2016 Premier 100 Technology Leaders

Meet the 2016 Premier 100

The annual Computerworld Premier 100 awards shine a spotlight on individuals who have had a positive impact on their organization through technology.

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This year’s honorees represent more than 20 industries and organizations of all sizes, so you’re sure to find a project that piques your interest. Many of these technology executives -- some just starting out, and others well along in their careers -- also identify the title they aspire to someday. Their ideas could help you map out your own IT trajectory.

Jay Cavalcanto

Jay Cavalcanto

Title
Vice president, Cloud and Infrastructure Engineering

Employer
Exelon

Location
Kennett Square, Pa.

Career highlight:
I led Exelon’s IT integration of our wind energy business that we acquired from John Deere. While on-site at a turbine in Missouri, I took the opportunity to climb the 300-foot tower to set its IP address (a design quirk to be sure), using tiny hex screws while harnessed against the wind.

A recent innovative staff idea:
IT partnered with our real estate team to pilot a brand-new workspace for employees. The new workspace featured unassigned seating, no assigned offices, universal docking stations, unified communications and tons of video rooms of all sizes for collaboration. This pilot became the basis for redesigns at our corporate headquarters in Chicago and new building in Baltimore. Not every idea was carried to every site, but the integration of the “workplace” and technology most certainly is at its core. Having technology so embedded into our workspace is truly transformative.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
We emphasize that it’s OK to go out on a limb and fail. We like to bring in new technologies, see what they can do, and not be afraid that we might not end up using them as much as we’d thought. We always focus on “showing” the possible beyond just making PowerPoint presentations about it. Creating a “pull” for new technology is far more effective than “pushing” it.

James N. Ciriello

James N. Ciriello

Title
Associate vice president, IT Planning and Innovation

Employer
Merck & Co.

Location
Branchburg, N.J.

Coolest project:
Developing a platform for digital health services and solutions to complement our core businesses of novel medicines and vaccines. The platform leverages advances in wearable technologies, natural language processing and machine learning to provide services for ingesting health data, stratifying populations and helping patients manage disease.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
The CIO position becomes a logical and proven path to the CEO’s job (in the context of digital transformation).

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated?
Setting the Horizon 3 agenda, a portfolio of projects that focus on emergent platforms, patterns and paradigms that have the potential to accelerate our path to differentiated value. Our head of applied technologies provided more focus to the forward-looking agenda and cemented this work as a core function of the broader IT organization.

Your vendor management strategy:
Vendor management has transitioned from a continuum of partners to a concentration on extremes. One end is the consolidation, integration and optimization of work with a few key partners. And on the other end is a more nimble process for working with smaller, more innovative players.

Glenn E. Coles

Glenn E. Coles

Title
General manager and CIO

Employer
Yamaha Motor Corp., USA, North America

Location
Cypress, Calif.

A recent innovative staff idea:
Enhanced business predictive analytics and data visualization. We’ve implemented Business Objects Lumira, and it is quickly proving highly beneficial for business units to see data in a new way.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
IT will morph more and more into the business units. Larger organizations will still have centralized IT, but small to midsize companies will likely no longer need the larger, dedicated function because they’ll be using outside services such as SaaS and cloud-based systems.

Biggest technology disappointment in the past year:
Production-readiness and robustness of some cloud and SaaS technologies.

New titles in your IT organization:
IT security engineer.

Your vendor management strategy:
Four years ago, we used vendors primarily for staff augmentation. Today, we are relying on them more and more to assist as system integrators and support organizations.

Title you aspire to:
CEO

Chris Contakes

Chris Contakes

Title
Vice president of IT and CIO

Employer
The Pew Charitable Trusts (formerly vice president, IT, Public Broadcasting Service)

Location
Washington

Career highlight:
Over the course of my 15-plus years in the media business, I have witnessed rapid transformation in the print, digital and broadcast industries.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
The best way is to try a proof of concept with a vendor or system. At PBS, we took this approach with Digital Asset Management software from OpenText -- we tested the technology before going all-in. Once we were satisfied that it could do what we needed, it was full steam ahead.

How do you find time to innovate?
I find you just need to make time. Whether it’s looking at new and emerging technologies or challenging a member of the staff to experiment with a new technology, it needs to happen to evolve with the industry -- and, from a personal growth standpoint, to remain relevant.

Title you aspire to:
Historically, I have focused my career on doing great work irrespective of title. As a result, I have had some great titles. I think chief operating officer could be an interesting turn, given my current heavy focus on technology -- or running a startup at some point.

Read Contakes’ full profile.

Tom Craig

Tom Craig

Title
CIO

Employer
MediaMath

Location
New York

Career highlight:
Quitting a successful job at AOL in 2007 to join a few guys to found a company that started an industry. Given the failure rate of startups, I am thrilled to have helped build one that hit $1 billion in value on the first go-round.

