Women and Tech: The CIO Connection

A recent article in USA Today describes a study from Accenture, predicting the number of women in technology may drop to 22 percent by the year 2025. On this episode, we explore the role of women in tech with two senior leaders, who are both former CIOs and industry pioneers.


Oct 26, 2016

A recent article in USA Today describes a study from Accenture, predicting the number of women in technology may drop to 22 percent by the year 2025. On this episode, we explore the role of women in tech with two senior leaders, who are both former CIOs and industry pioneers.

Kim Stevenson is corporate vice president of Intel Corporation and chief operating officer for the Client and Internet of Things Businesses and Systems Architecture (CISA) Group. Stevenson is responsible for CISA’s operational excellence, strategic planning process and related cross-company coordination. She also serves on Intel’s management committee. Stevenson served as Intel’s chief information officer (CIO) from 2012 until August 2016.

Andi Karaboutis is Executive Vice President Technology & Business Solutions at Biogen, Cambridge, MA. Accountable for technologies that provide insights for drug discovery and patient benefit. A former VP & Global CIO, and Technology leader with an extensive business background in high tech (Dell), and supply chain and lean manufacturing (General Motors & Ford). She has been at the forefront of IT/business integration over the past 20 years by leading the consolidation and alignment of manufacturing and IT processes and strategies to create a superior customer experience.


Michael Krigsman: Welcome to Episode 199 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman, and I’m an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk. The purpose of CXOTalk is to bring the most innovative, visionary leaders for in-depth meaningful conversations. These are people that are shaping our world, and on Episode 199 today, I am speaking with two truly amazing women who fit into all of those categories, and we’re going to talk about technology, we’ll talk about the world of the CIO, and what’s coming down the line. And in no particular order, Adriana Karaboutis, who is guest number one. Hi Andi, how are you?

Andi Karaboutis: Hi I’m well, Michael, how are you?

Michael Krigsman: I’m great! Please, briefly introduce yourself.

Andi Karaboutis: Certainly. So, I am Andi Karaboutis, Executive Vice President for Technology, Business Solutions, and Corporate Affairs at Biogen, here in Cambridge Massachusetts. Biogen is a leading and one of the oldest biotechnology companies around, and we specialize in therapeutics for neurodegenerative diseases, multiple sclerosis, hemophilia, spinal muscular atrophy, and we’ve got a great foray into alzheimer's and some great products in our pipeline.

Michael Krigsman: Fantastic! And we’ll dive into your role and what you do in just a minute. And guest #2 is Kim Stevenson from Intel. And Kim, welcome again. You and Andi have both been guests at CXOTalk in the past. Again, welcome!

Kim Stevenson: Thanks, Michael. So as Michael said I’m Kim Stevenson and I am COO for Intel’s Client, Internet of Things, and Systems Architecture Group. That is a mouthful, of course we’ve made an acronym. And, I took this job about two months ago, I keep saying last month, but it’s the end of October. I don’t think I need to explain too much about what Intel does, but we’ve got a lot of new forays outside of our core business in exciting areas with artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, drones, and all of the 5G expiration and activities going that will enable services to run at that layer. So, it’s good. It’s exciting.

Michael Krigsman: So, let’s begin with… You’re both former CIOs, and maybe a good place to start is can you share with us how you move from the CIO to the business roles that you’re now in?

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, I think I would start with, Michael, once a CIO, always a CIO. So, maybe not “former”! [laughter] So, it’s interesting to me that, as I move into the COO role, how much of the knowledge that you gain through IT… because as an IT organization, you’re horizontal in the company, so you see how every process in the company executes. And with that execution you gain deep insight into the business processes and the things that you have opportunity to drive greater improvement. So, this is a new role in Intel, and frankly, I was instrumental in crafting it, because what we did was we outlined the major strategic challenges going forward for the next five years or so, and how did we want to attack them; and then through that, came the need for this particular leadership role. And, I think everybody in IT understands that if you’re trying to drive any form of transformation across the company, the IT knowledge, the business process knowledge, just marrying the two together to drive the right outcome is key.

