Tepper CIO Panel

23 03 2014

I wrote this up at the end of last mini, but realized I never posted it. Here’s a recap of a great event we did in Mini 3.

CIO Panel

“The “I” in IT doesn’t just stand for information anymore, but it now also stands for innovation.” – CIO Panelist

Tepper, sponsored by the Business and Technology Club, hosted its first-ever CIO panel discussion last week. This was an event that I have wanted to do all year. Actually, I think before I became president of B&T, this was an idea that I hoped to bring to fruition. Much of my time at Tepper has been spent explaining to business people why I, an MBA student, am going into IT Management. On the other side, the IT people have been asking the question “why would someone who wants to do tech leadership get an MBA?”. I have tried to help Tepper understand the value that an MBA provides to people going into IT. And I’ve tried to help IT departments understand the benefits that someone with an MBA can bring to their organization.
I’ve wondered where the CIOs are going to come from in the future. You generally run into the problem of CIOs who aren’t respected by the “lower ranks” because they aren’t tech people and they really don’t understand the technology required to get their business ideas to work. Or, you have tech people who have moved up to be CIOs and generally don’t understand the full picture of business. My proposition to help solve this quandary is to ensure that we are bringing in people with technical backgrounds, training them in business so that they gain a full spectrum of knowledge about a company, and then ensuring that they are able to translate technical requirements into business value and business needs into technical specs. This seems like a HUGE value proposition that Tepper could provide, since they are the number one business school for an Information Systems concentration, and it is Carnegie Mellon. Where else should future CIOs be coming from besides Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business?

To further this proposal, the B&T Club was determined to host a CIO speaker series. However, instead of just bringing in one CIO, we were able to bring in 3! An event like this is very difficult to execute, since CIOs are very busy people and having a Friday afternoon session interrupts their work schedule.

We were very honored to have three wonderful panelists: Mark from Armada Logistics, Marc Brown CIO of Polyconcept (previous CIO at Del Monte Foods and Heinz), and Jody Cervanek, a prior CIO at UPMC Medical and a current Consultant to CIOs in the Healthcare sector. The topic of discussion was surrounding the role that MBA students should play in the IT organization (not necessarily IT companies, but the IT org internal to the company). The panel conversation was moderated by Tepper’s Professor Ravi, who did an excellent job.

One of the main things that I took away was the importance of the CIO to understand their area, but also the full needs of the business. Did you know that one of the reasons Mom and Pop pizza stores are dying is because of their lack of technology? 40% of pizza sales are ordered online. If you don’t have the underlying technology to support your business, your business will fail. In light of this, CIOs need to be a collaborator with other executives and ensure that they set up a good governance structure of IT so that it furthers business value. It’s important for CIOs to understand the operations of the company well, because IT is more frequently being used to help reduce costs of operation. In order to provide services that reduce costs, it’s critical for tech executives to understand what they’re actually supporting. Also, as the term “big data” and analytics become more popular, it’s important for CIOs and their organizations to allow “average” users to create reports based on data. In the past, there have been report writers within IT. But with the changing landscape, the marketing and sales teams need real-time data; the operations team needs supply chain information. They don’t want to have to call IT every time they need a new report. IT should be enabling its users by making it easy for users to build and create their own real-time data reports (I know, it sounds way easier than it is technical possible!). If this doesn’t occur, the company will start to have skunkworks report writers pop up in each department. They need their data one way or another!

Another thing that was discussed was the “requirements” for IT Leadership positions (and how to get hired into this area!):

  • Passion
  • Team Builder: Connection and good conversations with the recruiter
  • Visionary: A good picture of where to take the future
  • Translator: The ability to listen carefully and translate your learning to things that everyone can understand
  • Active: Does your cover letter (and what you say you’re passionate about) actually acted out on your résumé?
  • Knowledgable: An ability to understand and ask questions about industries even if you weren’t familiar with them
  • Adaptable & Quick Learner: Someone who can play in a dynamic changing market
  • Skilled & Diversity: A breath of “tools” and perspectives
  • I really enjoyed the session and I think the CIOs even had a fun time interacting with the students. I wished that we could have talked all afternoon. I hope that conversations like this can continue at Tepper. I know that I will follow up with these amazing people in the future, and look forward to interacting with them again.

Special thanks to Silvio Tannert and Alexa Hansen for executing a flawless event.

 

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