Horizontal vs vertical career moves - the right angle matters.
This veteran who has been voted "The Most Respected CIO in India" by peer CIOs, (by CIO Association of India, 2012) and is a well known name among peers and industry professionals, now takes a new turn on the career highway. The road of course would not be a rough one for this seasoned man, a winner and recipient of many awards and accolades for pioneering Business IT implementations.
It would be interesting to see what prescriptions does this retail-maven write and emulate as he joins a completely new domain.
Wait! not completely new may be? Gupta has been the Group Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Shoppers Stop Limited, and earlier Group CIO at K Raheja Corp as well as a Business Head - Food & Beverages at Shoppers Stop.
But when you track his earlier bivoucs, you find his path more aesthetically chequered than a Versace shirt. One of his very early role was as an IT manager in The Great Eastern Shipping Co. Ltd from where he moved to DSP Merrill Lynch. Then he cut his teeth into the operations domain more finely as the National IT Manager for DHL Worldwide Express. Pharma is a pill he has tasted before as the Senior Director - BT for Pfizer Limited before he firmed his feet deep in retail vertical from 2007 onwards.
His resume clearly underscores one interesting point : a well-penetrated experience in providing Business IT leadership to companies across different verticals. The industry may be different but the edge is same - driving technology and enabling business with improved customer satisfaction while reducing operational IT budgets.
Looking at another old stager Venkat Iyer reveals a similar wisdom-sprinkled career path. Between Pfizer, Star TV and Wockhardt, Iyer has traversed a range of skills and a layers of function-specific experience.
Another industry czar Mani Mulki's pitch sketch shows a variety of innings played between FMCG Major Godrej to Pidilite to BFSI biggie ICICI bank.
Does that mean that all that hyperbole about CIOs dartboards reading CEO positions next is coming under scanner again?
Well, business alignment can have more connotations that vertical moves. Horizontal moves can be equally uplifting, intellectually-rewarding, professionally-salient and evolution-milestones. The ladder need not be always pointing upwards. Sometimes breaking the mould and playing hopscotch can be more fun and more savvy.
Reminds one of a study by Campus Technology in 2009 that was based on Dr. Herb Smaltz's 1999 doctoral healthcare CIO research. One of the interesting trends to emerge from the study regarding high education vertical, was that the foundation roles of Classic IT Support Provider and Contract Oversight have been consistently singled out as the most important and the most effective roles for the CIO while some roles have been consistent: that of Business Partner and IT Educator.
It was conjectured that probably CIOs would like to spend more time working at such roles--sitting at the leadership table and being involved in the planning for the institution, and educating the institution on the value of IT. The Maslow Hierarchy of Needs comparison was brought into picture here. "The CIO cannot move on to those higher-level functions until the institution's more basic needs are met, basic needs in the form of the Classic IT Support and Contract Oversight roles. Maslow comparison continues be explored as a possible explanation for this ongoing role importance and effectiveness trend."
In a blog, ace analyst and industry observer Ray Wang underlines how the Four Personas of the Next Gen CIO are playing out. This research of 79 progressive CIO’s identified the key projects for each of the personas: Chief Infrastructure Officer, Chief Integration Officer, Chief Intelligence Officer, and Chief Innovation Officer. As he argues in his article, "Most of today's CIOs fit squarely in the Chief Infrastructure Officer persona, dedicating their time and resources struggling to keep the lights on. Shifting into the Chief Integration Officer role will be a smooth transition for most of them, but only a few with a business bent will grow into the Chief Innovation Officer role. On the flip side, many business leaders with a technology bent will evolve into the Chief Innovation Officer and Chief Intelligence Officer roles."
There is a lot of scope, action, twisting of plots possible in the horizontal axis of a CIO's career graph.
Pharma companies around the world are reinventing the landscape with executive dashboards, smarter back-end links to R&D, supply chain upgrades, and a lot more. In a recent update, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development had created a grid system capable of offering universal access to regional computing and data for its operating companies. As per a media report, the platform even enabled the company to get new product through FDA approval more quickly and thus a speedier Go-to-market advantage.
It would be exciting to see what Gupta's Rx mantra turns out to be as he grabs the rudder at Cipla.
A lot is possible if things spin across 180 degrees. The right angle is not always perpendicular after all.