While more than half of chief technology officers surveyed by Korn Ferry expressed chief executive ambitions, most believed the role wouldn’t be the next step in their careers.
Your chief technology officer may be leading your IT department now, but it’s likely they see themselves playing a different role someday.
In fact, according to a recent survey of CTOs and professionals in similar roles (including chief information officers and chief digital officers), slightly more than half of respondents (51 percent) see themselves eventually taking on the CEO position. But the study, conducted by the management consulting firm Korn Ferry, found that only 12 percent saw that as their next career move. Many more (41 percent) saw themselves at a larger organization in a technology role next instead.
The jump from CTO to CEO isn’t unheard of—as Industry Dive notes, Verizon’s recently appointed CEO, Hans Vestberg, served in a CTO role before becoming the top executive.
One complicating factor for tech executives looking to make a next step, according to Korn Ferry’s 2019 Technology Officers Pulse Survey, is a lack of succession planning in many organizations. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (71 percent) didn’t see an internal employee who could replace them as CTO, and 41 percent said they didn’t believe their organization had a comprehensive succession plan.
“It’s critical that organizations identify and develop a strong pipeline of successors across the technology function,” Craig Stephenson, who manages Korn Ferry’s North American technology officers practice, said in a news release. “It is an important aspect to ensure the rapidly evolving technology function continues to play an even greater role in helping organizations set and execute their business strategy.”
And while most tech execs don’t see themselves becoming CEOs anytime soon, many say the CTO role provides important leadership experience. The report notes that 57 percent of tech officers regularly report to their organization’s board.
A key issue for CTOs is digital transformation, which 41 percent of respondents cited as their top strategic priority. At the same time, one in five respondents said this is the area where they most need to develop talent.
“The need for organizations to digitally transform isn’t going away anytime soon,” Stephenson added. “Technology officers should focus on attracting, retaining, and developing top digital and technology talent to ensure the function is a business enabler in this digital transformation.”