Andi Karaboutis: Yeah I would...so Michael, I would agree exactly with what Kim says, is that the CIO role sort of evolved, and you’re working across the enterprise. The recognition that it goes beyond just digitizing processes and capabilities for the company is kind of what happened to me as well, and we started, when I joined Biogen two years ago, they had developed a vision for… they wanted core capabilities, which is the traditional IT, we also wanted digital data sciences and business solutions which is part of the title, that would help us actually foray and help disrupt the life sciences and healthcare industry, because there’s such an opportunity for patients, payers, and providers to come together for the greater good of patients. And so, the role evolved into something that was beyond the CIO. I have the whole IT organization reporting in to me. I have digital and data sciences, and obviously corporate affairs, which is a little bit separate. It has communications, patient advocacy, etc. as a part of it. But the recognition when Biogen approached when I was the CIO of Dell, was that we want to do something more, and be something more and be in this space than was traditionally IT. I think you’re seeing that evolution everywhere. So I think Kim and I will both take a bit of credit of growing beyond the role, because I think we both worked very hard, if I could say that; we go back a ways. But I think it’s also the industry has evolved, and enabled this. In recognition that technology is ubiquitous, a lot of the disruptive technology that Kim just referenced is opening doors. And I truly believe all companies, to a greater or lesser extent, are digital and technology companies now.

Kim Stevenson: And Michael, it might be worth noting that both Andi and I serve on corporate boards to publicly held companies. And what you see in the management ranks, in terms of the importance of technology, is the core strategic element that technology brings to the execution of the business plan, is also a board-level discussion. So, you see that happening across industries also.

Andi Karaboutis: Yeah, that’s a great point.

Michael Krigsman: One of the things that I’m really wondering about is how did you make that transition from being a CIO to being clearly a business person serving on the boards? And it’s funny that as I say this, the Kim Stevenson of my conscience is saying, “Well all that IT is just another business function, that they’re not separate,” as Kim has said in the past. But, how did you, and how can a CIO make that leap, which for many CIOs is a tough one?

Andi Karaboutis: So, I think what’s important, we’ve always talked about “seat at the table” and “earning seat at the table” and things like that, I mean, for many years. And “seat at the table” is really code for understanding the business, the objectives, the mission, the enablers, etc., and how do you apply technology to enable that, or even to modify it and streamline and make it even more impactful. So that continues to be the case. You do have to be an ardent business person. You also need to understand, strongly, the financials of the company and financials in general, and understand how public companies work, if you’re on the board of a public company or part of one, and also nonprofits if you’re there as well. The bottom line is, you know, while we have a mission at Biogen, which is: care deeply, change lives, provide therapeutics, we have stakeholders. And those stakeholders include our shareholders, our employees, you know, our patients, our providers, payers, etc., and being part that ecosystem, means you have to be part of that ecosystem, and really understand and embrace it. And when technology is as important as it is, having all of that and pulling that together is mandatory, and that’s what the ardent businessperson needs to be with what I call a technology backbone.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, and Michael, I would say, if people think of it like a leap, then you probably won’t make it across the chasm. Through your years of IT, what you’re doing is you’re building a track record of understanding the business, [and] delivering business value projects. And you move from a service provider ─ someone who executes the projects and programs that a division or a line of business executive might ask you to do, to someone who’s sitting there collaborating with the business that helps them to really think more broadly about how they could execute, what’s possible with technology, in terms of are they trying to grab share, create new products, whatever the business outcome might be. [And then eventually become], someone who actually sits at the table as a decision maker and what’s the right strategic move, what’s right right next move; not what’s the next technology move, but what’s the right next move for the company. So, it’s your career experience that builds up, that gives you that track record, so then when you step into the next role, it’s logical. It feels normal. It feels like the next extension just as if you moved from an applications development leader to, you know, a functional leader over multiple functions in IT. That seems natural after you’ve done those things. So I think it is more about this career-building and track record of experience that allows others to see the potential that you could bring in a different capacity.

Michael Krigsman: So, Andi Karaboutis, Kim  was just saying that, essentially, before making that leap, or that leap, in a sense, is a recognition of what you’ve been doing all already, but Andi, doesn’t it also require the right type of environment inside the organization or more broadly, to accept a CIO making that leap, no matter how good he or she might be?

