Have you noticed something strange about human nature? While we acutely aspire for power and authority, we want to lay hands on them with minimum accountability and effort. I have often come across managers aspiring for higher positions, waiting for what they call the right time to show their skills and talent, little realising that they should be doing it all the time.
The idea that one needs to wait for a particular opportunity to display ones skills is grossly erroneous. Gone are the days when indulgent bosses used to mentor their juniors in the guru-shishya parampara. With competition becoming intense and time getting compressed, the current crop of juniors are expected to excel by the dint of their abilities and commitment if they really want to be noticed and mentored by their seniors for fast-track growth.
So what should an IT manager, who desires to become the CIO some day, do to impress his bosses and score over his peers? He should proactively take more on his plate. Never evade assuming higher responsibilities just because they are not part of your job description. But how should you go about it?
Typically, a CIO likes subordinates to whom he can assign a task and forget about it. Therefore, ensure that your boss does not have to continuously remind you about the task assigned. Keep communicating to him the developments, both good and bad.
Also, remember that when you are escalating a problem to your boss, you present a few possible solutions, and your recommendation. This will make decision-making relatively easy for the boss and earn you higher responsibilities.
To be able to do that, ensure that you build a very strong foundation of technology know-how during the initial years of your career. It is critical to thoroughly understand fundamental theories and principles before learning through hands-on practical work. This foundation helps tremendously.
And even while you do that, do not forget that in todays environment a good CIO is one who comprehends technology and business equally well. So, take keen interest in the business your organisation is in, the market scenario, competition, business processes and the ways the business and the end consumer can be served better with the help of technology.
In some organisations, there is a clear line drawn between IT and users. It should be we rather than us versus them. Work very closely with other departments to see how you can help them make IT a business enabler.
In the end, let me repeat that the much vaunted right time, right place adage is no longer relevant. What really works is all time, all place. So never flinch from taking new and higher responsibilities. What you take on today without asking, might be yours for the taking tomorrow.
The author is CTO of Meru Cabs and an open-source enthusiast who believes in being hands-on whenever possible. He has also served as AVP-IT at Star India