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How to move to a new industry

How to move to a new industry

Opinder Bawa's nearly yearlong effort to move into the health-care industry wasn't easy. Bawa, a child of Silicon Valley who had worked exclusively for technology firms until last February, found himself pigeonholed as a high-tech exec. Recruiters and hiring managers couldn't see past his lack of health-care experience. To overcome that handicap, the former CTO of the SCO Group took on some consulting assignments to learn about the field, versed himself in electronic medical records and other health-care IT systems, and figured out ways to demonstrate how he could apply his previous experience. Eventually, Bawa, 42, was offered a job as CTO of the private, nonprofit Boston Medical Center.

As Bawa found, switching industries even among highly specialized ones"is no longer impossible, says Carl Gilchrist, leader of the North American CIO practice at recruiting firm Spencer Stuart. "CIOs are being hired for their leadership, business skills and ability to execute. If you can do all three of those things well and you have board presence, you can cross industries for the most part," he says. Of the last 50 CIO placements his firm has made, half came from outside the hiring industry, he says.

Among the CIOs who've transitioned into new industries recently are:

-- Robert Urwiler, the former senior VP and CIO of Macromedia and Peregrine Systems, joined Vail Resorts as senior VP and CIO in August.

-- Harold Hampton left newspaper publisher Knight Ridder to become SVP of technology and operations at RolloverSystems, a provider of outsourced retirement plan rollover services, in July.

-- The city of Boston announced William Oates, former CIO of Starwood Hotels, as its new CIO in June.

-- Construction firm HBE hired Scott Berlinger as its new CIO from a debt ­collection company in June.

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