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IT's rising stars: Next-gen leaders transform the enterprise

Tracy Mayor | March 12, 2013
Tomorrow's CIOs are already transforming enterprise IT as we know it, bringing their fresh, sometimes radical visions of how technology can enable business now and in the years ahead.

At the Premier 100 conference in Tucson, Ariz., Armand Rabinowitz from Hyatt Hotels chats about what the new breed of IT leaders are looking for in an IT career. It's no longer about "keeping the lights on."

As IT shifts from being a support function to being an engine for cost reduction and profitability, tech leaders need to be business-savvy strategic thinkers with top-notch communications skills. "You need to be able to think critically about using technology to achieve corporate goals," Reed says, "and then you need to make a compelling case in the corporate boardroom."

Above all, rising stars fear boredom and crave creativity. "Having a creative component is important to me and to people of my generation," says Rabinowitz. "Industries that have been around a long time have a tough time changing, but we value creativity and change."

So does Rabinowitz's boss, John Prusnick. "Armand has the ability to think creatively -- I won't say 'outside the box,' but in different boxes. You can put him into a situation with new parameters and he adapts well," says Prusnick, director of IT innovation and strategy. Those are qualities tech staffers need at Hyatt, which has a small IT footprint thanks to an early move to the cloud and multiple partnerships with third-party providers. "Most of the people we have on our respective teams are not managing technology but managing business relationships," says Prusnick. "It's a critical skill for the new modern IT professional."

That's a sentiment that's widely held in other industries besides hospitality. "These days we're seeing a significant difference in who's getting hired and promoted," says Marshall Oldham, director of recruiting at IT staffing firm TEKsystems. "During the dot-com boom and the early 2000s, you got hired and promoted if you had a specific level of technical expertise that other people didn't have," he says.

Now the questions have changed, Oldham says. "Do you fit into the corporate culture? Do you understand the line of business? Can you manage people? These have all come to the forefront."

Here's how these rising stars are answering those questions in their own unique ways.

Lynn Costa, 43

Vice president, Shared Services, Scholastic, New York

What she does: Lynn Costa joined children's book publisher Scholastic four years ago, at the behest of her boss, senior vice president and CIO Saad Ayub, who had also been her manager at The Hartford Insurance Group. Since he knew what she was capable of, Ayub felt comfortable loading Costa's plate high.

As vice president of shared services, Costa functions like a divisional CIO, overseeing corporate enterprise applications like Workday for HR. She is also responsible for access management, help desk, mobility strategy and other software-as-a-service (SaaS) initiatives. "It's most exciting how we're leveraging technology to improve productivity," says Costa, who has 60 people reporting to her and serves some 8,500 U.S. employees.


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