Monday, March 16, 2015

CIO & IT Leader Mid-life crisis

Considering sensitivities and association with personal lives that many would have to this post, I would like to start with a disclaimer. This is an assimilation of experiences and sharing from many people over a period of time and not a reflection of any one person’s life, journey, past or current state. This is a culmination of discussions and advice, coaching sought, mentoring done and observations. I hope that it will be a reality check for some of you as you nurture thoughts on your next career move or becoming an entrepreneur.

It was an evening with select senior CIOs who were at their prime of careers; everyone with 20+ years of experience was visibly sitting pretty in their roles with ample success. They had built teams that delivered to promise made to business; vendors loved them for their business and success stories that they contributed. Everything appeared to be going well for this bunch of elite professionals. However the mood in the group was did not reflect the collective success; it was not gloomy but tentative in the discussions.

1.      I have been working for over 25 years running the rat race; my teams run IT operations efficiently leaving me free to pursue my calling. While everything is going well, I feel an internal unrest and at times insecurity about what next ? Technology disruptions come and go, we embraced some, passed others, and my role has continued to evolve. Internet, Cloud, Mobility, Analytics, BYOD, Big Data, IoT, and what have you, challenged momentarily and then the enterprise adapted, so did I. All of this is now on autopilot mode, I seem to be drifting, how to I stay relevant ?
2.      The organization is changing fast along with the industry; with global aspirations the company is pushing hard, at times really stretching the limits of business and people elasticity. My team is under pressure to do more within finite resources, vendors are seen as inept unable to keep up with new opportunities while we keep pressing the accelerator. I feel inadequate at occasions, a feeling I never had earlier ! My team has aspirations to grow which can be fulfilled only with growth of the enterprise; I think that I need to change tracks and become an entrepreneur.
3.      Not having got what I deserved and alienation with some of the new CXOs, I decided to take the plunge and start on my own. Working as a consultant has not been easy; all the people who flocked around me earlier in my corporate avatar now seem to be distancing themselves; they politely listen to my pitch, then nothing happens. It’s been almost 2 years now and I am reaching the limits of my financial stability which is increasing my anxiety and stress levels; wondering if I should go back to the corporate world with a steady income.
4.      I have had a good time over the last decade with multiple roles with increasing responsibility; IT had a great run with the business contributing to the change and market leadership. The industry is now being threatened with some of the new digital disruptions; my management ignored the early signs and my pleas to change our business model. As a result, our growth has slowed down significantly; costs are being cut to stay afloat. There have been discussions on forced attrition and I am worried that I may be a target as a high cost resource.
Call it circumstantial, self-determined or self-imposed, these are real situations faced by many CIOs in recent times. Losing relevance, hurt professional pride, sidelined due to changing political dynamics, inability to stay engaged with business, insecurity driven by financial goals, the end outcome of these and more is that the CIO in his mid-life and probably peak of career is finding that while s/he has made so many changes to his/per persona with changing technology and business expectations, there is no certainty on his/her continuity.

No magic wand or formula solves these puzzles; mid-life crisis can happen anytime to anyone irrespective of personal and professional credentials. My suggestion is to always build a strong professional network in which you stand for a cause, purpose, proficiency, expertise, thought leadership, or just someone who people can reach out to should they have a need. People always remember you for how you treat them and they do reciprocate. They will open doors for you, and those who won’t, probably you are better off without them.

Get started, it’s okay to be afraid.

1 comment:

  1. I had a similar experience at the end of my career. Somehow I fell the grace of CEO for an unknown reason In the last year of my service.