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Debrief: Insider Secrets from Female CIOs (ESI Speaker series)

This past month I had the honor of presenting at Express Scripts’ Women in Technology speaker series. Express Scripts (ESI) has been a client of ours for over 20 years and I am grateful to have been asked to speak by Drew Henderson and Chris Palmer of the ESI Learning & Development team. 

For this particular message, I reached out to several female technology leaders and peers who excel in their respective spaces. I am excited for you to hear what they have to share in this article. 

1. Focus on Building Value Not Building Your Resume

It can be easy to make career decisions to build a resume that will “look good,” especially in the age of social media where viewing LinkedIn profiles and the list of achievements that come with it has become a common practice. Interestingly, CDTO at Ameren, Bhavani Amirthalingham, has utilized a career approach centered around building value. The result? Doors have constantly been opened. She has never had to knock, and this success has tied directly into the practice of a second lesson… 

2. Stay Humble 

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. In fact, you shouldn’t be. A mindset of humility always lends itself to accelerated growth and learning. 

Those who lead with humility have a greater capacity to see the value in others and are able to embrace change faster than their peers. For Bhavani, leading with this foundational leadership philosophy has contributed to her growth in leading technology for one of the most innovative energy companies in America.

3. Build a Tribe

Teresa Sanzottera, CIO of Mallinckrodt (Specialty Generics), is another dear friend of mine (I have only known her for a few years, although it feels longer). One of the key leadership lessons she highlighted was to find what you love and build your tribe. Teresa started in finance but found her love was in building the IT space. Leadership is lonely, and it is important to build authentic relationships not only for career advancement but also for a support system. 

We at Technology Partners collaborated with Ouellette & Associates to launch the Technology Leadership Experience (TechLX) in St. Louis to impact not only our clients but to also build a stronger tribe across the city. 

What about you? Are there programs within your organization of which you can take advantage? Who are the individuals you need to be around to grow?  

4. Invest in an Executive Coach 

The reality is no one can grow alone and no one can force you to grow–it’s a personal decision. One helpful outlet for Erin Stamm, CIO/COO of Esse Health, invested in executive coaching. Call on an outside expert to look at your strengths, push you further and identify blind spots can help you identify your next best step in your professional and personal life.

5. Raise Your Hand 

An individual willing to go the extra mile makes a great team player. Lina Young, CIO of Peabody Energy has made this a habit. Lina goes the extra mile not only for her corporation but also within the community, with endeavors such as volunteering for organizations like NPower as a regional board member. 

Share your passion for an organization and develop new skills by raising your hand for the projects no one else wants to tackle.  You will be respected for it and you will grow in the process.

6. Persevere 

Finally, perseverance is a necessary principle for all. Tammy Deible, CIO of Bull Moose, never saw herself becoming a CIO. However, her brilliance, dedication, hard work, and tribe naturally paved a way for her to realize her position at the head of the table. Perseverance is defined as, “doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” Adhere to the principle that you will make the decision to move forward despite pitfalls, hurdles, and setbacks that may come. 

In summary, every leader needs a tribe, a group to go to in times of celebration and defeat. Your tribe will pick you up to help you with your career ascent. As challenges  surface, be one of the few that raises a hand to step forward and step up.  Always invest in yourself because you are your most valuable asset. Further, as you look around and see others promoting themselves, stay humble, seek to build value, and by effect, your career (and your resume) will build itself.

Signature - Lisa Nichols