Taking a non-CIO job with a tech company was once considered moving over to the dark side. But today, the move to a vendor firm in a sales, customer service, business development or operations role is seen as a stepping-stone for CIOs, recruiters say. "It can be a career rounding experience," says Eric Sigurdson, of executive recruiting firm Russell Reynolds.
More IT execs now seek these roles as a way to broaden their skill sets, he says. Last summer, Margaret Thomas left her post as CIO of Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts to join software and services firm Sentillion, based in Andover, Mass., as vice president of services. Thomas sought a new challenge.
"I was looking to stretch beyond the skills I had. I wanted to do some strategic planning and have an impact on a company's direction.
If I had stayed, that [strategy] would have been determined by others," she says.
Among other CIOs who've recently joined vendor firms:
- Joseph Kava left Applied Materials to join IT outsourcing provider RagingWire Enterprise Solutions as vice president of operations.
- Christopher McDaniel left Mutual Service for the role of COO at Blue Frog Solutions software.
- Linda Reino, formerly of Universal Health Services, joined electronic medical transcription provider MedQuist as COO.
- Dianah Neff, the former CIO of the city of Philadelphia, joined Civitium as a senior partner.
Thomas doesn't think her move to Sentillion will prevent her from returning to a CIO role in the future, if she so chooses. In fact, she thinks the experience will be an asset. "Were I to go back into the CIO role, I'd have a lot more knowledge of how other CIOs are deploying different solutions. This role at Sentillion gives me exposure to other best practices," she says.
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