Special Report: Premier 100 IT Leaders 2014

The 2014 Premier 100 IT Leaders: Reinventing themselves many times over

These 100 men and women have reset their career paths many times on their way to the top. Who needs a comfort zone?

Special Report

Premier 100 IT Leaders 2014

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"I moved to an area, I tried to reshape it and stabilize it and then move to a different opportunity," she says of her career thus far.

"I never looked at career advancement when I was selected for a role," she says. "I just do what I think is right for the satisfaction of getting it done right. But every role and task I was assigned did impact my career," she says. For example, working on financial systems helped her understand finance and budgets. Working as an architect taught her how to strategize and look at the big picture. As a project manager, she learned about time management, resource management and understanding how to assess the trade-off between risk and value, she says.

All of these reinventions have made her a stronger leader, thanks to the business knowledge and relationships that came with them.

"I can sit with law enforcement professionals and understand their acronyms, and I know more than I need to know about wastewater treatment," she jokes. "If you don't know what your businesses do, you can't connect all of the dots. I'll never be a public safety, fire, police or solid-waste expert, but I do know what's important for their businesses," she says.

Sven Gerjets, senior vice president of IT at DirecTV in El Segundo, Calif., considers "a very strong business lens" the absolute most important nontechnical skill an IT leader must possess in today's world. "You almost have to have empathy for what each business organization is trying to do," he says.

By way of example, Gerjets notes that he knows not only the sales numbers for DirecTV's e-commerce site, but also who gets paid for each sale. "If sales are going down and it's a technical issue, I'd better know it. We are there to run a business. It just happens to be the technical aspect of that business," he says.

Reinventing Failure

Gerjets' primary focus over the past year has been reinventing the conventional definition of failure and developing new ways that IT can learn from its failures as a means to more quickly and fearlessly innovate for the business.

"We had to make failure less contentious and make it something that we can celebrate when we learn from it," Gerjets says. To this end, IT rolled out the F12 program, a platform for sharing project information and a "failure vault" through which managers can search for information on previous failures and use the data to build more accurate risk assessments and plans.

"Failure is a big word for a lot of people. Now we have a method to work through failures," he says. "Our ability to deliver has also increased significantly. We increased our output by about 30% this year."

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