How I Became a CIO: Bill Limond, Qatar Supreme Council of Health

Sara Peters, Editor in Chief | 8/14/2013 | 4 comments

Sara Peters
[Part III of E2's How to Become a CIO series.]

If you're a person of action who eschews politics, has a low tolerance for boredom, is more businessperson than techie, and wants to be a CIO one day, you might want to take a page out of Bill Limond's book.

Limond has been a CIO for 22 years, and in that time he's held over a dozen jobs. Limond specializes in interim CIO positions that may last for just a few months. In his longest interim position he spent just a shade over two years as the CIO of the City of London.

"I'm not a steady-state IT director or CIO," said Limond. "I'm much more of a change merchant."

It's an apt description, because in all of these roles he took the CIO's chair right when the organization was in a period of great change -- during a global expansion, an acquisition, a major project, or at the dawn of a brand-new organization altogether.

Change merchant
Look at just a snapshot of Limond's career. He served as CIO for:

  • The City of London when it was hosting the Summer Olympics;
  • A North American funeral services company when it was buying up Mom-and-Pop funeral parlors all over the US;
  • BAE Systems, the biggest aerospace/defense company in England, when it was acquiring Marconi;
  • British Gas when they had expanded their exploration efforts from the North Sea out to the rest of the earth in places like Buenos Aires and Cairo;
  • Transport for London, when they were instituting congestion charges for drivers; deploying smart cards for public transit; and integrating all the disparate systems for subways, buses, and taxis to accommodate a massive population explosion;
  • Alghanim Industries, an international retail and manufacturing conglomerate in Kuwait while it was expanding into new global markets.

"I've got a very low boredom threshold," said Limond. "The nice thing about [interim jobs] is the variety. You go to places you wouldn't normally go."

This year Limond began brushing up on his Arabic (he has at least an elementary proficiency in seven languages) and returned to the Gulf. He's moved to Qatar and begun a new job as CIO of the country's Supreme Council of Health, where they're launching a new publicly owned health insurance system for everyone in Qatar -- residents and visitors alike. The program just launched last month, beginning with women's health services.

"This is actually two new areas for me," Limond said, "because not only is it healthcare, but it's finance and health economics."

Quick study
Health and finance are two of the few industries that Limond hasn't worked in before. Limond feels that prior experience within an industry is helpful, but it isn't essential. Although he says that you will need to study up on the new industry once you get there, the skills and approach translate well from one field to another. Limond said:

I've covered quite a few industries, but the main issue is around change. I find in [interim] assignments that you've got about a week or two to get to grips with a) what the organization's like, and b) what the problems really are... And inevitably, the issues are not about the technology, they're about the people and they're about the organization and they're about the business. Those are the real issues that you've got to tackle.

Computer geekiness optional
Limond himself is not a computer techie. He came up through the business side of the house, but his roots are actually in science. He cut his tech teeth using deep seismic technology and heavy data processing as an academic geophysicist working for British Petroleum. He said:

As geophysicists we were very much at the forefront of using technology and IT for data crunching,. But then in BP I went into a very varied career, on the commercial, economic management side. And then in my last job [there] when I was deputy chief executive of the detergents business that BP had built up, I was asked to do the IT strategy for the detergents business. And I realized I didn't know anything about IT strategy.

Valuable mentoring
Fortunately, BP's corporate culture supported career development through mentoring, training, and exchange programs with other sectors of the business. His experience as a user of heavy-duty geophysics information technology was a helpful foundation, but the CIO and the company itself provided him with the additional training to be an IT strategist in BP's office of the CIO.

It was BP's CIO himself who recommended Limond for the job, so he highly recommends that early- and mid-career professionals find a mentor -- whether it be the CIO or someone else. Yet Limond concedes that good mentors are harder to find these days and fewer organizations proactively provide staff with career training and opportunities to work outside their own department.

"I get the sense that it is more difficult for youngsters at the moment. They've really got to fight their own way now," he said. "You tend to, in a sense, build your own experience portfolio, and that's what you've got to play on."

