is not an option today. When becoming an IT leader, one may not have as much exposure to the hands-on side of the job but maintaining a technical understanding of your business is critical. Remember what brought you to your current position and respect that.

Request a copy of the full report here: https://www.hays.com/resources/dna-cio/

To read all of the CIO interviews follow this link:  https://www.hays.com/resources/dna-cio/interviews/index.htm