Three Keys for Career Growth - Lessons Learned at Central Ohio IT

March 01, 2019 5 min Read

With a great deal of help, I put together an IT leadership development program – Central Ohio IT – in 2017 for aspiring CIOs in Central Ohio.  The following message is my effort to share what I’ve learned from the tremendous CIO guest speakers that have presented as part of the program.

Central Ohio IT 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 CIOs as guest speakers to discuss various aspects of IT leadership. The following lesson learned is based off of my interpretation of the 2018 presentation by David White, CIO of Battelle Memorial Institute.

David provided a presentation that was exceptionally inspiring to the IT Leaders program.  I provide our speakers with a free reign for what they would like to discuss, normally positioning it as ‘if you were on the way up, what would you like to hear from someone who has been there’. David is one of the most respected people in our IT community and he took us on a compelling path through his career before he moved to a technology innovation overview.  We did not expect to hear the good and bad of career growth, but David’s ‘The Jagged Edge to Success’ provided exactly that. Without going into a breakdown on his road of success and setbacks through his Jagged Edge, three key points were driven home for me.

  • Always be educating yourself – through his experiences at Ohio State, Columbus State, Franklin University and earning a CPA, David continued and continues to build his knowledge base.

If your life does not allow for formal education at this point, that does not prevent you from learning about your industry, your drivers, and what is coming on your horizon.  Personally, this year I have had to learn more that any time in the past ten years about how technology is changing, and it is exceptionally rewarding.

  • Always be sharing and giving back – David participates today in several key initiatives focused on knowledge growth in our community – the Central Ohio CIO Forum, , the African American Leadership Academy, the CIO Tomorrow planning committee, the COSI Community Board, the Columbus Collaboratory and the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

A common theme all of these organizations share is that they all benefit our region.  The message here is to GET INVOLVED with your community. We have an incredibly vibrant network of organizations that are looking for participants. Back in 2013, Ben Blanquera and I started the TechLifeColumbus weekly newsletter. It lists all of the events and meetups in the community, so it is easy to learn what events are out there and when they occur.  Understandably, not all of us are going to be asked to join influential boards, but all of us can get started somewhere. Coming home and watching Netflix and sitting on your phone does not build bridges of communication and does not build success opportunities for you.

  • Never give up – even when you think you are making all the right moves and conducting yourself in a professional manner, sometimes you can get your feet yanked out from under you, and things can come crashing down. And sometimes none of it is your fault, it just happens. Above all else, the lesson I took from David is that you always believe in yourself.

The balance of David’s presentation featured cloud, security and disruptive innovation technologies. As the CIO of an organization founded on innovation, David has a remarkable background in these areas.  I may be biased based off my day job, but I believe that the businesses that are still buying hardware today are doing it for the very last time, and that they have already fallen behind the organizations that have embraced the agility, availability, risk mitigation and cost control that the best cloud providers can offer. He discussed how once – not all that long ago - the future was in the future. Now the future is now. Captain James T. Kirk held a tricorder to tell him what he needed to know; we hold the latest iPhone. Today, more than two million Americans hold the title of truck driver, and they are about to be significantly impacted by Mobility as a Service. When David White spoke to our IT Leaders class, it was the first time I saw him speak, and I am looking forward to my next opportunity.

In next week’s post, I will share additional thoughts based off of another presentation that was delivered to the IT Leaders class by one of our great local technology executives. My goal is to create 40 blog posts in 2019 with my thought on the presentations from this outstanding group of speakers.  Beginning at the CIO Tomorrow event on April 30, 2019, we will begin accepting nominations for the next IT Leaders cohort, which will kickoff in September 2019.

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

Steve Gruetter Steve Gruetter

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