IT leaders who shatter the mold

Some technology executives don't simply defy convention; they craft a whole new definition of leadership. Learn who was named to the Premier 100 class of 2009 -- and how they're blazing new management trails.

Computerworld's annual list of the men and women shaping the IT industry showcases the best talent in the industry. Read about the 100 IT executives named to this year's Premier 100 IT Leaders list and learn how these modern leaders are surging ahead of the pack by testing new technologies, executing new strategies and trying on new roles. These IT elite join a roster of hundreds of Premier 100 alumni, each of whom has helped shape their IT departments, and reshape their businesses. And if their stories inspire you to forge your own path to IT leadership, check out the best management and leadership advice from Computerworld's editors and learn more about the 10th annual Premier 100 IT Leaders conference, which brings together these IT leaders alumni and other top IT executives to exchange ideas and experiences.

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, as Albert Einstein mused, then CIO Viji Murali, 52, is the picture of mental health. She's also known as an original, if not contrarian, thinker -- and a bit of a speed demon.

Murali arrived at Washington State University from Western Michigan University a little over a year ago. There, she found an aging IT infrastructure that was clearly unacceptable for a top-notch research university competing for the best and brightest students.

So, she immediately set about trailblazing. To secure more money for much-needed IT projects, Murali hired a director of IT fundraising to solicit financial and in-kind help from successful and tech-savvy alumni. To expedite the implementation of an ultra-high-speed fiber network through mountainous regions in Washington and nearby Idaho, she hired an outside consultant and became an expert in fiber installation and cross-state taxation issues. Now, university researchers whose work involves huge files and databases can exchange that data over one of the world's fastest networks.

John Seral, CIO at GE Infrastructure, has a similar need for speed -- and virtually no attachment to doing things the way they've always been done. Instead of taking the more traditional route and negotiating lower pricing to cut rapidly soaring software-licensing costs, Seral, 49, banished all licensed desktop software at GE Infrastructure after completing a successful pilot test using nothing but open-source applications. He then pushed GE's top brass to do the same companywide.

The result: "No more licensed desktops, period," reports Seral. "Going forward, all of our growth will be covered by [open-source] products. There's no cost in, and there is cost out immediately. We're getting instant return."

Washington State's Murali says, "My job is to bridge a decade of backwardness as well as to forge ahead, and the old tried-and-true ways are not going to get me where I need to be. It's time for CIOs to come up with their own best practices, to chart a new course."

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