CIO Summit: Building a Better IT employee


Panel: Alan Boehme, former Chief Information Officer, Juniper and GE Power; John Dohm, Vice President/Chief Information Officer, American Standard; Ken Harris, Chief Information Officer, Shaklee. Moderator: Eric Lundquist, VEditorial Director, eWEEK.

Alan Boehme: I look for a team player. But there may be times when people have specific skills we need.

Dohm: Who will push the organization over the top? Some attribute that we need and that motivates them.

Harris: Team player, and willingness to take initiative.

Asked to crowd. Answers: Hard working. Zeal and attention to detail. Passionate. Risk taking.

Question: What does passion mean, what do you look for?

Audience member: Perseverance.

How to judge in interview process?

Audience: What position you fill matters. Client-facing need detail attention.

Audience: Ability to work with peers. I hired someone with a Ph D who couldn't do teamwork.

Lundquist: We haven't heard tech skills.

Boehme: You need some, but management more important.

Harris: Character matters more. You can teach tech.

Dohm: I didn't have tech skills when I built early BBS. Does knowledge of tech give you insight to do something on behalf of business? That's the differentiator.

Audience: Technologist has to understand the business, or projects fail. Difficult to train on business skills. Although HR develops specs that list tech skills, but you're really looking for the business skills.

Harris: Some of most effective employees have been top in business skills. At Skaklee we do a lot of FDA regulated products, so we have a complex and difficult warehouse and supply chain environment. We have an employee who is the recognized expert in that area. A superstar needs to have specific knowledge, a go-to person in those areas.

Dohm: Healthy curiosity across the business. If I have a guy on staff who loves finance, I'll say let's get you some training there.

Boehme: At GE, general business, procedures across company. I look at how many people are recruited from across business, how many people can I place across business. GE it's common that people move around. How many people can you recruit into IT from the business? Losing people to other departments is a sign of success.

Question: How to impart skills?

Harris: Most successful org structure for IT is aligned around business you are supporting. In that case, you match people up with CFO and finance org, CMO and marketing org, you make sure that person is spending time with those organizations, and their groups are, too. You tell people they're on the fast track.

Dohm: Process and projects. Projects are where orgs have more trouble. So I map strategy and values all the way down to project level.

Boehme: Mentoring program, and reverse mentoring to put young people with specific talents with senior people. [Discussed briefly here].

Audience: IT still seen as dead-end, cost center. Switch to seeing it as competitive advantage is important in attracting and keeping people.

Lundquist: New techs, 2.0 -- important skill sets now in your cos?

Harris: Business addresses it more in terms of getting to younger generation. I've got to have talent that is tech proficient, but conversationally and in their lives proficient in it. It makes sense in a business sense.

Dohm: 2.0 core skill set is being able to write and speak. The techs are pretty basic and generally free. Deployment, you lose if you try to control a social phenomenon. Enable it and move forward.

Boehme: 2.0 is blown out of proportion. It dates back 25 years, just a tech shift that allows us to take advantage in networked environment. I'm seeing a return to C and other code that's more efficient. VCs needed buzzword.

Audience: Six Sigma.

Boehme: A common language for business and IT to communicate on plan, build, execute. Applications still an art.

Dohm: It's got to be in your DNA to love seeing tiny improvements.

Harris: Like MBA, or BS, etc. Markers, but not decision makers.

Lundquist: Tech may be most international of part of business. How important is international experience?

Dohm: It's valuable.

Boehme: Cultural differences, even within US. Someone who has traveled and understands differences is valuable. Esp. on application side.

Harris: Understanding of diversity is important. Diversity is characteristic of good group. Staff has to have respect and desire for broad understanding.

Quesiton: Best tip for identifying talent?

Boehme: Networking. Core group that you work with over the years, from one place to another. Good people want to work with good people.

Dohm: I look for the theme, what motivates people to follow the path they have followed?

Harris: There are 12 current or former CIOs out there that worked for me. It's always been important to me that good people I work with I help grow in career and personal lives. That's probably proudest accomplishment.

Audience: Where do you go to find people? Monster.com, etc?

Harris: No one best place. Network is critical. We no longer do individual interviews, but multiple group interviews. We learn about ourselves in interviewing.

Dohm: At Deloitte, I recruited a team from scratch to about 80 people. Some were passed over by blue-chip firms based on degrees. We recruited from all over. Ph Ds in business schools who wanted experience. People who express interest in business.

Boehme: Tactical approach. We cut a deal with a university, funded research, prof recruits good students who do project work for us. Funneled talent to us. Also, think global. The trick is setting up communications and talent.


2 Comments for "CIO Summit: Building a Better IT employee"

  • Ed Cone May 13, 2008 1:49 pm

    I think you'll see much of the wisdom from the stage translated into our pages (web and print) in the weeks ahead. But being there has it's own value -- hope you can make it next year.

  • Tom Lodahl May 13, 2008 11:53 am

    Ed: these notes only make me wish I had been at the CIO Summit myself. We need some way of distilling these off-the-cuff comments into coherent wisdom. Best of luck with it!! Tom

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