06Jun

CIO.com magazine says hiring of executive level tech leaders is “back in high gear.”

The pandemic brought a halt to most CIO and CTO hiring as companies scrambled to meet the needs of employees who began working remotely – many for the first time – in mid-March when all but essential businesses were shuttered.

At the same time, those holding those top IT jobs were hesitant to make a move. With 60% of IT leaders in a recent survey saying they couldn’t forecast conditions beyond three months, one top tech recruiting leader told CIO, “If you have a hard time telling the future, how willing are you going to be to go to a new organization?”

Now, companies have again begun to recruit professionals for their top IT jobs. Recently, CIO noted HP, Okta and Quick Base all hired new CIOs. Retailers Bed, Bath & Beyond and H&M Group announced new CTOs. In September, California utility PG&E brought on a new CTO.

Recruiters tell CIO that much of the initial screening and interviewing is being done remotely.

“Virtual meetings create great flexibility for candidates and hiring managers alike, reducing time spent traveling from across the country or even overseas. It also eliminates the stress that comes with sitting in meetings with one stakeholder after another during a single day,” says CIO.

Final meetings with candidates are still done in person, though the setting has changed. “Hiring managers and candidates might have a final meeting over a coffee outdoors or walk in the park, which can help cement culture fit.”

Online recruiting and interviewing has helped accelerate at least some parts of a hiring process that pre-COVID could take months. Still, each company has its own hiring process, so it’s difficult to tell how much speedier hiring has become.

Though circumstances can change, right now the recruiters interviewed by CIO say senior level hiring is likely to remain strong.

One top recruiting leader says, “We don’t see hiring slowing down at this time. There are a lot of skillsets that are highly sought after.”

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

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Green Key

Ethical Hackers Wear Computing’s ‘White Hat’

“Ethical hacker” sounds like an oxymoron, but the role of these “white hat” security experts is crucial to keeping computer systems safe..

These elite professionals are hired to attempt to break into a system to discover vulnerabilities and propose solutions before malicious hackers exploit the weakness to the detriment of the organization. The EC-Council describes an ethical hacker as “an individual… who can be trusted to undertake an attempt to penetrate networks and/or computer systems using the same methods and techniques as a malicious hacker.”

In large organizations, penetration testing, another term often used — some claim wrongly — for ethical hacking, is done regularly. The idea is to stay one step ahead of “black hat” hackers who are constantly attempting to break into networks and systems. Whether they do it for the sense of adventure – so-called “gray hat” hackers – or to steal or destroy data or hold it hostage in exchange for ransom, these hackers are committing a crime.

Catching them is not easy. Many intrusions come from overseas; some are state-sponsored. Even when they are domestic, hackers are usually skilled enough to cover their tracks well enough to go unapprehended. The best may even go undetected until the damage is done.

That’s why the work of ethical hackers is so important, prevention being the best cure.

Increasingly, organizations are hiring or contracting security professionals with one of the two most common certifications in penetration testing. Both require candidates to take an extensive exam.

CompTIA, the computer trade organization, offers a nearly three-hour long test with up to 85 questions. The CompTIA PenTest+ is a combination of multiple choice and performance questions based around simulations.

The Certified Ethical Hacker test of the EC-Council is 4 hours long and all multiple-choice. Unlike the CompTIA test, the certifying organization, EC-Council, requires candidates to first take the organization’s training program or provide proof of two years of work experience in information security.

Both organizations require holders to earn continuing education credits over a three-year period in order to retain their certification.

The two organizations compete fiercely for candidates, with each claiming their certification is better and more thorough.

EC-Council even argues that penetration testing is not the same as ethical hacking, arguing that “in many organizations ethical hackers are not even involved in penetration testing teams or processes.”

Which is best? As with most certifications in IT, both sides have their proponents. For a relatively even-handed approach, here’s a link to a Medium article discussing both. Spoiler alert: It gives the nod to the CEH certification largely because it’s been around longer and is accepted as a DoD 8570 Baseline Certification.

From an employer’s perspective, both certifications mean the candidate has been tested by a credible outside organization and found to be capable of providing that dose of prevention so critical to today’s cybersecurity.

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CIO or CTO? Does it Matter?

What’s the difference between a CTO and a CIO?

“Good question,” admits ZDNet. Where once the Chief Information Officer was universally acknowledged as the most senior IT executive, now, says the tech site, it “depends very much on the type of business you’re talking about.”

Where a business has only a CIO or a Chief Technical Officer, it’s an easy call – that’s the top IT executive. The duties and responsibilities are clear. Where the situation gets murky is when an organization has both.

Explains ZDNet, “The traditional split is that the CTO is responsible for the operational concerns associated with technology implementation. CTOs drill down into the details of technology. They have a strong systems focus and they know how technology works, making it more of a chief architect role.

“CIOs, on the other hand, tend to focus more on engaging with the business. So while the CTO might go and speak with vendors to source technology, the CIO makes sure the internal business gets the secure and governable systems and services it wants.”

Everyone got that? No? How about this from InsiderPro:

“CTOs are similar to CIOs. But they are responsible for the overarching technology strategy and infrastructure to help meet the organization’s goals, while CIOs oversee the IT departments and staff to manage everyday operations and in many cases work with business leaders on aligning IT with business goals.”

Where both roles exist, InsiderPro says “the CTO usually reports directly to the CIO.”

But wait. Pointing out that “As the importance of technology within the business has risen, so has the demand for knowledgeable technologists,” ZDNet says, “Some businesses – including established enterprises – have opted to rely more on a CTO than a CIO.”

Dig a little further and you’ll find that the hierarchical distinction is becoming less important as the bigger businesses move ever further along the path to digital transformation. Bornfight, a project-focused development firm, has a different take on the relationship between chief technology and chief information officers. It defines the jobs this way:

  • “Chief Information Officers are members of the executive team who are responsible for ensuring that a company leverages technology in a way that helps it optimize, improve and streamline internal processes.”
  • “Chief Technology Officers are members of the executive team who are responsible for ensuring that a company’s product utilizes technology in a way that will meet the customers’ needs.”
  • The company included this handy chart comparing the roles.CTO vs. CIO - blog.jpg

Bornfight’s most significant contribution to the discussion may well be that in organizations large enough to need both, CIOs and CTOs are complementary to each other.

“From a business perspective, you need these two positions and you need them to fit well together and cooperate — this leads to progress. The right way to approach this is to look at these positions as two sides of the same technology coin, a sort of a buddy-buddy relationship.”   

Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

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