[Editor's Note: This is part of a new series written by CIOs discussing their thought processes and lessons learned from major events in their tenures as CIO. Tomorrow we will print a companion blog to this one on lessons learned after this event. We will print similar stories on this and other topics by many CIOs who write for E2.]
I have to admit that I had a good laugh when I was asked to write about what I was thinking on my first day as a CIO. Honestly, my mind was racing, and I had a lot of different thoughts. Some of those thoughts are probably things that I shouldn't put into print.
In all seriousness though, my first thought was probably to celebrate. Anyone who has ever been a CIO knows how much work it takes to get to that point. Being hired as a CIO felt like an acknowledgment of all of my hard work.
As strange as it may sound, I went in on the first day without a clear understanding of exactly what I would be doing. Most of the higher-level executives at the organization where I had been hired were not exactly technically savvy. To them, doing my job well meant that they never had to hear about anything related to IT. I was given one simple directive -- keep everything working and look for ways to improve what we already had.
That was a vague directive to say the least, but it still gave me plenty to go on. I had assumed that there would be a staff meeting on the first day in which past problems would be discussed, along with ideas for the future. That meeting never happened. Instead, the CEO's secretary showed me to my office, handed me an envelope with the various system passwords, and wished me good luck.
As the secretary headed out the door, I asked her when I would be meeting my staff. I was told that I was the only person in IT with an office at the corporate headquarters. Everyone who worked for me resided at the various facilities that we oversaw. When I asked about the location of those facilities, I was told that the envelope that I had been handed contained contact information for a consultant who had done some work for the company. This consultant knew all of the facility locations and most of the IT staff. I was told to call the consulting firm and arrange for them to give me a tour of the various facilities. I was also told that some of the facilities had relatively small IT departments and to feel free to use consultants to supplement the existing staff.
That simple, two-minute conversation turned my first day completely upside down. At this point, I figured that I had better come up with a new game plan, and fast. After all, the organization wasn't paying me to sit in my office and stare at the ceiling. My new game plan consisted of setting up an appointment with the consulting firm, and using the passwords that I had been given to start familiarizing myself with the various systems.
I wasn't able to accomplish a lot until after I got to meet with the consultant a few days later, but a look around the system was surprisingly revealing. Even though I had not yet been briefed on overall server infrastructure, I was able to tell a lot just by looking at things like how Windows was configured and what software versions were in use, and that gave me some ideas for modernizing the organization. Even the Active Directory structure gave me some ideas for how things could be improved.
Needless to say, my first day as a CIO was absolutely nothing like what I would have expected. Looking back many years later, I still catch myself thinking, "Wow, that was strange." Even so, I managed to cope with the adversity of the situation and felt completely at home within a week or two.
Come back tomorrow to see how I put those first weird days to good use and what I've learned since.