Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Career advice: 3 up-and-coming IT roles

Premier 100 IT Leader William Mayo also answers questions on combining international teams and the skills needed to become a CIO

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

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William Mayo
William Mayo, senior IT director at Biogen Idec

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader: William Mayo
Senior IT director
Company: Biogen Idec

Mayo is this month's Premier 100 IT Leader. If you have a question you'd like to pose to one of Computerworld's Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to

What do you see as the top five IT careers for the next 5 to 10 years? I see two distinct paths for IT careers over the next several years: companies where IT is the product, and those that use IT to deliver some other product. This distinction has always been there, but it is becoming more pronounced every day. In the first group, roles are not fundamentally changing. For the second group, I see the following generically worded roles as the most in demand (and sorry for only answering with these three broad categories):

1. The Uber-Business-Process Fanatic: Someone who is so firmly planted in the how of your business that he thinks constantly about how to improve the process and knows in his bones what really matters to success.

2. The Integration Guru: Someone who can figure out how to get that data that triggers that insight that is then exploited using that bit of technology and gets it to work on that cool new device.

3. The Tinkerer: Someone who understands the value of continuous improvement. Such people will have significant value in keeping a staggering amount of implemented technology well tuned. Too often something is built, digested into the lifeblood of an organization and then never given any attention again. Not everything has to be replaced.

After a merger, we've been told to turn two development teams, located in the U.S. and Europe, into one. Any advice on making this go smoothly? The trick here, of course, is the "into one" part of the directive. I am going to assume no constraints, so this will likely be a bit idealized, but these are the types of things to consider.

Just to get it out of the way, I will mention process. This is foundational in a "necessary but not sufficient" way. It also serves as a good way to get the teams working together on defining their own future. Forging groups that include people from both teams, have them define the common working processes they will be using going forward.

The rest is all essentially cultural in nature. Finding ways to get the teams leaning on each other is critical. (Note that I say "leaning on," not "relying on"; that can just lead to finger pointing about failed delivery.) Determine each group's specialty, and build that up so the two teams will seek each other's input. A corollary here would be to avoid trying to make the two groups exact duplicates of each other. There may be things that should be shared, and a little competition never hurt, but too much competition creates a winner-take-all mentality and, ultimately, bad behavior. Selective cross-staffing will also pay big dividends. Identify clear leaders (technically or organizationally) and move them from one team to the other. And as a leader yourself, be very clear about what you expect, and relentlessly recognize "good" behavior.

What do you think are the essential skills nowadays for someone to be tapped as a CIO? And how can they be acquired? The funny thing about being in the lead technology position within a company is that it is not about what you know about technology, but what your team does with it. This does imply that you need to understand two things: what is important to your company, and how technology can help.

The best way to acquire the first is to totally immerse yourself in what your company does. Build an understanding of the strategy, why that strategy was chosen over other possible strategies, what is critical to the success of that strategy, etc. If you are in this industry, you already understand technology. To stand out you need to understand what technology can do to advance your company's strategy.

From there it is all about leadership. Immerse yourself in the task of genuine leadership. Learn what this means to you personally, since true leadership needs to come from who you are and your personal commitments. You will need the disciplined execution, proper structure, right goals, incentives, etc. But don't forget to be a person too. Being your genuine self, complete with letting your personality show through, is what people need to see to follow you.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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