Building a Program to Expand IT Executives’ Business Skills to Take on Larger Roles in Leadership

JUL 13, 2017

Attending tradeshows and conferences is a standard practice for business professionals in every industry.  If you are in the technology industry, it seems you could quite honestly find a conference or vendor specific event to attend every week.  If you plan your agenda well prior to any given conference, you most definitely can gather good information and new knowledge along with new contacts which will help you when you are back working your day-to-day routine.  However, on occasion you may get back from one of your four day conference trips and wish you’d learned a bit more and quite honestly recognized more value for your time away from the office.

I had such an experience a couple of years back. The experience got me thinking… how could a leadership conference be taken to the next level.  I wanted to develop a program that would help IT professionals become more aligned (and aware) of the business initiatives within the companies they work for.  The program I envisioned would be geared to help IT professionals to go out and learn not about IT but about business.  The business needs IT… and IT needs the business (after all, IT is a service for the business).  I believe technology is a business differentiator and it makes perfect sense to me that companies would want their IT professionals more engrained in understanding their business. In testing this hypothesis, we found that many of the CIO’s and VP’s we talked with agreed and provided great feedback on what they would find value in.

The breakthrough moment for me came when I was attending a CIO focused event at UCI in 2016.  For those of you that aren’t aware, UCI has an incredible Center for Digital Transformation on campus as part of the Paul Merage School of Business.  It dawned on me… UCI would be an incredible resource and potentially a fantastic host to facilitate the creation of the program.   With a little leg work, I was able to gain an introduction to Dr. Vijay Gurbaxani who is the director of the Center for Digital Transformation.  During our first conversation, I shared with him my conference experience and thoughts for a new kind of IT professional leadership program.  The conversation was compelling enough to warrant calendaring a follow-up meeting with Dr. Gurbaxani and his associate, Mr. Ed Trainor, to discuss the topic further.  I was beyond excited at the potential for UCI to become involved.  Find out why here.

Why would your company want to help build this in-depth IT leadership program with UCI?  The first question Vijay and Ed posed to me.  Yeah, a great question… why indeed?  A couple of pertinent reasons are at the top of the list: 1) the people we work with in IT leadership are actively searching for tools to nurture and grow their best and brightest team members to get them focused on understanding the “business” and ultimately aligning technology innovation to drive the business. And 2) From the research I conducted, it appears no such program exists with respect to the curriculum and focus being put together.  With the support of Dr. Gurbaxani, Ed, and Trace3’s leadership we set out to bring the program to life.

It was a little unbelievable at first.  A top MBA school right here in Trace3’s backyard has committed to developing a program aligned with my initial vision – a leadership program for IT professionals purposefully designed to educate and enable them to understand the business in-order-to better align innovation to the objectives of the business.  The “green-light” from UCI to join in the development of the program was absolute validation a need existed for the program.   All the planning and discussions with the team at UCI to create a curriculum up to their standards was challenging work but very much worth the effort.

I’m thrilled to announce the UCI Paul Merage School of Business is launching the Program in the Fall of 2017.  UCI’s Center for Digital Transformation and Office of Executive Education in partnership with Trace3 bring together the brightest minds from academia, IT and business to educate tomorrow’s technology savvy business leaders.  The school will offer a Certificate in Business Leadership for IT Executives.

A very special thanks to Ed Trainor, Vijay Gurbaxani, Lynette Mabutol, Paul Duchouquette and the Trace3 Executive team for all the support, guidance and vision that made this possible.

Drew Cather

Drew Cather is the Vice President of Innovation at Trace3 where he focuses on turning technology innovation into business value. Based out of Orange County, California, Drew is a value creator who leverages his 15 years of real world IT experience to help enterprises adopt emerging technologies to tackle their toughest technical and business problems. Drew holds an Economics degree from Berkeley and works with the world’s largest brands and most successful IT venture capital firms.

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