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
I love the potential of near-field communication technology in devices. NFC has been around for a while, but it continues to have new applications for business -- and in ways we haven’t imagined. I’m also excited about addressable TV, which allows us to bring Internet-style targeting and customization to every TV.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
Greater than 75% of all U.S. companies will have some Amazon Web Services footprint in five years. It will take over the back-office systems of startups and Fortune 500s alike. While Google took on the world from the consumer in, Amazon will do the same for businesses from the technology out.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated?
Ownership of the MediaMath.Org initiative. IT functions require my primary focus, but this is a culture project that is long overdue.

Kristin H. Darby

Kristin H. Darby

Title
CIO

Employer
Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Location
Goodyear, Ariz.

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
Apple Research Kit. The open access to large populations for clinical research is amazing. We are beginning to develop applications to test on this platform with our patients. I believe the immediate access to large patient populations will have exponential effects on how clinical research is conducted.

Coolest project:
We are working with our clinicians on a program of projects that focus on personalized medicine. A compelling example of the power of technology in healthcare is our ability to take rapidly evolving scientific advancements in the area of human genome sequencing and process that knowledge in a manner that provides treatment considerations to clinicians managing complex oncology cases.

A recent innovative staff idea:
Developing performance metrics and a scorecard to align each IT function to the overall strategic pillars of the organization. This strategy enables IT stakeholders to understand how their job responsibilities affect the big-picture outcomes for the company. It also supports our philosophy that the work of all stakeholders impacts the patients we serve. The scorecard makes this core mission real for all IT stakeholders, regardless of roles.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
Patients will begin to rely even more on application intelligence output about their health and chronic disease management than on information directly from their physicians.

Biggest technology disappointment in the past year:
Apple Watch. The battery life is too short to make it functional for me.

Julia Davis

Julia Davis

Title
Senior vice president and CIO

Employer
AFLAC

Location
Columbus, Ga.

New titles in your IT organization:
We introduced program managers who serve as points of contact to our business partners to improve communication and facilitate collaboration between business and IT. It has been very well received.

A recent example of your personal leadership style:
I coach my staff to take responsibility for their careers instead of waiting for someone to recognize their talent and possibly promote them.

Skills you will hire for this year:
We’re always looking for talented people, especially data architects and enterprise architects. We’ll train them with our current technology and keep them current with new innovations and technologies we adopt.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated?
As part of our succession plan, I assigned the development of the IT road map to one of my direct reports. This individual is exposed to different aspects in identifying talent gaps and helps foster the growth of future leaders by arming them with the tools and resources needed to succeed.

Your vendor management strategy:
We leverage our RFP process more now than ever before. We solicit more competitive bids to avoid vendor services getting stale. The goal is to weed out complacency.

Read Davis’ full profile.

Praveen R. Desai

Praveen R. Desai

Title
Global head, Cognizant Application Services

Employer
Cognizant Technology Solutions

Location
Teaneck, N.J.

Skills you will hire for this year:
We will look for talent in the area of user experience design. We will also add data scientists, product design specialists and modeling experts.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
Our technology lab plays a key role in staying in tune with ever-changing trends and experimenting with them for their readiness for enterprise deployment. The adoption of lean startup principles helps build a minimally viable product to test and thereby reduce risks for early adopters.

How do you find time to innovate?
I have focused on enabling innovation within the team by removing barriers and tapping into the technical talent and creative energy in our group. I constantly challenge the status quo, thereby creating an environment of opportunity and innovation.

Beth Drohan

Beth Drohan

Title
Vice president, National Network Operations

Employer
Verizon

Location
Basking Ridge, N.J.

Career highlight:
I led the restoration of the Verizon outside plant network in Lower Manhattan following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. This was a significant challenge given the amount of damage done to the network. The level of teamwork and support was unprecedented and, as a result, the majority of the network was restored in less than one year.

Coolest project:
Deploying virtual gateways in our network and bringing in orchestration that will allow us to significantly reduce our provisioning intervals on this equipment.

Skills you will hire for this year:
This year we’re focused on cloud/virtualization skills and software/computing skills, and we’re hiring new employees and training current employees.

Your vendor management strategy:
In the past few years, our vendor management strategy has become much more collaborative, particularly with key strategic vendors. Not only are our vendors more invested from the beginning of the project, this closer relationship is required to achieve the integration among development, engineering and operations to successfully deploy network function virtualization/software-defined networking technologies.

Ann Dunkin

Ann Dunkin

Title
CIO

Employer
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Location
Washington

Emerging technology that has captured your interest:
The Internet of Things holds tremendous opportunity for the EPA. Using sensors to automate collection of environmental data provides more complete data sets at a fraction of the cost of manual data collection. The IoT enables more effective environmental monitoring and enforcement, including monitoring not previously possible.

Boldest, most out-on-a-limb prediction for IT:
Within the next five years the user interface of our mobile devices will change. The most likely development will be ultra-flexible components, allowing devices to be rolled or folded, resulting in bigger screens that fit in our pockets. But I wouldn’t rule out heads-up displays or sub-vocalization interfaces.

New titles in your IT organization:
I recently hired a chief data scientist, emphasizing our investment in data analytics and the agencywide impact we expect the program to have. I also added chief operating officer of IT to our operations director’s title, reflecting the importance of that role.

Read Dunkin’s full profile.

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