Fickle attraction
The interim model appeals to Limond for two key reasons. No. 1: There's lots of action.

"You come in, you put through the change, you deliver, and you get out," said Limond. "You don't hang around. I find that if one's there for more than a year and a half, two years, then you're starting to become part of the furniture, if you like, and you lose your effectiveness."

No. 2: decision-making authority without the politicking.

"Although you should understand what the politics are in any culture or organization, you're not necessarily bound by them, because you come in as an independent," he said. However, he also cautions that "you don't achieve things through command and control. You really achieve things through persuasion and influencing."

Regardless of the path you take to the executive suite or the management style you choose, Limond's keys to getting and keeping the job are to embrace change and enjoy the ride. "Some people joke that CIO means 'Career is Over,' " he said. "I think it's more 'Change and Innovation Originator.' Be persistent, be patient, don't get frustrated, and hang on in there."

What do you think? Does the short-term executive job appeal to you? Are you afraid of becoming furniture? Let us know in the comments below. And come back to E2 tomorrow to hear how Steve Rubinow, CIO of Thomson Reuters, first obtained the CIO job.

Related posts:

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Sara Peters   How I Became a CIO: Bill Limond   8/15/2013 8:53:51 PM
Re: Too Short Term
@kicheko  I've been at E2 for almost three years now. (It'll be three in November.) Before that I was on the job hunt and one of the hiring managers I interviewed with was entirely stunned that I'd been at my previous job for five years. To her that seemed like a very long time. I think that the appropriate tenure of any job is getting shorter and shorter.

And, just as an example, according to the National Association of State CIOs, the average tenure of a state CIOs is just about 2 years.
Sara Peters   How I Became a CIO: Bill Limond   8/15/2013 8:49:44 PM
Re: Too Short Term
@Pedro  I think that the interim model might appeal to me too, although I've never tried it. I've always been more of a long-term person, but I like the idea of being hired to accomplish a very clearly stated project. 
Pedro Gonzales   How I Became a CIO: Bill Limond   8/14/2013 9:18:17 PM
Re: Too Short Term
From that I read in the article.  I would tend to enjoy the short term contracts.  You can really challenge yourself because you are brought to solve different problems at each project.  Sometimes, when you stay at one place for too long, the same project seems to come in and the excitement of new challenges are gone. Great advise, great article
kicheko   How I Became a CIO: Bill Limond   8/14/2013 10:37:33 AM
Too Short Term
I am inspired by the story Limmond's career as a whole especially that he was CIO for London Olympics. Indeed who knew that the job of CIO itself dates back anything close to 20 years. My only question is with regard to the highly short term contracts. i would say on the other hand if you leave too soon you leave without expending your full potential...maybe, maybe not. I would propose 3 years each place.

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from Sara Peters
Sara Peters   5/30/2014   18 comments
Before I throw my knapsack over my shoulder, head out the door, slouch my way down lonely roads, and try to get a kind stranger to give me a lift to DarkReading, I want to bid a fond adieu ...
Sara Peters   5/7/2014   55 comments
There's a new player in the wearable technology market. While it has a new attitude and a new business plan, it also seems to have new problems that may cause it to miss the mark and the ...
Sara Peters   5/1/2014   32 comments
It's time for an intervention. This addiction to Windows XP has gone too far.
Sara Peters   4/10/2014   21 comments
The race is on to restore trust in the very security tools that are used to ensure online trust. Websites, applications, and services are hastening to patch Heartbleed, a flaw in the ...
Sara Peters   4/4/2014   17 comments
Tablets are becoming more affordable all the time, but they're not so inexpensive that you wouldn't worry if kindergartners treated them with the same care they treat construction paper ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video

On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments

Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   11 comments

The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   6 comments

TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments

Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments

IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments

TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments

TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   6 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments

The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   46 comments

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   16 comments

New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   16 comments

The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments

We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments

Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments

Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments

On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments

Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments

A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments

VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments

Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments

Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments

Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments

The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.