Graceful exits from IT: Why CIOs decide to move on

What do you do after reaching the pinnacle of IT management? If you're like these CIOs, you leave. Here's where they went, and why.

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As a CIO, he didn't have that kind of autonomy, or creative freedom. "Often in the senior executive ranks, IT is viewed as a supporting role and not necessarily as a strategic role for the company. As a result, you find that your ability to play with the big boys is limited," he says.

From IT to Strategy Officer

Andres Carvallo, 51, was CIO at Austin Energy when he was named a Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader in 2006. At the Austin-based electric utility, he helped lead the creation of one of the first smart electric grids in the nation and reported directly to the CEO during the project.

When the CEO post opened up, he threw his hat into the ring. But Carvallo later chose to withdraw when he realized he lacked mandatory experience with utility rate hearings and negotiations.

That set the wheels in motion. "I thought to myself, do I sit here and continue to polish this diamond that we have built, or do I leave and try to polish other diamonds somewhere else?"

Carvallo took a job as a chief strategy officer at Grid Net, a San Francisco company that builds software to run smart electric grids. Then, in May 2011, he joined Proximetry, a San Diego-based vendor of wireless network performance management systems.

As executive vice president for energy solutions and chief strategy officer at Proximetry, Carvallo is in charge of research, strategy planning and execution, marketing and more. "It's a huge change" from his work as a CIO, Carvallo says. "Here, I'm the expert on grids, the technology and the products. I open doors for the company and help with marketing strategy and business development."

From IT to Entrepreneur

As director of information services at Jack in the Box, Roger Zakharia was second in command to the CIO when he left in 2008, after 14 years at the fast-food company. Instead of pursuing a CIO role elsewhere, Zakharia, now 51, went into business for himself.

"The possibility of an eventual CIO role wasn't enough for me," he says. "I wanted to run businesses."

Zakharia is doing just that: He's CEO of four startups: Gocar San Diego Tours; ScoreOurBiz.com, an online customer-feedback service for businesses; an IT consulting firm called World Technology Solutions; and Pacific Rent-A-Car.

"Business was in my blood," he says. "It was something I always wanted to explore. I wanted to get involved in businesses, not just in technology."

From IT to Consultant

CIOs need to pay attention to much more than technology, says Michael Hugos, former CIO of Network Services, a global janitorial and business supplies cooperative.

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