New BCom course connects future leaders of business technology management with today’s CIOs
Sauder students now have the rare opportunity to meet and learn from chief information officers and gain an in-depth understanding of how information technology is managed at the top.
The new course, CIO Strategies (COMM 486N), leverages the Management Information Systems division’s CIO advisory board to provide high calibre IT guest speakers each year.
Most recently the senior vice president and CIO of Telus, Carlos Carreiro – a member of Sauder’s MIS advisory board – delivered a guest lecture on standardization versus innovation and the management of risk in IT.
“The goal here is to bring the reality of the world of IT closer to the students and impart how information system management can progress their career,” Carreiro says. “The future of tech is fast-moving and to be a good leader, no matter what your position, you need to understand technology."
The course was designed to blend themes of business technology management, particularly the importance of integrating technology with business and process.
“There’s no framework for how managing technology works in each company; it’s completely different depending on their individual needs,” says Anastasia Rezac, a fourth year student specializing in business technology management. “You can’t hear from one CIO and know what the job is. This course has given us a diverse look across companies and industries to really understand the job."
And what does that diverse perspective look like? Students in the class agreed the reality of a CIO’s job had surprised them.
“You’d think most CIOs have a background in technology and coding, but that isn’t true at all,” said Rezac. “CIOs have to manage technology across all departments so they need a comprehensive understanding of how to manage people and operations across a whole company."
“IT” can bring to mind complex data and coding languages that can be a barrier to someone less tech-literate. The CIO’s role isn’t quite like that, and Associate Professor Carson Woo, the course’s instructor, wants students to leave with that understanding.
“Information technology is traditionally viewed in a narrow light: it works until it doesn’t and then we get frustrated,” says Woo, painting the picture of the typical classroom IT malfunction every student and teacher has experienced. “But it’s much more than that – it’s strategic and people-oriented."
Rezac, who is upfront about having little interest in coding or the technical side, says the class has re-affirmed that she’s on track to be a CIO one day. She’s enjoyed hearing about how CIOs got to where they were.
“If I continue working across various industries and departments, I know now I’ll have the skills needed to manage information technology from the top as a CIO, later in my career,” says Rezac.
The course focuses on one textbook and each guest speaker takes on a chapter to discuss topics in the context of personal experience and their company’s individual operations. Students benefit from the opportunity to hear about the real-world application of theories they’ve just read.
In addition to Carreiro, the class also heard from CIOs of UBC, Teck Resources, First West Credit Union and the Provincial Health Services Authority, among other companies.
And it’s not just the students who are benefiting. The opportunity to meet a room full of top information management students isn’t lost on the guest lecturers themselves.
“One of the issues we have as CIOs is finding good people graduating from technology management, so I have some selfish intent here too,” says Carreiro. “We’d love to have some of these students join our organization once they graduate."