Monday, August 27, 2012
Recent times have seen some distinguished CEOs and leaders biting the dust literally when some untruths were discovered in their resumes, a clear case of unnecessary padding. A few did not possess the qualifications they professed, some had not been to colleges they put in there. These are not run of the mill average Joe kind of people, they are in high offices and have shaped the future of many. It created news for a short while, and then everyone moved on relegating the tainted ones to oblivion.
To expand the team I recently started hiring fresh and experienced talent and was flooded with resumes. It was a task to navigate through pages of hundreds of eager professionals looking through spell check errors, acronyms that I have no clue what they mean, grammatical goof ups, and multiple formats that challenged me to find information in a maze game. These were not freshers, unexposed to corporate culture; they included experienced professionals with decade plus behind them.
I did not challenge the veracity of the information presented even in cases that stretched conventional wisdom, though annotating to explore further in the interview. I discovered that IT folks are largely truthful and sometimes too much; if they have been on a project that involved a leading edge technology, they will ensure it catches your attention. Only on digging deeper you realize that their role could have been just testing or documentation; or maybe peripheral and not technical or functional.
The conscientious mentioned every project, every assignment, and every new company even if they spent only a few months in each; though the interesting ones were the gaps which during the interview were explained in shy and embarrassing tones. They believed that if you join a company and realize that it was a mistake, don’t mention it; skip the experience that does not reflect well on your resume. No mal intent here, just that not always in interest of keeping an abridged and concise representation; just to put the best foot forward.
So how to get the real person out of a few pages of history including education, experience, achievements, personality, potential, technical skills, and what have you. There are umpteen reference websites that offer to teach the art of interviewing and getting the best out of the person sitting across the table, the potential candidate. The intent though not adversarial is to assess everything possible about the person in the typical less than an hour spent, lateral thinking and what not.
I am not sure if this would make sense, but it is not just the responses to the questions that help us in the selection process, there is a lot more. The first few minutes have already decided the way the interview goes; subconscious mind or body language, you already know if you will like the person. The resume and the detailed planning are then thus pointers to the discussion. I have rarely seen a situation where the candidate was able to swing it around though many did not live up to initial expectations.
Coming back to the moot point, why do people manipulate resumes ? Is it just to look better than who they are or a desperate urge to get something that is not rightfully theirs ? Is it misplaced self-esteem or belief of personal value ? I don’t know, everyone probably has different motivations; do they realize that in the end they are really undermining their integrity and the way people see them ? Or has the value system changed in a way that we are comfortable with little lies if they go unnoticed ?
Monday, August 20, 2012
In the monsoon season, clouds are a good subject to discuss. The last event I attended headlined clouds of all types; public, private, hybrid, that had everyone exchanging notes on experiences in drought and rain. Participants from public sector and government agencies, companies big and small, service providers and a few academics, all found something to talk about and share. The organizers were beaming and so were the participants; networking at its best which most events promise.
There were a few small groups that decided not to move out of the conference hall during the breaks finding comfort in each other’s company. It was evident that they were not at ease in reaching out to strangers and discussing subjects of mutual interest. Our IT teams have many such people who lack the social niceties and behaviours that are normal in say the marketing team. Such individuals are present on social networking sites albeit as silent observers rarely posting or sharing anything at all.
Over so many years I have wrenched such individuals from my teams from their machines and pushed them into the big bad world of people who are unpredictable, emotional, talkative, demanding, lively, aggressive, and overall human in their demeanour. The abovementioned IT folks cringe at the thought, but slowly and steadily open up and realize that it is not so bad after all. Most are able to transition over the boundary into the normal, the rare few who do not constitute groups like the one I saw.
In a hypercompetitive world that demands higher performance every day to stay in the same place, the balance between soft skills and domain (or technical) expertise is important. Everyone talks about the traits CIOs need to embrace; the teams are left to fend for themselves and in most cases at the mercy of the individual CIO to elevate the level at which the IT team operates. Successful CIOs who nurture talent and high potential performers invest in their teams giving them the platform and reason to grow.
So what has all this got to do with MPLS networks ? By definition MPLS networks were defined to create efficiency over existing networks in the mid-90s. With evolution they became the preferred option for many. Network administrators loved them for reliability and performance; they hated the opacity by virtue of the cloud architecture. It was big evolution for many and most techies adapted well. This is evident from the fact that most enterprises embrace MPLS over other network types.
In the real world of people, recent times have seen disruptive changes due to social networks. It has had the world excited, the marketing teams worried, and everyone wondering on whether there is a ROI in social network. Consultants have thrived and definitely made some money. It cannot be denied that Most People Love Social Networks. They provide freedom of expression in a level world. IT organizations clamped down with security concerns. Now, social media policies have replaced dictatorial censorship.
Some mature companies have seen their CIOs take lead in this arena and drive social media strategy successfully and a few also found a way to make money. These CIOs and IT teams belonged to the MPLS network groups, did not talk about old paradigms like BITA, had higher success in customer engagement and continue to be the envy of the world at large. I believe that MPLS is the way forward for everyone. IT has to lead from the front and not follow in the back. Where are you today ? Part of the MPLS gang ?
