Breaking the Bubble

Networking should mean more to CIOs than just connecting PCs; it’s a way of building relationships and gaining different viewpoints and ideas on technology and organizational issues. Far too many CIOs fail to see the value of taking the time to talk to peers and outside contacts, and maintaining a network of people they can call on.

Why is networking important? Let me give just three of the many reasons: it will assist in taking your career to the next level; help you to learn how to get buy-in from executives in your company; and will prevent you from being a CIO (Career Is Over) statistic. Many CIOs won’t start networking until they need a job, a favour or information. But for networking to work well, it must be a continuous and mutually beneficial process.

There are different types of networking. Internal networking is done in-house, with your organization’s peers, senior executives and board members. External networking is done within the industry with other CIOs, through organizations such as the CIO Association of Canada and other non-IT related organizations.

Internal networking opportunities occur when CIOs discuss issues with their peers, get information through the grapevine, and try out new ideas before taking them to a steering committee. Internal networking is key to a CIO who needs to build relationships to get projects approved and to implement changes, both of which can only be done with the co-operation of the business-line managers. As one CIO told me, “Marketing managers are the best people to network with internally, as they provide early heads-up on upcoming corporate initiatives.”

External networking in-volves establishing contacts outside your organization. This can be done through attending conferences, publishing articles and participating in organizations such as the CIO Association of Canada. (Check out

Through external networking, CIOs can find out about best practices, projects, consultants, new technologies, licensing agreements, etc. Failure to network externally may result in the “invented here” syndrome, where a technology initiative suffers through a lack of learning from others’ experiences.

External networking is difficult when you take a job in a new town, as I found out when I moved from Toronto. to Vancouver nine years ago. At first, I kept phoning my Toronto networking contacts to discuss initiatives and ask: “Have you done this or that and how did it work?” Eventually, I got to know some CIOs locally and I started the CIO Association of BC so that other CIOs would have an easier time finding opportunities.

There are plenty of opportunities to network. They all involve sharing ideas, best practices, learning from each other’s experiences and mistakes, and building relationships that CIOs can call on when they’re in need of a fresh point of view.

Catherine Aczel Boivie is senior vice-president, IT for Pacific Blue Cross.

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Catherine Aczel Boivie
Catherine Aczel Boivie
Dr. Catherine Aczel Boivie is a widely respected executive with over 30 years of experience in the leadership of advancing the value of information technology as a business and education enabler. Prior executive roles includes: CEO Inventure Solutions and Senior Vice President of Information Technology/Facility Management for Vancity Credit Union; SVP of IT and Chief Information Officer at Pacific Blue Cross and Canadian Automobile Association of British Columbia. Catherine is also an experienced board member serving on several boards, including those of Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, Canada Foundation for Innovation and MedicAlert Canada. Dr. Boivie is the founding Chair and President of the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Association of Canada that has over 400 Chief Information Officers as members across Canada. She has been publicly recognized for her contributions, including being named as one of Canada's top 100 most powerful women by the Women's Executive Network in the "Trailblazers and Trendsetters" category and the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for being a "catalyst for technology transformation".

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