As the world enters a new age of digital transformation, how can incoming technology leaders prepare themselves to meet new and rapidly changing needs? Technology skills are necessary, of course, but equally important are soft skills, communication, and effective leadership. Learning those skills and taking advantage of opportunities to enhance them can make all the difference.
These sentiments and more were shared with the MSIS Class of 2020 as they celebrated their academic success at the End of Year Celebration Toast! On Wednesday, June 3, MSIS welcomed Mike Maguire, CIO of Gates Ventures and graduate of the inaugural Class of 2012, to share insights with the graduating class as both an alum of the program and a great example of successful tech leadership.
Maguire began his information systems journey when he interned at the Space Needle, and recognized how critical his soft skills were in developing his career. One day, those skills opened the door to a new opportunity when he received a call from a former Director offering him an interview at a new company. Mike didn’t know this Director well, but he understood that the personal interactions he had while as an intern were what truly made him standout.
“Every interaction you have can shape your future, for better or worse, and you want to be in the 57% that are creating positive impacts, or the 33% that are getting job offers, not the 43% that are creating negative impacts, or the 67% that are getting looked over.”
As Mike’s career continued, he soon realized that many of his senior leaders had graduate degrees that provided an entry into different avenues of work and a deeper understanding of issues. This prompted him to look for an advanced degree to suit his career interests.
Combining both business skills and technology, Mike found that the MSIS program was the perfect fit and that it would propel him towards his aspirations of becoming a CIO.
I saw the curriculum and could see the value of each one of the classes. The classes I took created a springboard into IT leadership, and the work I did in each one was directly applicable to my job then and to the work I do now.”
Reflecting on his own career journey, Mike emphasized to the graduates the importance of everything they have learned in the past 12-months:
Maguire shares that as a CIO, he is now responsible for many of the areas that courses in MSIS covered. Even though areas of study like data mining and online marketing are not part of his direct role, that background gave him the knowledge and confidence in proposing organizational-wide change through a comprehensive perspective. For example, he led the shift in how Gates Ventures approaches product development organization wide, and found that he was able to leverage the case studies and readings he had done as a part of the program.
Before MSIS I would have just focused on the technology aspects of it, but this program gave me the skills to look at the whole process end-to-end and ultimately refine and streamline how the organization delivers our online properties.”
Similarly, Mike shares that other areas of the curriculum are those that he still encounters every day. Most notably, he tells graduates how important the knowledge they’ve gained in information and cyber security will be moving forward. “Information and cybersecurity are a very important part of my team and my job, as it is for most businesses. The lessons I learned in Information Security & Assurance in a Networked World are still true to this day. I can’t remember a day where information security wasn’t a topic I talked about – it is that important.”
As someone who recognizes the value that soft skills bring to leadership, Mike was also sure to emphasize the importance of courses like the MSIS Leadership Lecture Series, which bring industry professionals out of the C-suite and into the classroom.
The Leadership Series helped make all the teachings real. We were able to hear from IT leaders throughout the area and get insights about their own experiences. These sessions really taught me the importance of networking and I still rely on that to this day.”
He recognizes that it can sometimes be hard to step out of your own environment when working in tech. The Leadership Lecture Series allowed him to leave his comfort zone to talk to others about how they approach technology, and was one of the highlights of his experience. Those interactions can shape your career just as much, if not more, than the lessons you learn in the classroom.
With the evening coming to a close, Mike reiterated that the program has armed graduates with very important skills and knowledge to prepare them for a career as an IT leader. He encouraged them to continue to recognize the value in the program and to build on the investment they’ve made through continuous learning in their careers.
“Monumental crises like [COVID-19] are often followed by periods of radical change, and it appears that technology is going to help lead much of that change. These challenges are creating a great opportunity for IT leaders to have a major impact not only on enterprises, but on humanity. The world is looking for IT leaders who are ready to step up to the plate, and the MSIS program positions you to be ready for the call to action.”
Across the Zoom celebration, students, faculty and staff raised their glasses as students transitioned to graduates, equipped with the MSIS degree and ready to take on the next chapter in their careers. Congratulations Class of 2020!