Three people with IT Leader program certificates standing in front of a Nationwide Children's Hospital sign.

Creating Future-Ready Leaders in the Beta District

By Barbara Linstrom

For the past six years, The Beta District has been home to a leadership program that is as enthusiastically innovative and forward-thinking as the companies the district attracts.

Co-Founded by Steve Gruetter, Director of Market & Channel Strategy at Expedient, and Maureen Metcalf, CEO Innovative Leadership Institute, the Central Ohio IT Leaders Program is ensuring the future of the region’s incredibly strong tech community.

At the heart of the program is a thriving sense of collaboration, boosted by the 300 people who have taken the program since its inception. Representing 124 organizations, the reach extends well beyond The Beta District.

“We’ve got people from Union County and Franklin County, we've got people from all over coming together, driving the ball forward,” says Gruetter, who lives and works in The Beta District.

Foundation for Success

The program establishes a forum in which the next ‘class’ of Ohio IT leaders can grow in their current roles and serve as a key foundation for business success as they develop for future roles. And, where they can stay in touch and network to solve issues.

“Dozens of the IT professionals who have taken the program have been promoted. They're in the C-suite roles and the decision-making roles,” he says.

The ever-evolving content for the program is curated and presented by the dynamic Maureen Metcalf, founder and CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute and Junell Felsburg, Sr. Director Cybersecurity and Infrastructure at the Columbus Foundation and graduate of IT Leaders program and Advanced IT Leaders program.

Innovative Leadership

“It's interesting how technology leaders stay up on technology, medical leaders stay up on medical practices, but often leaders don't stay current on leadership practices,” says Metcalf. “We call it innovative leadership because we want leaders to continue to innovate how they think about and perform the activities of leadership.”

A monthly event, the program brings together 50 selected IT, mid-level managers for formal leadership training, wisdom sharing from guest speakers, and interactive peer discussions.

“There's a lot of introspection. Rather than go write me a paper about what Bill Gates did, write me a paper about your own values and leadership vision. Who are you as a leader and how are you going to actualize that?” Metcalf explains.

The in-person program is augmented by a robust online platform to support learning and development. A focused approach toward diversity and inclusion has been incorporated into the recruitment of class participants.

“I would say that leadership skills depreciate just like our mobile devices do. If you're leading like you did 10 years ago, you're probably not very good consistently,” she says. “Just like I don't use a 10-year-old phone because it's not going to be as effective. I need to update my internal thinking mechanism just like I update my software.”

This class is held at Ohio University Dublin, with the City of Dublin sponsoring the classroom space.

Community Immersion

“The Dublin economic development team thought that it was important for the city to bring the future CIOs together,” he adds. “We bring in the city annually to talk about how they're trying to making an impact, in both leadership as well as economic development for the central Ohio region overall.”

One of the biggest takeaways for participants is shared experience among a cohort where some of the best and the brightest are most comfortable working remotely in pajamas.

“They become much more immersed in the community. I've had people come to me and say, Steve, I am scared to death to do this. And I say, ‘Stand by my shoulder. Let's go do this together,’” says Gruetter. “They create relationships and meet like-minded people and embrace the idea that we’re all in this together. Let's make the best of it and let's enjoy ourselves while we do it.”

Learn about the seventh class that kicks off in September 2023.

With a master's degree from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, Barbara Linstrom has worked overseas as a journalist, and as a digital media director at a PBS/NPR station in Southwest Florida.