Monday, May 09, 2016

Job hoppers seeking the perfect match rarely find it

It was an embarrassing moment for the CIO who I bumped into at the reception of a customer; he was there for an interview with the Group CIO for a position with one of the business units. He did not expect to find me there; while he knew that I had given up my corporate role some time back, he wondered if I too was there for the same interview. So making polite conversation, he queried if I had also come for the interview. I smiled back at him and nodded in affirmation that it was indeed the interview that brought me there.

He was beginning to build an image in the industry as a CIO who will make it to the big league sooner or later. He had started getting visibility in the CIO circles with a few panel discussions where he was able to make his presence felt. Though he was not quoted often or written about, he appeared to be taking the right steps towards creating a persona. After a longish tenure at a mid-sized enterprise, he had a string of short-term roles each lasting not more than six months which surprised peers, friends and industry observers.

Leaving aside the tenured CIOs (and here I refer to the real CIOs, not people with underserving titles) with over a decade in their current roles, most CIOs typically spend an average of 3-4 years in a company. They create and leave behind an impact on the enterprise with their management style, technology solutions, and bit of leadership. They contribute to an overall improvement in the IT maturity, elevation of the IT team perception, business impact led by technology, and a general acceptance of the value of IT to the company.

Coming back to our friend in dire need, he walked into the room with a complete panel to grill him on why he should be given the coveted position. Seeing me on the interview panel unbalanced him as we all greeted him and introduced ourselves wanting to make him comfortable. As we progressed through his professional life and key milestones, the conversation finally reached the point where his quick changes came into the limelight as the panel sought clarification on what caused the instability in an otherwise good career.

At the time of the interview, he had been in the current role for less than 4 months and two earlier stints had lasted six months apiece; here he was again wanting to move ! He started off talking about cultural mismatch between the first of the 3 and the fact that he was constrained from making any decisions. The second was an attempt a new industry segment which he quickly realized he was unable to adjust to; and finally the current role was more of a maintenance role and did not offer any freedom to innovate.

Closing the interview the HR Head thanked him for his time and promised to get back should he make the grade ! Between 5 of us on the panel we had unanimous consensus that the candidate would find it difficult to get into any new role which will not give him the comfort of the old one he had discarded sometime back for greener pastures. Fallaciously he was seeking acceptance as a new comer rather than build relationships with peers and trust with his team that comes with immersion into the new role and company.

Every new role has a honeymoon period that the newbie enjoys as s/he learns about the company, industry, culture, people, team and expectations of the role. The duration varies by company, size, and the level in the hierarchy of the enterprise. The new entrant has to create an enduring and affable persona that is true to self; it is difficult to act like someone else and sustain it for long. This is the time that needs to be spent in building bridges and credibility which sustains a person in the role and organization.

My friend never got the call he was waiting for as he had frittered away the honeymoon period or made bad choices not aligned to his ability and/or goals. Call it mid-career (or life) crisis or a victim of the changing dynamics of the role, it is evident that he is not ready for the new dimensions that are base expectations now. In the fast changing digitally disruptive business models world, the CIO has to step up the ante. Many have transformed themselves to take on the new challenge, a large majority faces disruption.

Ready or not, that is reality !

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