CIO Hall of Fame inductee Randy Sloan started his career in the mid-1980s -- the days of the mainframe -- when IT focused on automating processes and keeping computers humming.
For many technologists back then, those tasks were enough. Sloan, though, had other ideas. He wanted to contribute more.
"When I started my career, I was a programmer. I loved the technology. But I had an inflection point. I realized that what I really like to do is solve business problems," he says. Sloan's insight came as the enterprise IT department's role was shifting from technology caretaker to business enabler. To be successful, technologists had to shift, too. Sloan moved up from that programming job through a succession of executive positions and into his current role as senior vice president and CIO at Southwest Airlines, where he's driving not only innovation but also transformation.
Sloan is one of seven IT leaders being inducted into the CIO Hall of Fame this year. Each has spent time in top technology jobs at multiple companies. While their stories may differ, they express similar sentiments: Their success comes from evolving as the CIO position changed from one tasked with automating for efficiency to one focused on transforming organizations.
These leading executives don't credit their successes to any one particular skill or degree or resume-boosting experience. Instead, they say a combination of experiences and personal traits gave them the ability to see what the CIO job requires now and will require in the future -- and the ability to deliver on it.
"Any success I've been able to achieve is the result of having great coaching and mentoring and role-modeling, being put in positions that allow me to think about what the CIO should do," Sloan says. "And I have purposefully moved myself through critical experiences so I can do that role."
Sloan, 53, says a few key experiences helped him develop into a leading CIO. He points to an early decision to work at a warehouse when leading an implementation of a warehouse management system, a move that gave him an in-depth understanding of the business and of the value of solving business problems. He also says his work with 20 business unit CFOs helped him understand the need to influence others to gain strategic alignment. And he says his current role as "part of the executive committee and part of every business discussion" has transformed the perception of the CIO from "just the technology person" to a business executive.
Driving change from day 1
This year's CIO Hall of Fame inductees all echo those points, saying that early on in their careers they had a desire to solve business problems and drive change, which allowed them to deliver value to their companies at a time when many IT leaders were still deep in the technology weeds.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.