Paul Cottey, CIO of Water Street Healthcare Partners, writes that the start of the New Year is an ideal time to examine your career aspirations, and your current situation, and to make a plan for professional growth.

Successful CIOs learn continuously and reinvent themselves regularly. We do this out of a desire to be better, but also, I believe, out of necessity. And in candid moments, we'll admit that we get bored easily, and that it is fun to learn! 

The dawn of a New Year seems like the ideal time to reflect on our career paths and what we could be doing to become our best professional selves. With that in mind, here are some signs it may be time to reinvent yourself.

Signs it is time to reinvent yourself

1. You finish everything on your to-do list every day for a week. 

Let's face it, part of what defines the CIO role is that there is always more work than can be done with the people, time and money available. If you find you are getting to the end of your work before the end of the week, then it is time to shake it up. If you have been focused on infrastructure, focus on applications. If you have been focused on applications, look at operations. Move "up the stack" and closer to business operations and revenue generation 

2. You are doing the same things over and over and over again. 

"Wash, rinse, repeat." That may be fine for shampooing, but at work, it is a sign that you are plateaued - at least temporarily. A period of calm before the next storm is not a bad thing, but long periods of doing the same thing over and over are again a sign that you need to reinvent yourself or face the question of why someone like you is still needed. 

"I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught." 

- Winston Churchill


3. You find you are simply adding more of the same kind of items to your backlog. 

If every request for something new from IT is just one more example of something you have heard before, then you may have stagnated. For example, if every user request is for a new report, maybe the right answer is to look for a new reporting architecture that allows for user self-service.  

4. Someone on your team wants your job and is qualified to do it. 

This may be the hardest hint for us to take, but when one of your team is ready for your job, you need to find a way to make room for that person to take it. You need to decide what is in it for your team member to stick around if you are "in the way." 

If you have decided it is time to reinvent yourself, how do you go about doing it?

Getting started 

1. Starting today is hard. Starting tomorrow will be harder. 

The right time to start this process is before you need to. What I mean is this: start reinventing yourself now before any of the above points apply to you!  

Make a list of the new skills and new technologies you want to learn. Blockchain?  Internet of Things. How about memristors? Maybe... 

Read voraciously. Spend every last nickel of your discretionary training budget. Talk to people. Be a student and learn. Pay attention to what is happening in other industries. 

2. Learn from your own operations and team. 

Study your root cause analysis and after-action reports. What did you miss? What was revealed that you haven’t executed on yet? Stay humble and be willing to change the way you have always done things. This is like shopping in your own closet: you may discover some really great items you forgot you had. 

Who on the team knows more than you do, and what can you learn from them? Give others a chance to share. Write a monthly article on the company intranet. Sponsor "lunch & learns" on topics for which people on your team have a passion. It doesn't have to be a pure IT subject as long as people are passionate and curious about it. Everyone will learn something, including the teacher. 

3. Find an operations leadership gap at your organization

One great way to reinvent yourself is to find a gap in the operations leadership at your company, and fill it. In my experience, the CIO is usually one of the savviest people about the company's operations, unless there is a strong hands-on COO. That is because the CIO sees the data flow from system to system, sees how the processes in one area impact the processes in the other, and knows what goes on behind the scenes. I think of this as a "slash" CIO role: CIO/Head of Analytics. CIO/Logistics. CIO/Administration. You get the point.

As you look ponder what 2019 has in store, pick one thing that will help you reinvent yourself and commit to doing it.  Put a tickler on your to-do list to see how you are doing on March 31, and again on June 30 and September 30. You may have been overly ambitious or too timid, but you will have taken the first step toward reinventing yourself.

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