You Gotta Move!
This may come as a shock to some aspiring CIOs. But, if you want to rise to the top position, you must be prepared to move. Maybe that’s just to another department, maybe it’s across town, maybe it’s to another city or state, maybe it’s to another country! But, it is a fact of life that in order to advance you often need to take a new job with a new company.
These days, universities and colleges seldom promote from within to the top technology position, unless they are still mired in the old models of having operational “directors” who are expected to keep the lights on but with no real authority to effect lasting change. Institutions almost always seek to find someone from outside the organization, preferably someone from a bigger, better school looking for a “new opportunity” or challenge.
I’ve seen many “number two” IT managers linger in their jobs for 10 - 20 - 30 years, never to get the nod to the top position. If you’re comfortable with your life, and you enjoy being “number two” that’s fine - nothing wrong with that at all. But, if you are feeling overlooked and unappreciated (and you want to be a CIO!), that’s because it is probably time to move. Move to someplace different that will be glad to have you as their new CIO.
All this moving does come at a price. Family, support networks, and comfort zones can all be stressed and challenged as a result of these changes, sometimes to the breaking point. It's not something to jump into without forethought.
Whether this advice is the right advice for you depends on how much you want (or need!) to be the CIO. Good luck and think it through. Don't be afraid to try something new, but also don't forget to investigate your destination before you make the leap. The job itself, the location, your co-workers - these things all matter immensely, especially once you've passed the point of no return.
But, yes, the grass is often greener on the other side of the fence.