Andi Karaboutis: Absolutely. So, and some companies come to it by what comes first. A CIO that shows that it’s more than just digitizing processes. You can do more. How can you contribute to the top line and bottom line of, you know, a company’s balance sheet objectives, and so on and so forth. But, sometimes a company comes to it by seeing the disruption that’s out there and what’s happening, [and] goes and looks for, which was the case in my case, looks for a CIO that’s shown sort of progressive improvements, and really taking a company along. So there’s a chicken and an egg, and I think it’s a bit of both. You have to have a company that’s mature, that recognizes just what technology can do, and you know, you have to have candidates that are ready, willing, and able, and can do it. I feel very lucky, to be honest with you, because I crossed three industries. So I did twenty years in the auto industry, I spent four and a half wonderful years at Dell, it’s a fantastic company, and I’m now at Biogen and again, another fantastic company. But the common thread that’s followed me is making sure that I’m at least as current and on my game as possible on technology, as I’ve absolutely had to take on the challenge of learning those very different businesses so I could succeed. And you know, even though Kim, for example, is in the same company, she’s traversed organizations similarly, and I think you can agree with me, or I hope you will, anyway.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, so I completely agree that… I always say that business leaders that grow up on the business side really are never going to speak the language of technology. Maybe they understand how they use technology, they understand what can be done, but may not understand how you make that come to life. And technology people know how to make things come to life, like deliver the solutions that create that value. And we have to learn how to speak the language of business, how to prioritize the business outcome over the specific technology choice, or selection, or implementation date ─ whatever those, you know, boundary conditions that we put on ourselves. And because we learn both and we understand the business outcome that we’re trying to drive, it actually puts an IT leader…when you compare a business leader. Now, you’re trying to make a decision: What’s the next person that I’m going to put into this role that’s going to drive the company to the next level? Am I going to put someone that understands one dimension? Or am I going to put someone that understands both dimensions? And that’s why I think we’re so fortunate as IT leaders now in this, sort of, next era of where technology’s going to take companies, because we had to learn the business language to be able to effectively execute our IT mission. Business leaders have never had to do that until now, and that is a challenge to many of them. And it refers, Michael, to the resistance factors that you find in companies about the risk associated with adopting new technology.

Michael Krigsman: And we have a question from Arsalan Khan, on Twitter, who asks: You’re saying that the tech folks need to understand business, but Kim, hearkening to what you were just talking about, what about the need for business folks to have a better understanding of technology?

Andi Karaboutis: So, I’ll jump in on that one. It’s the technologists… One of the key roles of the technology person’s job is to help them understand; to help them understand the art of the possible with new and emerging technologies and how it can disrupt the business and enable the business. And so, the third dimension beyond understanding the technology and the core business is communication. Communication for a technologist is hugely important. And while I really don’t want to take the burden off of the businesspeople to really understand the technology, etc. We need to make sure that we’re communicating well enough, and not just communicating what is SOA, and what are services, and, you know, what is machine learning, but how those things apply to what is core and paramount to the business. So, I think that’s a big role that we have to play and yes, the business does need to understand technology.

Michael Krigsman: What about… You mentioned AI, machine learning, and it’s almost becoming a, kind of, buzzword now. You’re both in organizations that are exploring all of these technologies. Could you maybe talk a little about AI and machine learning, and some of these new technologies and the impact on your business, and how you’re thinking about these things?

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, I’ll start on that. So, for me, this is a really… So, AI has been a long time coming. And, the way I think of it is AI is the umbrella for things like machine learning, deep learning, cognitive computing, ambient computing. All of that sort of fits into the AI umbrella. And you’re already seeing really, really interesting solutions come into play, like the self-driving cars and things like that. And then there’s the drone, think of it as a demo, you know, 150 drones fly up in the air in unison, and we spell out the Intel logo, and we do interesting things with the drones. But take that to the next step where you might be using it for a search and rescue mission. Where if you had 150 drones, the area you could scan for search and rescue is multiplied by 150 times. You could save lives that way. If you’re doing track inspections for railway tracks. And so, there’s a lot of really interesting things that have to come into play, and this machine learning, deep learning, this artificial intelligence, helps you actually make decisions in faster time, and with more accuracy, that you just wouldn’t be able to do without that. So, to me it’s really exciting and it’s a huge benefit for Intel’s business, because the more data we’re storing, the more we’re processing, whether it’s at the edge or back in the data center, those are all good things for Intel’s business. So, for us, you know, to accelerate that momentum would be a really good option.

Andi Karaboutis: Yep, I couldn’t agree more with Kim, and it’s multidimensional. You know, for my industry, for life sciences, if you think about the plethora of data to bring together, and not just the analytics in that, but deep mining to really learn from [it], to try to penetrate, you know, more quickly getting to therapeutics for diseases. There’s thousands of diseases out there for which, you know, biologically, we have therapies for about 500. You know, the opportunity is tremendous for that data mining, and machine learning, and opportunities to drive various variables together. And interestingly enough, Michael, and Kim and I were just on a string over the weekend, there are so many dimensions to it. As with evolution of technology, and evolution of various industries, you know, with the new car, you had to develop roads, you had to develop rules of the road, machine learning brings with it some interesting moral and ethical things that we have to get in place to be able to manage, as the advent of it. As always, companies like intel are providing better, faster computing power. We have more storage, more of everything, companies like Dell and the rest are doing that. We have to make sure that technology doesn’t become the long pole in the tent. We need to make sure that all of the ethical issues and all of that comes along with it. So, it’s a really interesting topic and Kim and I are heavily into it.

