The Job After CIO

min read

For many higher education IT professionals, the position of chief information officer is the pinnacle of professional aspirations. And plenty of people who have achieved CIO status swear that it’s the best job on campus. The fast pace, the ability to influence every facet of the institution, the respect you find at dinner parties when you tell people what you do—these are just some of the attractions of the CIO position.

Still, stature and responsibility come at a price, and any CIO will tell you that the hours can be long, the stress can be taxing, and sometimes no one on campus cares who you are until the network is hacked and you spend your New Guinea vacation assessing the damage and restoring the systems. They say that it’s difficult to keep up with changes in technology, system upgrades, devices that students connect to the network, and never-ending demands for more and more bandwidth, especially as money gets tighter and qualified staff are increasingly difficult to recruit and retain.

As a result, a growing number of higher education CIOs are hanging up their keyboards, as it were, to pursue calmer jobs—careers with far less day-to-day pressure. Among the more common post-CIO jobs is being a member of a bomb-disposal squad. One former CIO (whose name you would recognize but is being withheld for privacy reasons) said that his blood pressure is down and his outlook on life is up ever since he joined the bomb unit of a local law enforcement agency. “When I’m inspecting an unattended backpack for explosives or, better yet, defusing an explosive device that’s been discovered,” he said, “it’s just me and the bomb. It’s meditative and peaceful. No one is yelling at me that their game console can’t connect to the network or that they’ve lost their e-mail password again. For me, it was a great career move.”

Other CIOs have found serenity in jobs including hostage negotiators and members of SWAT teams. One CIO left her position at a renowned research university to be an emergency room doctor. “As a CIO,” she said, “I would break into hives whenever we had to upgrade to a new version of the LMS. I wouldn’t sleep for days. Now, all I have to do at work is treat gunshot wounds or resuscitate toddlers who get into the cleaning products under the sink, and then I can go home, put my phone in airplane mode, and catch up on Game of Thrones.”

One CIO who chose to stay in education after he left the pressure cooker of IT says he has found contentment in the relative tranquility of teaching preschool.

This article is part of EDUCAUSE Special Coverage for April 2017.

Copyright: © 2017 EDUCAUSE. The text of this article is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License.