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The 5 Essential Traits of a Chief Information Security or Technology Officer

Learn some of the skills that make a successful CISO or CITO.

Chief information security officers (CISO) and chief information technology officers (CITO) are becoming critical as we rely more on computers and computerized data exchange to conduct everyday activities. CISOs and CITOs play an essential role in the information technology of companies around the world. This can include managing enterprise cyber security, deploying layers of analytics, and protecting internet of things (IoT) devices. But more than just technical expertise, a good CISO or CITO must have a wide range skills.1 Here are just a few essential traits of a chief information security or technology officer:

  1. Be Approachable

    To do their job effectively, CISOs and CITOs need to receive feedback and communication from colleagues. It can be detrimental to the business if staff members bury issues or feel that they are not able to talk about questions or concerns. The best chief information officers are people others know they can come to without fear of repercussion. In a critical situation, quick reporting and reaction time can mean the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major issue. An approachable CISO or CITO will also be aware of needs and projects throughout the company, and can make decisions that minimize risk to the business.2

    The 5 Essential Traits of a Chief Information Security or Technology Officer

  2. Be a Problem-Solver

    Cyber security is a moving target, and good CISOs and CITOs must be able to keep pace. Whether it be managing day-to-day operations or making long-term information technology plans, CISOs and CITOs are confronted with complex obstacles that require innovative solutions.3 That means they must be able to find creative solutions to challenges that might never have been considered before. Being a problem-solver in all areas of information technology is key to being successful.

  3. Have Technical Expertise

    While technical expertise does not guarantee success, effective CISOs and CITOs do need to have a strong understanding of the information technology systems they are protecting and the tools they are using to protect them. Even if they are not the most technically skilled people in the information technology department, CISOs and CITOs set the agenda for the department.4 In-depth knowledge is essential to maintaining effective and efficient cyber security for the business.

  4. Have a Mind for Metrics

    Utilizing key metrics can be a great way for CISOs and CITOs to understand how well their cyber security program is performing and can help identify areas of the information technology department that need improvement.5 Beyond the chief information officer’s own company, metrics are a great way to collaborate with other information technology professionals. Metrics can be used to develop industry best practices, identify common threats or vulnerabilities, and coordinate common efforts. Metrics can also be a great way for a CISO or CITO to motivate behaviors internally, empowering staff members to play a role in the organization’s cyber security.

  5. Be a Continuous Learner

    CISOs and CITOs have many different duties, including leadership, strategic planning, asset management, cyber security, staff training, and budgeting. On top of that, the information technology field—and the role of a CISO or CITO—is changing rapidly. That means it’s important to be a constant learner. As Shamla Naidoo, the chief information security officer for IBM put it, “The cyber security landscape is evolving continuously and rapidly, and therefore the most important quality I look for in a security hire is someone who can do the same—someone with natural curiosity that will lead to continual learning.”6 It is impossible to anticipate the challenges for CISOs and CITOs in the future, but someone who is a constant learner will be able to keep pace and excel.

It takes many traits to make a great chief information security or technology officer, and a Doctor of Information Technology degree can be a great way to prepare you for a future role. A DIT degree program can help you gain the necessary knowledge of information technology and cyber security, as well as some of the less-technical skills, necessary for becoming a successful CISO or CITO. One of the best ways to earn your Doctor of Information Technology degree is through an accredited online university. It can help you acquire the skills you need while allowing you to meet the demands of your busy life.

Being a chief information security officer or a chief information technology officer can be a challenging and rewarding career. It takes a highly skilled professional with a strong background in information technology and cyber security. A Doctor of Information Technology from an accredited online college can be a great way to build the skills necessary to pursue a career in the field.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering a Doctor of Information Technology (DIT) degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,