Careers in Technology: The Changing Role of a CIO

For those of you already in or looking to pursue a career in technology, it’s important to look up the corporate ladder and see where you may climb. Ultimately, the role of a CIO is the technology leader of an organization and the role is filled with a combination of technological know how, management skills, and business strategy.

If your goal is to become a CIO or other high level technology manager, one of the best ways that you can pursue that dream is to truly understand what the role of a CIO is and then grow your own strengths and skills to meet these demands.

In the U.S., the CIO position was formalized with the passage of the passage of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 which legislated the establishment of CIOs with responsibility for information technology in federal agencies. Many other national governments have—through legislation or policy—established CIO positions in government, and CIOs are now a key element in the success of IT in government worldwide.

Similarly, the role of a CIO is becoming increasingly important in the private sector as technology is a major aspect of company competitiveness and strategy. With the Internet and mobiles, companies are offering new products and services and in many cases whole industries are changing. Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins calls the rapid change brought about by technology the “Reimagination of Nearly Everything.”

With the continued reliance on information technologies, CIO responsibilities continue to grow. Today, this position refers to the highest level senior executive that is responsible for the information technology and the computer systems that support an organization’s goals. The CIO has become a key position to contribute to the strategic goals of a company and in some cases are now considered a “chief innovation officer.”

Organizations have not always had a CIO on board, but nowadays, many are adding the position to their institutions as a sign to show the great importance of technology in creating a successful organization. Sometimes a CIO is mistaken as the “IT guy” because they often come from IT backgrounds, but this is not the case. The CIO is often the bridge between many departments.

So what does that mean exactly? Well, it means a CIO has to look at new technology and weigh what is worth investing in and what is worth skipping, based on the benefits that can be offered to the organization and the costs that come with it. In addition, a CIO is responsible for forecasting future technology needs, and trying to determine which technologies will be competitive in years to come. The CIO is often less involved in the day-to-day operations, but rather the long-term, big-picture of the company and the industry.

At George Mason University, the Master’s in Technology Management degree helps leaders in IT broaden their leadership skills and business acumen to work towards a CIO position or as an entrepreneur, starting their own successful technology business.

In addition, Mason’s masters in technology management program is one of only seven programs in the U.S. that is partnered with the U.S. government’s CIO University and graduates receive the CIO University certificate (in conjunction with the Federal CIO Council) in addition to their master’s degree. Our masters in technology management program satisfies the requirements for federal government CIOs, which were developed in response to the passage of the Clinger Cohen Act.

If you have a technology background and are looking to advance your career into upper management, Mason’s masters in technology management program may be the right graduate program to provide you with the core competencies you need to become a CIO and or further your leadership career in the technology field. Learn more about Mason’s Masters in Technology Management to find out if it the right program for you.


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Clodagh Bassett

I am the assistant program director of the Master of Science in Technology Management program. In my more than 13 years working with this program, I have seen students grow and mature within the program to achieve their career goals. My goal is to always have a satisfied customer/student.

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