Premier 100s give their advice to future leaders

On Learning to be a Leader

Mahvash Yazdi

Senior vice president, CIO

Edison International and Southern California Edison

Rosemead, Calif.

" 'Fasten your seat belt; it's going to be a bumpy ride.' As you deal with the next generation of business leaders who understand technology's role, you will be able to make a profound impact and truly partner with your peers to create a stronger relationship between a business's processes and how it utilizes IT. However, it is important to remember that sometimes technology is not the answer and not to push technology for its own sake, but to ensure the technology makes a meaningful contribution."

David C. John

First vice president, CIO

Bayerische Landesbank

New York

"To exert leadership, you must be assertive, a self-starter and willing to take the initiative without being urged. You must have a positive approach. Confidence and honesty is the essence of a successful IT leader. It is very important to understand the needs of the business, set standards and to articulate and communicate with your peers. In today's business climate, you must attend expositions [and] conferences and subscribe to key publications to stay current with industry trends and technologies."

Dick Bennett

Senior vice president of audit services, chief technical officer

ABC Interactive

Rolling Meadows, Ill.

"Keep running and run hard. If you slow down, there is someone behind you [who] will run right over you. IT is a fast-paced business. Stay up with technology. Your organization's success depends on your ability to use technology to get ahead. If you don't, someone else will."

Ron Fijalkowski


Strategic Distribution Inc.

Feasterville, Pa.

"Focus on results and technology and not on becoming a leader, since success brings its own rewards."

Roger Berry

Vice president, CIO

Walt Disney World

Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

"Treat people with honesty and respect. Stay focused on what's important to the business and your people and listen ... more than you talk."

Kirill Tatarinov

Senior vice president, CTO

BMC Software Inc.


"The best advice I can offer up-and-coming IT leaders is to stay technical as you move up the career ladder. Sometimes, leaders become focused on management and don't stay current on their technical skills as they are promoted. Staying technical helps you make informed decisions. Employees respect you more if you maintain your technical knowledge. And continue to hone your people and communication skills. Finally, don't be afraid to challenge yourself -- look for the gaps in your organization and stretch to fill them."

Byrne Chapman

Vice president, information services

American Family Mutual Insurance Co.

Madison, Wis.

"Learn the business you are supporting -- above and beyond IT -- and develop strong relationships with peer business leaders."

Roger Gurnani

Vice president, CIO

Verizon Wireless

Bedminster, N.J.

"Be a marathon runner and not a sprinter. Marathon runners have the endurance and agility that only come from experience and hard work. Sprinters have high energy -- they dash -- but quickly run out of gas. I often find that up-and-coming IT leaders want to move up fast, jump from one project to another new technology assignment. Gaining solid experience in all aspects of IT -- from business analysis to software development to data center operations -- is the only way to be a successful IT leader."

David J. Molchany


Fairfax County government

Fairfax, Va.

"New leaders should be committed to their mission and their organization and present a positive image to their staff, peers, management and customers. Leaders need to lead; they need to decide direction, ensure that good planning is done and that everyone on their team understands the objective and their role on the team. In short, they need to be able to plan, manage, organize and accomplish. Leaders should really get to know their staff and determine whom they can count on to deliver. They also need to recognize staff for their achievements, and they need to also make sure that their management knows who on the team delivers. A leader needs to grow successors, so that they themselves can move up and someone else can take over for them. Leaders need to be mentors to develop their replacements, and they need to find good mentors that will help them develop, expand their horizons and eventually be able to do more for the organization."

Melanie Heintz

Staff director

Federal Reserve Bank of New York

New York

"1. Keep innovation as part of you and your staff's job description. 2. Know the business process well. You cannot provide solutions for something you don't understand thoroughly. Participate in or develop a process for you and your staff to keep up-to-date on [things such as] business processes, initiatives, wish lists. 3. Get high-level buy-in early in a project. 4. Develop marketing skills in yourself and staff. Selling ideas and concepts is integral to the success of many projects."

Rick Peltz


Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co.

Encino, Calif.

"Be open to new ideas and vision. Learn from experienced leaders. Step out of the box and don't be defensive."

Pam Armstrong

Senior manager, IT

City Utilities of Springfield

Springfield, Mo.

"Learn and utilize distributive leadership skills. Surround yourself with diversity and listen -- to others and yourself. Pull from others' strengths and understand that through helping others succeed, you succeed. Live, eat, breathe strategy, politics, people and technology. Be well-rounded in your leadership attributes, and in the areas you are weak, surround yourself with people who possess those skills."

Curtis Robb

Senior vice president, CTO

Delta Technology Inc.


"There are many approaches that can be used to build leadership skills. I would recommend focusing on four key items.

"First, pick a good leader as a mentor and learn everything you can from how they work, interact, think and make decisions. You'll have to adapt what you learn to you personal style. Second, develop strong communication skills. You can't get good enough at expressing ideas. Don't forget that communicating also means listening. Third, learn and practice all you can on project management. Get real practical experience. Fourth, seek out a variety of experiences. You'll need all of that experience in your toolbox."

Ed Winfield


F.X. Coughlin Co.

Southfield, Mich.

