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Grow your own CIO with in-house training

Internal development programs can nurture up-and-coming IT leaders while tackling real company issues.

February 7, 2011 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Last summer, about 30 hand-picked IT managers convened in an executive classroom for the third session of CIO University, a leadership development program for would-be CIOs. The agenda was chock-full of sessions covering best practices for stakeholder management along with role-playing exercises to explore the Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict resolution. Guest speakers included C-level executives as well as former attendees who had gone on to become CIOs. A post-session happy hour and dinner gave participants a chance to network, exchange insights and simply blow off steam.

It might sound like your typical leadership development seminar, but CIO University stands apart in several ways.

For one thing, the curriculum is fine-tuned to specifically meet the needs of IT management. For another, instead of being sponsored by a university or an IT trade association, with attendance open to IT execs from multiple organizations, this leadership program was homegrown by a single company for its high-performing IT staffers only.

Conceived and implemented by Kevin Hart, CIO at Clearwire Communications LLC in Kirkland, Wash., CIO U aims to serve the following three functions: nurture the next generation of IT leaders at the $274.5 million telecommunications upstart; act as a forum wherein employees can work on real management issues relevant to the company; and foster a culture of teamwork among Hart's 300-person IT staff.

Clearwire's CIO U classes are held for a full day once every quarter in rooms on loan from the University of Washington. Participants are given homework assignments in which they're asked to apply improvement initiatives in the workplace. While not every graduate is destined to hold the title of CIO, especially in a company like Clearwire with a relatively small IT staff, Hart says the experience attendees gain is invaluable to their careers and to their employers.



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