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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.

"One of my former managers had a very calm, pragmatic style of leadership, based not on emotions but on impact. I learned a lot from that. [Quintiles CIO Richard Thomas] comes with significant in-depth knowledge of every department that's here. He challenges us to look at things differently. His motto is to tackle the hard yards first."

-- Joe Donnici, vice president, core IT, Quintiles

"What I've learned [from vice president and CIO Mark Smith] is to be slightly unreasonable sometimes. You need to push people to a slightly less comfortable place if you're truly going to get them to innovate."

-- Leigh Ann Thomas, senior business relationship manager, American Water

Senior vice president and CIO Saad Ayub "is a real visionary and a strategic thinker. He's helped me become more forward-thinking, better at translating and interpreting everything that's coming in. And he's taught us all the importance of having fun at work."

-- Lynn Costa, vice president, shared services, Scholastic

Compiled by Tracy Mayor

As he rises through the ranks, Mayo finds his role changing; he's becoming less of a technologist or even a business leader (he has an MBA from Northeastern University in addition to an undergraduate computer science degree) and more of a big-picture visionary.

His vision for IT: "I can't think of a single job in our organization that is not hugely reliant on IT; you have to understand IT to do the job," he says. That pervasiveness of technology throughout the company, coupled with cloud computing and the consumerization trend, could well spell the end of old-school IT, Mayo predicts. "Companies are not going to own data centers or host their own applications. In 20 years or whatever, the notion of a separate IT organization as a keeper of the data will be gone. IT becomes part of the fabric of the organization," he says.

Under that scenario, Mayo sees IT managers like himself not necessarily being expert in this or that technology of the moment, but fully embracing the role of tech leader. "It's a bit of providing inspiration, a bit of being a mentor, a bit of giving good advice and a bit of getting out of people's way," Mayo sums up. "The value I can give the IT organization is to help other people be great."

Leigh Ann Thomas

Senior business relationship manager, American Water, Voorhees, N.J.

What she does: Leigh Ann Thomas is the first person to hold the title of senior business relationship manager in the Information Technology Service department at American Water, the largest investor-owned water and wastewater utility in the U.S.

In the new role, her sole focus and purpose is to demonstrate the value of IT to the business. Beyond that lofty goal, Thomas finds herself working without a road map. "It's intriguing," she says. "I define my role day to day. There are no best practices. It's a completely blank canvas."


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