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What standout CIOs have in common? A passion for IT

Hearing the personal stories of this year’s batch of MIT Sloan’s CIO Leadership Award finalists, whom SearchCIO had the good fortune to feature in our conference video series, had me in awe. What sparked their interest in IT leadership? Associate editor Emily McLaughlin explores these standout CIOs’ career trajectories in this week’s Searchlight.

It was striking how each CIO’s journey was so distinct; indeed, one of the few things they had in common was that each story did not begin with the revelation of “I want to be an IT leader when I grow up!” Perhaps because it doesn’t sound as glamorous as “doctor” or “firefighter,” but probably because it isn’t part of a 9-year-old’s vocabulary. And that is the point. The role of the CIO was young and uncharted when these IT execs started out.

So it stands to reason that the path to CIO  was long and winding for these folks — in a good way. They acquired myriad  skills, both hard and soft, in the process. F. Thaddeus Arroyo, AT&T’s CIO (not to mention an MIT CIO Leadership Award winner) always took the road less traveled — lateral moves in addition to promotions, and in both IT and business, no less — with an eye toward his professional growth. Dell CIO Andi Karaboutis followed her mathematical bent: She started out studying industrial engineering but became a computer science convert after taking a course in FORTRAN. Kristin Darby, on the other hand, grew up with IT (discovering a knack for software development while working for her family’s home automation business) but — in a rebellious streak — left it for accounting and healthcare. She eventually found IT again, this time merging it with her desire to improve lives.

But perhaps the more important  aspect of these leaders’ stories is the attribute they share with  hot shots from all professions — passion. Leadership requires it. Each of these IT leaders discovered what they were passionate about and followed their gut — which eventually molded them into the well-rounded trailblazers they are today.

Who knew business and technology could be such an adventure? Parents – and schools – take note!

In other important tech news this week: Apple also strives to inspire fun with a new programming language Swift; a report shows why young workers are moths to the startup flame; Japanese corporation Softbank creates the first emotionally smart robot; and more.

Read all about it in this week’s Searchlight!

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