Chief Technology Officer: One Title Fits All

More and more companies are hiring chief technology officers. But just what do these new roles really involve?

Current Job Listings

As technology becomes a more important part of what virtually all businesses do, some companies are finding that there's too much work for a single CIO to handle. Many firms are dividing technology-related tasks among CIOs, chief architects, telecommunications executives and, increasingly, chief technology officers (CTO).

Trying to distinguish among these positions can be tricky, since each company faces its own industry-specific challenges in organizing its information technology team. But a CTO's job almost always involves "looking out there on the horizon for what technologies could . . . be used by that company," says Beverly Lieberman, president of recruiting firm Halbrecht Lieberman Associates Inc. in Stamford, Conn.

Here's one recently christened CTO who has to keep his eyes on the horizon and beyond.

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Just the Facts

• Name and job title: Mark Hedley, senior vice president and CTO

• Company: Wyndham International Inc., Dallas

• Nature of work: Oversees the company's customer relationship management system, as well as the back-office network.

• How he got the job: Recruiters sought him out because of his substantial IT experience in the hospitality industry.

• Skills required: Knowledge of Internet technologies, data networking and hotel reservation systems, plus firsthand knowledge of the hospitality industry.

• Training: Although he has 15 years of IT experience, Hedley says he can't point to any specific training he received to land the job; he just has "a love of technology and a desire to help others solve problems," he says.

• Salary potential: Just less than what a CIO can earn. If the CIO of a Fortune 500 company earns $500,000 per year, the CTO will earn $250,000 to $350,000, according Beverly Lieberman, president of recruiting firm Halbrecht Lieberman Associates.

• Career path: The position involves virtually all facets of IT as it's used in the hospitality industry and also offers opportunities to "help steer business strategy," says Hedley. He says the future is only limited by one's drive and ambition: "In the future, I see myself as the CEO of a company that provides technology solutions to the hospitality and tourism industry."

• Advice: Understand the business goals and become part of the group that establishes the company's vision, reevaluate technology standards and potential solutions to business issues every three months, and stay on top of innovations.

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Mark Hedley

Senior vice president and CTO

Wyndham International Inc.

Dallas

www.wyndham.com

Wyndham International is a luxury hotel company with 130 locations.

Previous experience: Hedley already had 15 years of IT experience in the hospitality industry when he was approached by a technical recruiter for Wyndham. However, he had never held the title of CTO before joining the company in April.

He began his career as a systems analyst at Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. Hedley later moved to the gaming industry and became CIO at Caesar's World Inc. in Baton Rouge, La. He was most recently vice president of IT at Sun International North America Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

These jobs gave Hedley the know-how he says he needs: proficiency in Internet technology, data networking, reservation systems, and the nuts and bolts of how a hotel works.

Responsibilities: When Hedley became a CTO, the "homework became greater," he says. He spends one to two hours per day reading up on the latest technologies in the hospitality industry, which he says change every three to six months.

"As a CTO, my job is to research the newest technologies and evaluate them for potential use in doing what we do best: providing a fantastic customer experience," he says.

A critical part of Hedley's job is to ensure the best use of customer information. He oversees Wyndham By Request, a customer relationship management system that collects data about the hotel's guests to provide individually tailored service. At the company's Web site, customers can register their preferences for feather pillows or a good cabernet, for instance - which then seem to magically appear when the customers arrive.

"To a great extent, you have to understand the business process in order to use technology to support it," Hedley says, explaining his need to be involved in the everyday operations of the company. At the same time, with no CIO on its payroll, Wyndham relies on Hedley to take care of the back room as well to make sure information flows smoothly within the company.

For example, when he first arrived at Wyndham, Hedley says, outdated computer systems made it hard for executives to access their e-mail while on the road. "Within the first couple of weeks, I recognized the need and identified the technology" to improve the system, he says.

Rewards: Hedley declined to disclose his salary, but Lieberman says that how much a CTO earns largely depends on how a firm's IT team is organized. In some companies, the CTO reports to the CIO. In such cases, if the CIO of a Fortune 500 company makes $500,000 per year, the CTO earns $250,000 to $350,000, she says. But in situations where the two are peers or where a CTO has supplanted the CIO altogether, like at Wyndham, salaries for the two positions are about the same.

But Hedley says it's his role that he really values. "I enjoy working with an exciting team of people who seek out technological solutions, where I don't have to fight to get them implemented," he says.

Tobias is a freelance writer in Santa Cruz, Calif.

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