CanWIT Panel – CIO or CTO? The Path to Next Generation Technology Leadership

Posted in: Technical Track

Last Thursday I was invited to the panel organized by Ottawa Chapter of Canadian Women In Technology (CanWIT). I wanted to mention it here as CanWIT sets up very interesting events for women in IT so if you are interested in progressing your IT career, definitely consider their events.

The panel was designed to share the experience of few CIOs and CTOs — how they got into this job and how they developed their career, what the day of a CTO and CIO is like, what challenges they face in their jobs and how those challenges are approached. There were three panel speakers. Hana Pika is the CIO at University of Ottawa Heart Institute, established and rather traditionally-conservative organization when it comes to IT. Wayne MacLaurin is the CTO at Sedari, a startup providing domain registry services. Finally, myself with the official title of CTO but in reality having mixed responsibilities of CTO and CIO and Pythian not being a startup but still very nimble company.

All three panel speakers met each other for first time that evening and I was very surprised how much aligned we were on most topics even though we clearly represented three completely different companies with completely different cultures and day-to-day job responsibilities. I have personally enjoyed the conversation — it was very natural discussion and the flow was so good as if we have practiced it before. Of course, this wouldn’t be possible without a good moderator and my colleague Vanessa Simmons did an awesome job there.

It was also very unusual panel for me. When I’m on stage talking at an IT event, most of the audience is represented by males. In this case, I was very pleased to see 100% women audience — rather unique experience.

I also want to mention an interesting approach to stimulate some networking at the end of the panel — everyone was given a playing card and the every few minutes attendees would need to find a new person to talk to on specific topics based on varying cards matching rules. Very simple and efficient if you even need to use this technique.

CanWIT also provided an awesome appreciation gift to the panel speakers — a donation on speaker’s behalf to the National Ovarian Cancer Association. I think it’s a very unique and rewarding way to show the appreciation of volunteer contributions.

Thanks again to CanWIT Ottawa Chapter for organizing this panel. Join CanWIT on LinkedIn to be up to date on their events this season — Ottawa Chapter’s focus for this season is on developing leadership career in Information Technology. Few of my colleagues from Pythian leadership team have already committed to participate at CanWIT events this year in Ottawa.

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About the Author

What does it take to be chief technology officer at a company of technology experts? Experience. Imagination. Passion. Alex Gorbachev has all three. He’s played a key role in taking the company global, having set up Pythian’s Asia Pacific operations. Today, the CTO office is an incubator of new services and technologies – a mini-startup inside Pythian. Most recently, Alex built a Big Data Engineering services team and established a Data Science practice. Highly sought after for his deep expertise and interest in emerging trends, Alex routinely speaks at industry events as a member of the OakTable.

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