What career path can lead to becoming a Chief Information Officer?

Posted by Ronald | November 26, 2012  |  No Comment

The field of information technology (IT) continues to be on a growth trajectory. In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 18 percent growth in IT managers jobs from 2010 to 2020. As we continue our series on career paths, the critical questions to be asked are: What career path can lead to becoming a Chief Information Officer? What influenced Ms. Lawanda V. Parnell to pursue a career as a Chief Information Officer? What advice does Parnell give to students desiring to purse a career in the information technology industry?

Chief Information Officer (CIO) is commonly the job title of the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support enterprise goals. The CIO manages the implementation of the useful technology to increase information accessibility and integrated systems management. The CIO is viewed in many organizations as a key contributor in formulating strategic goals.

Ms. Lawanda Parnell is interim CIO and senior director of enterprise application delivery at CPS Energy in San Antonio, Texas. CPS Energy provides electric and gas services for the citizens of San Antonio. It is the United States’ largest municipally owned utility company. In her position, Parnell has enterprise responsibility for all software development, networks, telecommunications, help desk support, wireless communications, technical training and database support.

Her typically day includes reviewing a status update on all the IT systems (applications, servers, networks, PCs, etc.) which supports the company’s financial systems, HR systems, customer online bill payment, supply chain, work management and telecommunications. Parnell says that she spends a large portion of her time in meetings with her colleagues, discussing and outlining strategy and talking about future projects and initiatives. She also works with a number of IT vendors and contractors about how their technologies can help CPS Energy achieve its goals and objectives.

Parnell earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in business administration with a minor in computer science from the University of Florida. She completed a Master’s of Science degree in management of technology from the National Technological University. Parnell says that she pursued the computer science’s path because the industry in the early 1980s was experiencing explosive growth particularly in the PC market, and she wanted to enter a field where she could earn a high wage and build a career.

Parnell began her career with IBM as a software tester. She held a number of IT positions within IBM before becoming a manager with IBM. These positions ranged from software development manager to language verification manager to a datacenter manager. She later advanced into executive management at IBM as a director of business transformation. After leaving IBM, she worked as a consultant recruiting software companies to port their applications to IBM platforms. In 2006, she joined CPS Energy as a web development manager.

Parnell is a member of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators (NFBPA) and the National Association for Female Executives (NAFE). She also serves on the DeVry University Advisory Board in San Antonio. For students who desire to pursue a career in the IT industry, Parnell recommends that they take the preparatory courses such as algebra, calculus and English while in middle and high school to prepare for college and join clubs that promote competitions in the IT field. For students who do not desire to go to a four-year college, Parnell recommends that they pursue certifications in network security at community colleges.

We sincerely thank Ms. Lawanda Parnell for sharing her personal and professional experience for others to learn about a career path in the information technology industry.

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of two books, “Education Questions to be Answered” and “Current Issues and Answers in Education.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is the national superintendent of education for the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]

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