Your career - the future has never been so bright

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Posting date: 21 December 2022

Lily Haake, Head of Harvey Nash Executive Search and Interim, provides her viewpoint on the future of digital leaders careers.

Do Digital Leaders belong on the board?

When recruiting CIOs and CTOs in the past, we used to say it was imperative that technology leaders could ‘speak the language of the business’. If you came across as too ‘techy’ or inward-looking then you would be unlikely to land a board-influencing role. Now, technology is the backbone that underpins nearly all business operations, in nearly every sector. Entire industries are pivoting, and even ‘traditional’ companies are transforming into technology-led businesses, with entirely new operating models and revenue streams. Sectors like financial services were early to transform, but others like logistics and professional services are quickly following suit.

What does this mean for the future of the digital leader?

Where, historically, technologists needed to develop their skill set to be more commercial, the paradigm is shifting. It’s business leaders who now must understand tech, or transformation will fail. As a result, we’re seeing many technology leaders move beyond the previous ceiling of CIO/CTO, into COO, NED and even CEO roles. We anticipate that this trend will only continue as businesses become ever more digitised.

So, what should digital leaders do to position their career for a broader executive role?

Firstly, diversify: accept any opportunity that comes your way to learn about different business operations, new sectors and business models. Consider your professional development, whether that’s an internal leadership programme or even considering doing an MBA. Seek every opportunity you can for more exposure to the boardroom; if you’re a CIO without a seat at the table, it might be time to look for a new job.

“Entire industries are pivoting, and even ‘traditional’ companies are transforming into technology-led businesses”

A good way to get your first exposure to the board is to accept pro-bono board-advisory or NED work and expand from there. Keep networking, particularly in your sector. Attend industry events and conferences – it’s amazing what opportunities can arise from a fortuitous meeting here.

Finally, nurture your relationships with headhunters! We’re here to advise you on your personal brand, your CV and your qualifications. We can introduce you to peers or mentors in the industry, and one day we might just find you that dream role.


The Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report 
The 2022 Nash Squared Digital Leadership Report is the world’s largest and longest running survey of senior technology decision makers. Launched in 1998 and previously called the CIO Survey, it has been an influential and respected indicator of major trends in technology and digital for over two decades. This year a survey of over 1785 digital leaders took place between 20th July 2022 and 10th October 2022, across 82 countries. In the UK, 746 digital leaders were surveyed.

To request a full copy of the results, please visit: https://www.nashsquared.com/digital-leadership-annual-report

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