ONLY 31 per cent of chief information officers (CIOs) have a degree in IT, computer science, or computer systems, with workers from increasingly diverse background now reaching the position.
Hays Information Technology interviewed 243 IT leaders in Australia and New Zealand to identify the "DNA of a CIO" and found "there is no straight path from A to Z."
Nearly 50 per cent of CIOs had started out in non-IT roles. One quarter had a masters of business administration (MBA), while one fifth had a degree in business, commerce, or finance.
They all possessed a broad skill base and 60 per cent had worked with four or more employers.
Hays IT regional director Peter Noblet says rapid advancements in communications and IT have accelerated the evolution of CIOs.
"Aspiring CIOs should gain exposure to various functional areas of an organisation," he says.
"One of the most interesting findings of this report for me is that it confirms there is no box ticking approach to reaching the CIO position.
"Reaching CIO is more about gaining a broad base of experience rather than checking off a list of job functions."
A mere 16 per cent of CIOs considered technical knowledge to be their most essential skill. More than 50 per cent nominated "people management" as more important, with another 43 per cent nominating "stakeholder engagement."
Nearly half described themselves as "collaborative", while 40 per cent said their top tip to new IT leaders was to focus on establishing internal business relationships.
Noblet says technical expertise still "plays a significant role", but the evolving nature of IT in business has increased the importance of soft skills.
"Technical expertise plays a significant role, but other softer skills associated with business management have risen in prominence," he says.
"These include communication, people management, stakeholder engagement, commercial acumen, and innovation.
"You must also undertake ongoing professional development, and finally you need to be passionate about people."
Several CIOs had taken courses in people management, while 71 per cent had attended networking events in the last two years.
More than 90 per cent used LinkedIn and nearly 30 had worked with a "mentor" at some point.
All 243 CIOs praised the level of talent in the Australian and New Zealand IT sector.
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