Oh, What a Night! Playing to a full house, WITI's Orange County event on June 19, 2014, 'CIO Panel: A View from the Commander's Chair' offered humorous insights, pearls of wisdom, and precious take-aways from 4 top-notched executive CIOs (3 women and 1 man): Julie St. John (The Capital Group Companies), Sue Jean Lin (Allergan), Carol Fawcett (Dell), and Guy Thier (Arbonne International). Moderating the event was Michelle Bergquist (Connected Women of Influence). To keep the meeting lively and to cover as much material as possible, Michelle targeted her questions to specific panelist. Of course, we're positive that every panelist had an opinion for every question.
It was difficult to pick just one golden nugget from the high caliber of discussion. The panelists offered perspective that satisfied our IQ (practical advice) as well as our EQ (emotional soft skills). As you read our recap, search for your pearl of wisdom.
Michelle started off with 'What does a normal day look like for a CIO'?
- It's about 13 meetings containing 13 topics.
- Making hundreds of decisions with a mix of strategy and firefighting per day.
- A usual day is from 4:30am to 11pm.
- It is about 'Being On' and responding calmly.
- Building off of Guy's comment:
- It is a really fun day doing 'context switching'.
- She is extremely lucky to have a great staff working for her, so her day is more focused on strategy and evolving the organization for the future.
- One half of her time is also focused on the future and strategic issues.
- She spends a lot of her time with the business.
- Up at 4:30am in the morning, she has the car seat warmer on while driving into work for 5am meetings with Corporate.
- Similar to Sue Jean, Carol spends a good portion of her time working with the business defining business strategy and being on Sales calls on how to use Dell products.
What key skills are needed to be a business leader?
To not bog down the recap with who said what, here are some gems.
- Firstly, know your client and develop your business acumen.
- Secondly, it is no longer about being technologists?, but Service Management.
- Thirdly, have great project management skills. Break down the complex tasks into components.
- Early in your career, you'll need the technology understanding. Technology gets you through the door and provides you a full view of the company. Try to support every business unit.
- Over time, develop your business acumen and your knowledge across the technology stack.
As a CIO, where do you see your team in 5 years?
Of course it is proprietary, but heavily leverage industry solutions focusing on integration. What are the big bets? View data as a strategic asset. Social is out there. Mobility is huge. The systems are always on (all the time) as folks work remotely. The Analytics space is critical. Big Warehouses are death. 'Think Globally, Act Locally'. Security is your foundation so make sure your data is secured. Security is totally different in Europe than the US. Be aware of what's coming down the road. CIOs need to defend against technology disruptions. Education is important.
How critical are mentors?
- Julie had lots of mentors that pushed her. A pivotal change for her occurred when one of her mentors informed a business group, 'why are you looking at me? Julie is making the decision'. Remember that no one can take your education or character away from you.
- Carol is always humble when someone seeks her out for mentorship. She warns: Someone is always watching you, what you do, how you respond to situations, etc. She has had mentor relationships that have failed. It is better when the mentee picks the mentor.
- As Sue Jean stated: A mentor is more of coach. A sponsor is someone who stands up and openly talks about you and supports you.
How does one become successful in IT?
All of the CIO's offered great take-aways.
- Find a job you are passionate about. Your path will lead to success.
- Embrace change and build relationships.
- Tell the same story over and over again. Nothing happens overnight. Never listen to one person's opinion.
- Ask WHY to yourself be true - be authentic. ??
- Know your strengths and weaknesses. And work with a Support Group.
- There is nothing like trial by fire. If you have nothing to learn in your position, get out and find another position that challenges you.
Kudos to Michele for moderating such a high powered, thought provoking, insightful group and asking poignant questions.
What was the final collective perspective about the CIO job?
The CIO job is about relationships. Walk in your peer's shoes. What do they want to know? Write it in their terms. Understand their perspective. Establish credibility and trust with the CEO.