Monday, 25 February 2013 12:16

CIO Succession - Tenure and Career Path

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The popular conception is that CIO has become a short life expectancy role, so we examined the tenures and next destinations of the CIOs preceding our set of newly appointed ones. Our data provides a richer picture. Nearly half (47%) had tenures of 3-6 years, and another 23% had longer tenures (the longest being 16 and 14 years at CA Technologies and Marriott, respectively). The average tenure was about 5 years, but it was closer to 4 in the largest company segment.

Figure 17: Average Tenure of Former CIOs by Company Size

Average Tenure of Former CIOs by Company Size

Of the 48 former CIOs whose next destinations are clear, more moved on to better things or retired than moved laterally or resigned:

  • 8 were promoted within the company
  • 12 moved to more responsible positions in other companies
  • 6 moved laterally (5 to other companies)
  • 12 resigned
  • 10 retired

We took a close look at CIO positions that had turned over twice in short order-three years or less. Among ten instances where the former CIO's tenure was 2-3 years, six of those CIOs moved up, including one to a CEO position, two to COO of the company, and two to CIO of a larger company. Two retired, and only two resigned. Several of these transitions, though rapid, were according to succession plans.

Where the tenure was less than two years, the situations are messier. One CIO jumped to a larger company and three resigned amid shake-ups. One company, Lowe's, had two very short-term CIOs in succession. The first resigned after less than a year. The second assumed the post on an interim basis, took a retirement package, and has since been replaced by the new CIO recruited from outside the company.

Two of the companies in our survey group merged the CIO role with an existing executive's role. J. C. Penny brought in a new CTO and two months later the CIO and CTO roles were combined under the CTO; the former CIO resigned. Credit Suisse folded the CIO responsibilities under the CFO, eliminating the separate post altogether.

The bottom line: Management shake-ups and corporate restructurings can make tenures short, but the CIO role can be a stepping stone as often as not.

Read 457 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 July 2020 16:13
Dora Vell

Managing Partner

Dora Vell is the CEO of Vell Executive Search, a boutique executive search firm in Boston that recruits technology executives and board members for companies ranging from promising tech startups to Fortune 100 companies. Throughout her 22-year career in executive search, she has successfully completed hundreds of assignments, placing board members, CEOs, COOs, CIOs, technology officers, vice presidents and many other C-level executives. Vell’s clients span both private and public companies and her work has included searches in markets large and small across the U.S. and Canada.

Prior to founding Vell Executive Search in 2005, she was a partner at the executive search consulting firm Heidrick & Struggles for seven years. She started in the Technology Practice in the Toronto office, became the firm’s Technology Practice leader for Canada, and then joined the firm’s Boston office.

Before her career in executive search, Vell worked for 11 years at IBM Canada in software-related roles of increasing responsibility. She started as a software engineer, managed a software engineering team of 100, and then led software sales for IBM Canada. She holds seven worldwide software patents. This deep industry understanding has helped Vell Executive Search become a recognized leader in finding senior executive and board talent for software and SaaS companies.

Vell is a recognized industry thought leader who has published several reports on governance and leadership topics. She has been frequently quoted as an expert on executive and board leadership by outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Business Week, Fortune, Agenda Week, MSNBC, Mass High Tech, The OPUS for the World Economic Forum, Boston Business Journal, The Globe & Mail, CIO Magazine, and IEEE. She has been a featured speaker on leadership at numerous conferences and at Columbia University's MBA program.

Vell has been a Fellow of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) and the Boston CEO Roundtable. She has served on the boards of Framingham State University, Entrepreneur's Organization, Goodwill, Mary Centre for Developmentally Handicapped Adults,, and RBC Capital Partners.

The trilingual daughter of a diplomat, Vell grew up in Canada, Greece, France, Switzerland and China. Her unique multicultural and international perspective, experiences as a woman in the male-dominated software field, and insights as a dual Canadian and U.S. citizen inform all her work for clients.

Vell received an MBA from the University of Toronto, a master’s in Computer Science from the University of Waterloo, and a bachelor’s in Computer Science from Carleton University.  She has also completed the MIT Entrepreneurial Master’s program.

Areas of Practice:

  • C-Level Technology Executives
  • CEOs, CROs, Heads of Sales, Heads of Marketing, Chief Product Officers
  • Technology Officers: CTOs, CIOs, Heads of Engineering, CISOs, Chief Data Officers
  • Board Directors
  • Diversity Executives and Board Directors
  • Canadian Executives and Board Directors


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