CIO Straight Talk - Issue 9 - 22
I like risks, particularly those with the potential
for great rewards. (Those who know me know
I love cliff diving in my free time.) That desire
to leap head first into a challenge carries
over into my professional life. I tend to join
organizations that are at a critical juncture. In
my IT leadership roles, I've moved enterprise
technology organizations through big changes.
I started out in telecom and financial services.
I was at AIG when the company paid back the
U.S. government. I've worked on the other side
of outsourcing, heading up global enterprise
services for HP.
Estée Lauder was at an inflection point when
I arrived, wanting to transform the technology
environment to enable digital transformation
around the globe. I've led numerous
infrastructure transformations and, when done
right, the benefits are numerous: increased
transparency, reduced costs, improved service
levels, bolstered security, greater flexibility,
faster time to market, increased innovation. It
was clear we needed to elevate our approach,
both back and front office, to support the
growth demands of the business. That included
not only modernizing our infrastructure but
reprogramming our applications.
One of the challenges in a project like this is
getting the full support of the board of directors.
To do this, you need to clearly communicate
why the transformation is important to business
strategy, how it connects to what you are
trying to achieve as a company. A lot of my
peers, unable to get board approval for their
infrastructure remodels, ask me how I did it. It's
simple. But it's not easy. The key is not to be
afraid. If you think what you're doing is right,
fight for it. That's what being a leader is
We also needed to deliver that message to all
stakeholders across the company. Change is
hard. Everyone leads from every chair, no matter
the level. So getting everyone on board is vital.
One of my roles as a change agent is to make
it clear why we are doing this and what the
business outcomes will be. You cannot over22
deliver that kind of information. Communicating
the rationale and benefits over and over around
the world is important. You have to put a lot of
energy into that.
above all-particularly in the rapidly evolving
digital era-are their ideas, their flexibility, and
their desire to continuously improve network
quality of service.
It can't be about forcing change on the
organization. And it's important that you are
clear with people that the transformation may
be difficult. But if you listen-really listen-to
people's concerns and follow up on them, that
goes a long way to getting their support. Take
their concerns to heart. Follow up on them,
taking needed action and measure yourself.
Don't think it's going to be an easy journey.
Clearly, your own internal team is an equally
important player in the transformation. Although
in the digital age, IT leaders have an incredible
opportunity to serve as drivers of growth in the
enterprise, I'm only as good as my team. Having
the right talent and nurturing our next set of
leaders is critical to keeping up with the pace of
change, whether it relates to infrastructure or
digital or security or social. I'm not seeking only
technical skills. I look for individuals who are
receptive and adaptive, who communicate well
and are accountable. We have to remain relevant,
and having the best talent is the only way to
THE KEY IS NOT TO BE AFRAID. IF YOU THINK
WHAT YOU'RE DOING IS RIGHT, FIGHT FOR IT.
THAT'S WHAT BEING A LEADER IS ALL ABOUT.
Having truly strategic partners has been critical
to our transformation. I define a strategic
partner as a company that shares our goals
and our approaches and is on the journey
together with us. We need partners who check
their badges and their egos at the door and
are working shoulder to shoulder with us. We
need collaboration, but we also want service
providers who challenge us and push back if they
think we're headed in the wrong direction. Of
course, price and value is an important part of
the equation, but at the end of the day it's about
building an ecosystem of providers who can
operate as one team.
I've been on both sides of outsourcing
engagements, having spent two years at HP and
working in India in the early days of the offshore
outsourcing model. The market has shifted. And
the "your mess for less" mentality is outmoded.
We certainly value the efficiency our partners
can provide. We appreciate that they meet their
service level agreements. But what we value
I never thought much about the fact that
I am a woman in an IT leadership position.
It never enters my mind when I walk into a
board room or interview for a new role. For
me, it's always been about performance.
I've worked in this male dominated field my
whole life. If anything, it's been a bigger
shift for me coming to Estée Lauder, which
is a female-dominated company.
Nearly three years in, we have achieved our
woman in IT? I think the more relevant
infrastructure transformation. The foundation is
in place. But our work is just beginning.
We are working with all areas of the business in
different regions around the globe to help them
integrate new solutions into this foundation.
That means I take off the CTO hat and put on the
business hat. It's not about ones and zeros; it's
about what business problems they are trying to
But as I've grown in my career, I now get
the question a lot: What's it like to be a
question is: How did I get to where I am?
And that answer is actually pretty simple:
It's also important to be mobile and open
to different assignments, different roles,
different companies, and different parts
solve. And it's not a technology-driven process
of the world. That helps you gather the
with me suggesting some new system or
experience necessary to be an IT leader in
tool they should adopt. It's about what we might
this global economy.
do digitally to drive business results and reap the
rewards that will enable us to keep growing.
As the CTO, I also have to make sure we are
Speak your mind and deal with conflict.
Always ask the question, because if you
investing in innovation, whether it's keeping
don't ask, you won't know. But at the end
abreast of developments in artificial intelligence
of the day, the key to success is performing
or understanding the state of the art in
and delivering results, no matter what your
marketing automation. We want to stay a step
ahead of the market and make the right bets on
gender or background.
emerging technologies. These days, that's what
keeps me up at night. I don't want to spend a
bunch of money on technology that's going
to become obsolete. But at the same time, we
cannot afford to be technology laggards.