CIO career trajectory: Leaving chemistry for the ‘information business’

CIO career trajectory: Leaving chemistry for the ‘information business’

How Steve Rubinow of Thomson Reuters started as a university professor with a PhD in chemistry, and moved to a succession of business technology executive roles in food manufacturing, car rental and finance.

Having experience in a raft of industries also worked in his favour in at least one of his jobs. “The company was looking for someone strong in many disciplines because the problems they had were multidimensional,” he says.

“There is always so much you can do to determine your career,” he says.

“You can take the right courses, you can send letters to the right company – that is in your control. But then there is the serendipity factor – some people call it luck.

“Part of the excitement is you don’t know where life will take you. Think where you want to go, keep your eyes and ears open for opportunity – if it does not cost so much to explore, go and do it.”

And talk to someone in the field, he adds. “It helps to run through scenarios to see whether it is worth pursuing.”

The leadership imperative

For Steve Rubinow, risk management is a “very important role of the CIO.”

But, as he explains, it is not about risk avoidance or being risk averse.

"I am a CIO that never says no. I say yes, but talk about the risks," says Rubinow. "I don't care what you are asking for except breaking the law - everything else is negotiable."

"Very few things change in the world more than technology," he says. "You have to be on top of it all the time," he explains.

Whether technology or business leader, he says the CIO needs to be constantly pushing people to get them out of their comfort zone, get them to take on change.

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Related: Different pathways to ICT leadership

Chris Pope of Air New Zealand: Church organiser to ICT leader

Roger Jones of Auckland Transport: Police officer to CIO

Tanya Harris of Reserve Bank of New Zealand: HR director to chief information officer

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