CIO Spotlight: Vineet Rao

In this CIO Spotlight, Vineet Rao shares his thoughts on the biggest challenges facing CIOs today, the importance of understanding the business side of things, and emphasizes continuing education.
TNCR Staff

Walk us through your CIO path.  How did you decide to pursue a career in technology?

As far as I can remember, I have always been fascinated with computers and software and how they are used to make life simpler. As a result, I decided to pursue Engineering in Computer science. Once out of college, very early on, I wanted to get an all-around view of how computers were purchased and used by different types of businesses. So, I dabbled in sales and procurement. Later on, I took to setting up computer networks and implemented software solutions for businesses. I even taught computer science to high-schoolers. From there, I decided to get a behind-the-scenes look and took the plunge into software development. I did this in different industries like Banking, Retail, FinTech, Airlines, and Human Capital Management.

As a technologist, I have always been curious about the businesses we support – to that end, I have leaned on my business partners and leaders to teach me the business side of things – which has helped me immensely in bridging the divide between business and technology. Along the way, I learned the art of leadership, the value of teams, and relationships. I think all these have contributed to my growth as a leader and took me to the C-Suite.

Vineet Rao

What do you think are the biggest issues facing CIOs in your industry?

The pace of change in the tech world, for one. Innovations in technology are fast outpacing the practical applications of the same. Take, for example, the evolution of Blockchain and its practical application of Cryptocurrencies – now blockchains are being used in areas other than Crypto.  Or, sooner than AI/ML has taken deep root, we are talking of AutoML to solve what traditional ML cannot. When you combine this with the responsibility a CIO has in running daily operations and managing risks, how does one keep up?

Also, companies are identifying the overlap in roles that a traditional CIO fulfills and are creating C-Level roles such as CDO, CTO, and even Chief Innovation Officer to address this. How will a traditional CIO, who is so used to managing all these areas under their span of control deal with this change? Would they evolve and become able partners to these new peers?

What advice would you give to someone aspiring to be a CIO?

Learn, learn, learn about the business you are serving, the tech trends, and what other companies are doing with technology. Also know that a primary responsibility of yours is to hire great talent, forge them into the right teams and give them all the freedom you can to let them execute on your vision. After all, as Steve Jobs said – “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

How do you decompress from your role as a technology executive?  What do you do for fun?

I listen to music, read books and publications – anything that catches my fancy; take long walks with my spouse; hike when I can. As a family, we love to visit places we haven’t been to. And oh, I enjoy discussing and debating any topic under the sun with my friends.

Can you list your top 1-3 books that you would recommend for a technology leader to have on their bookshelf/Kindle?

These are not just for technology leaders, but any leader:

  1. The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
  2. Start with Why – Simon Sinek
  3. Forged in Crisis – Nancy Koehn

Can you share a specific quote that is a source of inspiration for you as a leader?

There are several, but the one that’s been on my mind recently is one that Lin-Manuel Miranda quoted in a webinar I attended. He said, “If no one has ever done it, it is up to you to do it.”

Please share a recommendation or testimonial on the benefit you see as a member of this CIO Professional Network

Oftentimes, we all get so caught up in our work and workplace that we do not find the time or the need to network outside of those. I have found that an outlet like CIO Professional Network connects me with peers from diverse industries. This helps us share our experiences and our learnings, which in turn helps me apply those when I am faced with a situation at work. It turns out to be mutually beneficial.

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