As technology continues to become a utility that even young children understand, it’s my opinion that the CIO role no longer requires a hard-core technical background. I don’t see myself as an IT guy as much as I do a business technology person. Certainly, you have to have technology knowledge and a skill set, but so do most business executives in this day and age.

As a CIO, you’ve got to understand the business. You’ve got to be a solid leader, have a vision, and be able to communicate with other C-level executives. Presentation skills are crucial. It’s tough these days to come up as a developer or infrastructure person to CIO. Certainly, that can still happen, but it’s harder for people who spend a lot of their early career on really technical things to learn the leadership and the management side of the world, and to make that move.

If I’m having a discussion with our president or our CEO, there can be no technobabble in that conversation. It has to be, “How is technology going to enhance the business? How is it going to drive business and help to create efficiencies?” You have to talk entirely in business terminology. The earlier in your career you can learn that the better — if your goal is to be a CIO.

Some still insist that you must have a background in computer science or engineering to be a CIO, but why do you have to have a degree in that field? By the time you come to the real world, whatever you’ve learned in school has changed so much. I have a finance degree. I’ve never programmed once in my life. I’ve never logged into the server. I’ve never done any of those things. If you’re going to be a CTO, this might be a consideration, but not a CIO. Not anymore.

This article was appeared in The Enterprisers Project web site sponsored by Red Hat. The web site serves a community of CIOs addressing the future of business and IT. Tim Elkin, SVP and  CIO of PrimeLending, is a frequent contributor. You can read the full article here

Elkins joined PrimeLending in November 2008 as Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer. In October 2012, Tim was promoted to executive vice president, chief information officer, and he is responsible for information security, IT operations, and technology initiatives. Before joining PrimeLending, he served as chief information officer at AmericaHomeKey and BSM Financial. Tim has more than 20 years of experience in the mortgage industry.

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