Aspiring CIOs: Success is not all about your team

 Focus on the whole organization's success – not just IT's success – says CIO MIchael Spears of NCCI. Here's his advice for up-and-coming CIOs 
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[Editor's note: As part of our ongoing series in which IT leaders offer advice to the next generation of CIOs, Michael Spears, CIO of NCCI, explains why up and coming IT leaders should make a point to get out of IT for a while.]

My first CIO job:

I was appointed CIO and chief data officer at the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) in 2007. It's my first CIO job. 

Prior experience:

I received a BBA in Computer Information Systems and an MBA, both from the University of Miami. I started my career as a programmer analyst and about two years later, I joined a reengineering team and ultimately became project manager of the implementation. From there I moved through leading various operations departments (e.g. customer service). The next stop was to head up a rebuilding of our product development/product management area. In 2005, I joined the executive team as chief data officer and soon after added CIO to my responsibilities. 

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What my first CIO job taught me:

The biggest lesson that I learned was that building your team and developing your talent should be your top priority. You’ll never be able to keep your fingers on everything. Learn how to bounce back and forth from strategic and tactical discussions. Go down in the details when you have to, but stay strategic as much as you possibly can. 

My advice for aspiring CIOs:

Get out of IT for a while. I learned so much moving around to very different disciplines. If that isn’t feasible, at least try to support different business units to grow your knowledge. Knowing the business well will increase your value as a CIO.

If it is your first job in the C-Suite, make sure the executive team is your primary team. Be careful not to create problematic silos in the culture of the organization by focusing too much on ensuring the success of your group. You have to ensure the success of the company to be successful at this level.

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Michael B. Spears is CIO and chief data officer of The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI.) As CIO, he is responsible for oversight of all technology, application development, and the program management office.

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