From CIO to Startup: Choosing the Road Less Traveled
September 13, 2019
Making the leap from corporate to startup leadership is a risk, but it comes with incredible rewards.
Everyone knows there are vast differences between leading a large enterprise and a small startup. There are pros and cons to each, and a transition from one to the other will come with trade-offs. But the experience of transitioning from the C-suite to the startup lab is entirely unique — both in regards to the knowledge you can bring to the table and the knowledge you can gain.
Let me start by saying that the majority of my career has been focused on scaling smaller businesses — and in one case, even starting my own company — but it was still a big change to jump from corporate CIO to CEO of Coolfire Solutions. Plenty of people dream about quitting their corporate jobs to join a startup venture, but too often this transition gets romanticized. If you’re interested in making a similar leap, be prepared to dig in and get your hands dirty, push the envelope, and work incredibly hard — but also see the impact of your efforts more directly than ever before.
How I Ended Up Here
As I look back over my career thus far, I’m glad I strove for a diversity of experiences. The vast majority of my career involved selling and delivering technology to middle market and large organizations. At my last stop before Coolfire I spent over five years as a Fortune 250 CIO and buyer of technology. And it’s true what they say — you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to understand their perspective.
Don Sharp is a respected innovator with more than 25 years of tech experience working at companies ranging from startups to Fortune 50 companies. A graduate of Notre Dame University, Don currently serves as Chief Executive Officer of Coolfire Solutions, a technology company focused on transforming data into actionable intelligence for major enterprises.