CIO UK Interview with David Mathison: What CDOs can teach CIOs about how to reach the CEO role


Left to right: Charlie Redmayne: CEO of Harper Collins UK (at the London CDO Summit 2014); Paul Shetler: Co-founder and Partner at AccelerateHQ (at the Sydney CDO Summit 2016); Sarah Wilkinson: CEO of NHS Digital (at the London CDO Summit 2017); Ganesh Bell: President at Uptake (at the NYC CDO Summit 2014).

Thomas Macaulay, Senior Online Editor of CIO UK recently interviewed David Mathison, CEO of the CDO Club, on why Chief Digital Officers are more likely than CIOs to become CEOs.

Below are some excerpts from that interview. The full article is here.

"Mathison believes that the principle reason why CDOs are more likely than CIOs to reach the C-suite is their development of more varied skillsets.

Mathison’s team looked at the CVs of each of the 101 CDOs on their list and found that around two-thirds of them had previously been employed as Managing Director, Executive Director, President or CEO prior to becoming CDOs.

CIOs are more likely to pursue IT career paths, which don't typically experience of marketing, sales, ops, and finance that CEOs require, particularly at publicly traded companies whose board members and shareholders will be wary of candidates who lack those skills.

"Companies are hiring these people, not so much because of technical chops or because of marketing prowess, but because they know how to take an analogue business and turn it into digital one," said Mathison.

Mathison advises CIOs who want a different seat in the C-suite to follow the career paths and skillsets taken to the CEO role by people in similar and companies and sectors.

You may find inspiration in the career paths of:

  • Ulrik Bengtsson was previously CEO at both Swedish gaming company Betsson AB and broadcaster Viasat Sweden before joining William Hill as CDO in September 2019.
  • Stephen van Rooyen of Sky UK and Ireland, who was promoted from Managing Director of Sales, Marketing & Brand to Chief Digital Marketing Officer before being named CEO.
  • Charlie Redmayne, who left his job as Chief Digital Officer at HarpersCollins in 2014 to lead Harry Potter digital publisher Pottermore before returning to HarpersCollins as UK CEO.
  • Vivian Schiller, who was CEO of National Public Radio, and then became CDO of NBC News. What may be seen as a step down in position was a big step-up in organisation.

CIOs also have great opportunities to progress into the C-suite if they are willing to acquire the experiences that the step up requires. And the need for those skills is increasing as outsourcing becomes a growing threat.

"If you're just making sure the lights are still on, that could be outsourced too," warned Mathison. "Grab these <digital, data, and analytics> responsibilities while you can, because it's important – and they're going to hire somebody else to do it if you don't."

Read the full article here >


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