Launched in 2017, Central Ohio IT Leaders.org is a peer group that meets monthly to network, discuss ideas, learn from experienced speakers, and establish collaborative relationships with the goal of nurturing the next generation of Columbus IT leadership. Several times throughout the year, the peer group will host CIO guest speakers to discuss various aspects of IT leadership. The following lesson learned is based off of my interpretation of a recent presentation by Angelo Mazzocco, CIO of Central Ohio Primary Care (COPC).
There are five key attributes of the CIO role. The one that resonated the most with the IT Leaders class was Angelo’s concept of ‘Build a network before you need it.’ Angelo cited numerous examples of how a robust, engaged professional network of peers can help you in your role and help your business move faster and more accurately.
He started the Central Ohio CIO Forum in order to become more informed and to learn what other like-minded technology leaders were doing to advance their respective businesses. In my interview with John Kessler, the Chief Strategy Office for Motorists Insurance, in my ‘Five Solid Questions’ article in TechLife Columbus, he stated his ‘selfish’ reason to be highly involved in the Central Ohio CIO Forum was to learn from the experience of others.
“It’s so important for me to be an effective leader for Motorists to get outside of these proverbial four walls and spend time with a lot of people who are a lot smarter than me and a lot of people who have that rich background and experience, so that I can learn from them. That is why I’m always active.”
Another example cited by Angelo was the concept of trying out a new technology. When a company wants to learn about a new technology, they usually take one of their best people, add more on top of their workload and ask them to research a particular vendor or solution and see if it would be a good fit to resolve a current business challenge. The researcher may not have a great network, so he or she would Google information about the solutions, speak with some co-workers and informed friends in the industry, and call a couple trusted vendor partners. Out of these actions and the inherent personal bias of the researcher, a recommendation will be created several weeks later and the firm may or may not choose to implement the new technology.
Compare this method to how the members of the Central Ohio CIO Forum will often start this type of project. One of the CIOs will send out a message to the closed group over email, asking them about experiences with a new technology. Within a couple days, several members will chime in on what they did and did not like about the new technology, experiences with success, frustrations with failure, and information they wish they would have known going into the project. In this scenario, the CIO has the opportunity to learn from the experiences of others and will be able to guide his staff much more accurately and timely basis.
This is one of the reasons why the Central Ohio CIO Forum has grown to 150+ members and why the CIO Tomorrow event has become one of the very best CIO education events in our region. Of interest, a new trusted peer group network is rising from the interactions from the IT Leaders program. During our first cohort, Maureen, Mike and I observed an interesting dynamic within the group. About 15 participants were ‘leading the class’ in the various discussion topics, about 15 more were not leading but actively engaged. Ten were there, but not engaged and the last ten were lost and showed up intermittently. Of the 30 or so that were engaged, they began to rely on each other for information and a peer network group was formed. Also of interest, is a situation I run into far too often.
A couple times a month, almost every month, I will be contacted by an IT professional that I have not met before, for the purpose of ‘networking.’ I will take the meeting and learn that the person contacted me because he or she has been displaced from a job they had for several years and they have come to the hard reality that they do not know anyone outside of that firm and this makes it very hard to find a new role that fits them. A great network takes years to build and nurture and there are many times that you need to put more into it then you get out of it. The truth of the matter is that you need to build a network before you need it. In next week’s post, I will share another key attribute of the CIO role that was discussed at Central Ohio IT Leaders.org.
If you’re interested in discussing the IT Leaders program, digital transformation, cloud technology or how to get involved with Central Ohio’s IT community, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.