Monday, August 13, 2012
Talking to a few CIO friends on the much debated and discussed subject of “what next” for us the CIOs, many aspired to be CEOs. Now that is a good thing given that CIOs are setting their goals high; some are also achieving it within IT companies, a few in other industries too. Making the transition was possible for them as they graduated from technology enabling to business enabling to business itself. Their leadership was acknowledged and when the opportunity arose, they were considered rightful choice.
Trust and respect from peers is garnered step by step everyday with the word and the deed. Conviction that comes out of past experience, the ability to consistently deliver against odds, the cohesion of the team in committing to the stretch and unreasonable, the ability to engage in conflict resolution focusing on the issue and not the people involved. They are always happy to help, sometimes even with personal sacrifice. This separates chalk from cheese.
You would say that this is just a sample of everyday behaviours that make a successful leader and CIO; it is also shaken quickly with hearsay and frequent missed steps. Respect is always earned, rarely conferred if at all; it comes out of consistency in delivery, walk the talk, articulation, coaching and mentoring others selflessly. The mojo develops with practice and stays with them as long as they continue to stay grounded through the journey. Nothing new here too ? Hold on a bit.
The gap between perception and reality is based on the demand supply management between IT and business. When CIOs manage this well, they remain relevant to themselves, the business and the enterprise. The progression is determined by the interventions outside of their realm and “out of comfort zone” discussions. The CXO has no boundary defining Job Description; they only have a primary allegiance to a function.
So when a successful CIO asked me the path to becoming a CEO, I wondered what qualifies me to give advice ? While I am a CIO and have held a few P&L responsibilities in my career, I am not a CEO. Having mentored a few people and learned a few tips from the world’s best coach (Marshal Goldsmith), I decided to probe further. He was determined to get there and was willing to work hard. We discussed his winning formula, did a SWOT, and identified a few behaviours that needed attention.
Defining the road ahead was easier than I thought; crafting the evolution plan took some time and then we agreed upon a follow up plan and progress report. I felt humbled by the experience, his faith in my words and suggestions on his actions which he ardently believed will get him to his goal. Reflecting on what my virtual guru referred to “I don’t coach losers because they are not willing to change”, I too believed in his plan and hope as he was willing to change. I believe sooner or later he will get there.
And then last week someone asked me the question, “when will we see you as a CEO ?”, I started wondering if I should be reading more into these questions and discussions ! Flattery is good, but it should not be taken to heart lest the fall hurt the inflated ego !
Monday, August 06, 2012
Every enterprise has an IT function though the name it goes by may be different. Not many call it EDP or MIS anymore, IT is the most prevalent, BT is catching up and there are a few variants which I wrote about sometime back. Similarly the title of the leader has manifested itself in many ways, CTO, CIO, Head, GM, VP, SVP, EVP – IT and some not so common ones that are either legacy, futuristic, or far removed from convention.
Every person in the enterprise has a view on IT and the persona it represents; this is determined by personal experience and hearsay. Sometimes it is relative to past experience in other companies, in most cases it is based on (un)fulfilled expectations and the buzz in the company. The industry, its associates and partners add or confuse the perception with their views. CIO and the team collectively are thus labelled based on these facts, experiences and views.
CIOs and IT organizations like all beings driven by Maslow’s hierarchy yearn for acknowledgement and recognition. They work hard to create their aura and earn respect with solutions and dialogues that demonstrate understanding beyond technology. They walk the talk, meet customers, and engage with stakeholders to stay ahead in the race. In many cases they succeed in creating a lasting brand value, in few they remain challenged despite doing everything right. Why ?
The basic foundation of IT branding happens every day with desk side support on the laptop, desktop, printer, application, network access, email, and various other things that we take for granted. No one cares until something breaks and that incidence ends up being the tag by which IT gets labelled. One incident gets extrapolated to generic statements of (in)efficiency. Some IT organizations have active communication processes to manage this; most don’t leaving a wide gap on how they are seen.
How many CIOs invest in building the brand they and their team represents ? Business IT Alignment is not only about projects being executed or the discussion the CIO has with the Management teams. BITA happens every day with every interaction anyone within IT has with any other non-IT person (normally referred to as user) within the enterprise. This cannot be left to passive management; it has to be actively managed across the levels.
External branding is another aspect of visibility and credibility that requires a strategy and plan. Go to any conference, event or panel/roundtable discussion, you will find the same old faces on the stage. It would appear that CIOs were born with stage fright; most are happy to be part of the audience, their views rarely get aired (everyone has a view). Nowadays social media and internet presence too contribute towards the identity of the CIO who represents the IT success of the enterprise.
The combined persona is finally the way s/he is portrayed to the world at large. If the CIO does not actively manage this, it will be managed by forces that s/he does not control. The CIO could then just be an entry in a database or one of the featured ones in a search. If people read about you and read what you stand for, your views on varied or specific subjects, it adds to the perception of who the person is. Some manage this well, the rest leave it to divine intervention.
I believe that CIOs should invest in building the brand not just internally, which is easily done by constant communication and discussion beyond transactions. They should also actively manage their visibility and branding across the IT industry and their chosen industry; participation in industry specific events, membership to bodies, talking to tech journalists and participation in social media make a great combination to get started. Is there more ? It all depends on where you want to go !
I don’t have time is the first lament (please read “Being Busy”), how do I get started is the second; ask the ones who have made it or wait until I write about it.