"I would explain that effective information technology leadership is less about the technical platform and more about business solutions, competitive advantage and customer value. That is not to belittle the importance of good technical architecture, but as a leader, they should be spending their time to learn the business, dealing with the business leadership and defining an IT strategy that infuses information technology into the business to build competitive advantage and to help exceed the stated business objectives."

Anthony Okrongly

Vice president for IT

Galactic Ltd.

Arlington, Texas

"People matter more than technology. The people who you work with will be around a lot longer than the latest technology that you want to implement. So if you roll over people in order to accomplish a project, you'll have problems down the road. You can't lead from the pack. Being a leader often means being out front on your own. Power is taken. Respect is earned. Love is given."

On Business and the Bottom Line

Deryck G. Jones


Sentech LLC

San Francisco

"Predetermine your course of action. Lay out your goals and communicate to others. Be ready to adjust your priorities and always allow time for acceptance. Then, head into action while always expecting the unexpected. Build on your short-term successes and always surround yourself with the best people you can find."

Ali Kheirolomoom


Avinon Inc.

San Francisco

"Thoroughly understand the business goals and objectives prior to formulating the IT strategy for your enterprise and create a collaborative environment for business and technical constituencies to co-create solutions."

Russ Lambert

Director, e-commerce

Wesco Distribution Inc.


"At the end of the day, it's the economics that count."

Mike Meyers

Vice president, information management and technology

Genesee & Wyoming Inc.

Greenwich, Conn.

"Understand the company's business. Interact with the business functions on a business level. Introduce technology discussion when appropriate, but with a demonstrative business benefit always at the forefront. Build solid relationships with the business functions and emphasize IT ownership at the business level. Seek out IT expertise in the business functions and leverage the skills in those areas. Communicate: Make IT activities public and maintain an ongoing dialog with the business functions. Educate: Make IT resources business smart and make business resources IT smart. Participate: Be part of the business. Be proactive. Facilitate business function success. Don't suffer in silence."

Phil Go


Barton Malow Co.

Southfield, Mich.

"IT is not about technology. It is about focusing on initiatives that allow your organization to gain and sustain a competitive advantage. Focus on high value-added activities."

Russ Lewis

CIO, executive vice president

GFInet Inc.

New York

"To be truly effective, you must understand the business your company is in and how technology can best impact the bottom line."

Ashish Kumar


Avanade Inc.


"IT is a means to an end. A high-quality technology implementation does not guarantee business success; understanding the fundamental business issues and connecting with the broader group of people involved in the business initiative is key."

Michael J. Ragunas


Framingham, Mass.

"Spend at least as much time understanding your business as you do understanding technology. Successful IT leaders must be able to communicate effectively with peers in the business and with their own IT teams and make each group feel that their needs are understood and well-represented. IT leaders know technology well already; they should focus their own professional development on rounding out their business skills."

John A. Fiore

Executive vice president, CIO

State Street Corp.

Quincy Mass.

"Learn the business and use that knowledge to align IT with the business strategy. Be a good communicator -- communicate well, communicate often. Always challenge the status quo and seek to drive change, rather than be driven by it."

Bart Stanco

Senior vice president, CIO

Gartner Inc.

Stamford Conn.

"Good leadership means that sometimes you will tick some people off. You may want to have everyone like you, but if you try to manage popularity, you're headed to mediocrity."

Klaus O. Schafer

Assistant surgeon general for medical readiness science and technology

U.S. Air Force

Bolling Air Force Base, Washington

"Be bold, but understand the business, not just the technology."

Louis Gutierrez

Senior vice president, CTO

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Inc.

Wellesley Mass.

"Focus on business process improvement in all things. Be excellent at IT specialty skills, but deliberately submerge your specialty into service transforming the business processes, including interenterprise processes."

R. Bruce Johnson

Director, information services

Robinson Silverman Pearce Aronsohn & Berman LLP

New York

"Understand the business in which your organization is engaged. Learn what makes such a business successful and profitable. Present your proposals to management in terms of business decisions, not technology decisions."

Bob Bickel

CTO, middleware

Hewlett-Packard Co.

Mt. Laurel, N.J.

"Understand how a company runs. Learn about development, product management, sales, manufacturing, finance. Take a job or earn a degree in each."

Mark Endry

Senior vice president, CIO

J.D. Edwards & Co.


"Don't let the waves of hype that regularly waft across the industry divert you from your primary mission of contributing to the business success of your company. Incorporate new ideas, but simply latching on to the latest craze is a good way to sink the ship."

Kent Fourman

Vice president, CIO

Gaylord Entertainment Co.


"The technology is certainly important, but in today's world, business acumen is as important, if not more important. Also, managing IT people is not so difficult if you keep in mind that most want to be challenged, want to be recognized for their skills and accomplishments, want to know that their skills will be continually developed through training opportunities and want to be fairly compensated, but not necessarily bought."

Maribeth Ward

Vice president, IT

Parson Group


"I think it is critical to focus on the bottom line. Successful businesses implement technology because it makes the business more competitive, not because the technology is cool. A second piece of advice is to spend time understanding what drives the business. IT leaders need to find projects that align with the business drivers. There is always too much work to do in IT, but the best leaders can figure out which projects are really important to the business and which projects are optional."

John Mariano

Senior vice president, information systems

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