To some people, however, fussing over titles is just a distraction.
"Titles are overrated," says Sean Chatterton, VP of digital development at Direct Brands Inc. His path to VP-dom came about through a larger management transition. In 2008, a shuffling of leadership created a VP title where none had existed before. His business card changed — formerly, he'd been associate director — but his role and responsibilities did not.
Or at least, not immediately. "When I got the VP title, frankly, it was a little inflated," Chatterton says. "But now the job has grown. It's now a more accurate reflection of the title than it was back then."
In the end, however, Chatterton believes that the information gleaned from a few letters tacked on after a name is vanishingly thin compared to what you can find out by taking "one minute to look at a resume and see what someone has actually done."
"If someone is in charge in IT, they're a significant player in strategy and tactics. I don't think tacking on an SVP title changes anything," Chatterton says. "But if you have institutional issues, where IT is just a service and not integral to the business and part of every strategy meeting, that won't be fixed with a title change. It will be fixed with leadership. It's not a title problem; it's an institutional problem."
Mike Capone would agree: Having a double-barreled title is all to the good — but only if you're deploying both of them to the same end. Capone, currently corporate vice president and CIO at ADP Inc., started his career as a programmer. But he knew that his ultimate goal was, as he puts it, "to become a business-focused IT professional."
"I didn't wake up every morning and say, 'How do I get a job as a VP?' It was always, 'How do I make life interesting?'" Capone says. After earning an MBA at night, he went to work at a branch of ADP implementing Oracle Financial Accounting systems. He spent 15 years in IT, then left to become a general manager for global outsourcing with the title senior vice president. It all came together in 2008 at ADP when he was offered the role of CVP/CIO.
"The bottom line is that your capability in a company isn't judged by how many servers you manage. Your credibility comes from your ability to leverage IT for the business," Capone says.