It's a challenge, no matter how much experience you bring.
Donna M. Schaeffer, a professor at the University of San Francisco, trains future CIOs in a joint MBA-computer science program. "I tell students to really see what the company says about itself," she says. "But what an organization says about itself and what it actually does don't always coincide. More often than not, you come into an unexpected situation."
Take CIO Mike Taylor, for example. He went from running IT at a dot-com to a nearly century-old shipbuilding business that has a large, unionized workforce. One company was a fast and nimble startup; the other, a subsidiary of $147 million Todd Shipyards Corp. in Seattle, was steeped in tradition and entrenched ways of doing things. His first night on the job the ERP system failed.
CIO Tracy Austin spent almost two decades in the casino business at $4.5 billion Harrah's Entertainment Inc. in Las Vegas, but found herself having to adapt to a new business model and corporate culture at $2.8 billion Mandalay Resort Group. The former focused on gambling revenue and centralized decision making; the latter on a more diversified resort experience with individual properties, each enjoying a great deal of autonomy.
Al Castro was a veteran of $422 million California Pizza Kitchen Inc. of Los Angeles when he left hospitality for sports -- specifically, Angels Baseball LP, the $127 million franchise also known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Baseball turned out to be far more collegial than the cutthroat restaurant business, at least off the field. Castro found himself swapping tips with CIOs from other teams, something that would have been unthinkable in his previous job.
Enzo Micali spent a dozen years working for a banking giant that swallowed up competitors like crazy. Then he went to work for $650 million 1-800-flowers.com Inc. of Westbury, N.Y. Handling mergers involving tens of thousands of new employees was one kind of challenge; dealing with a massive traffic spike on the Friday before Mother's Day was another kind.
To learn how CIOs find their footing in a new environment, we asked these executives from different industries to describe their experiences and discuss the challenges of adapting to a new professional landscape.
This was first published in May 2005