Michael Krigsman: So when you talk about, or think about some of the ethical issues, can you give us some examples of some of the potential issues that may come up?

Andi Karaboutis: So by definition, machine learning, right, will take you to where you have now created intelligent devices that will take more, and more, and more actions on things. If we don’t have rules of the road, I’ll call it, at a very tactical level on how we develop these things, what are we doing, you know, think about I’ll draw an analogy: Guns are used for good reasons. Guns can also be used for bad reasons. Atomic bombs on jets: same sort of thing. We have to make sure that what we’re developing or programming has morals, ethics, integrity baked into the thought processes behind them, or something that could be very good could turn into something that could be very detrimental for people.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah. So there’s a lot of decisions, you know, that are made. The easy ones to talk about are life and death decisions, but there are many nuances to it. But, if you’re in a life or death decision today, so, if I’m, you know, driving a car today, and, it’s clear there’s going to be an accident and I make a decision: Do I want to swerve right? Do I want to swerve left? Or do I want to go straight? So now the machine learning algorithm is going to make that decision because it’s a self-driving car. And, so then, what do you tell it to do, when in front of you is your clear death, to the right of you is my grandmother, and to the left of you is my children? Which decision is the machine going to make? And you could take that to a military application, you could take that to drug running and supply chain automation. There’s a lot of things that could go wrong, but I’m a firm believer that technology shouldn’t slow down for the fear that someone might do something bad with it. We are active in lobbying and discussing with Congress and legislative communities about what legislation should be in place. No clear answers at this point, but you take that ethical responsibility and that integrity responsibility with the technology advancement, and then, you have to take it to the legislative side. In fact, that’s how we got airbags in cars. Right? So, I wouldn’t slow down, but like Andi said was really good: Don’t make technology the long pole in the tent. Think this thing through holistically to the whole solution, so that legislation will be there when you want to introduce the new technology.

Michael Krigsman: Andi, do you think about AI/machine learning technologies in a different way than you would traditional software development or drug research?

Andi Karaboutis: So, I mean, as with all evolving technology, you have to think about: What is it bringing more to the table? What can you do with it, etc.? And to me, yes, I do think about it differently. I think about it as data mining on steroids, and really coming up with how do we get the vast amounts of data that’s out there, pull it back in, be able match it, find correlations, find causations, then go on to a next level of learning without sounding too redundant, and really taking that to help disrupt. If you look at our industry, you know, developing a therapeutic takes twelve years. And, when you have debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s and cancer, and things like that, anything you can do where you can go in silico, and you can use machine learning techniques, artificial intelligence techniques, you know, and deep analytics and things like that, absolutely. I mean, we are following it a vengeance and we do treat it differently because it’s providing new capability to the table, and it can help solve bigger problems of course.

Michael Krigsman: Well clearly, this is a very exciting point, and certainly it seems drug development and of course all the things that Intel is doing. To what extent are you embracing AI and machine learning? I’m sure you both have organizations and folks devoted to this. But, where are we in the sort of explosion of the life cycle of the explosion of this?

Andi Karaboutis: So Michael, I wish I could tell you that, you know, we are really far along the path, etc. I think we’re treading very carefully. I think we’ve got a great foundation in place here at Biogen. I would say, if you wanted a scale of 1-10, we’re probably in the 2-3 range, and what the art of the possible is, and probably 10 keeps going further and further away from us, because as things progress, as the, you know, the technology and the learnings get better and better, we have a loftier goal to strive for.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, and I would say, Michael, you’ve seen Intel announce products this year that are tuned for machine learning, deep learning, both training and scoring. So, we’re all in from a business point of view, and you’ll continue to see advancements there. I would say, though, you know, that we’re still (even though there’s sort of been this long buildup to it, because we’ve been doing AI for a long time in different flavors), we are still in the very, very early days, where industry standards haven’t been set yet, legislation still, the technology’s evolving really, really rapidly all with great performance improvement. But, we have, you know, libraries being developed, etc. So, we’re still at the early phase, and I think the way this plays out is you start to see component capabilities come in for autonomous function. The whole car doesn’t go autonomous in the 2016-17, I guess, model year, but things do...You see the technology come out every generation. And that’s what’s so exciting. But, we’ve got a good decade ahead of us before this fully comes into play, and there’s going to be lots of coexistence with existing technology, new technology, and they’re going to have to work well together.

Michael Krigsman: I’m involved with the IEEE, which has a major initiative going on looking at the ethical implications of AI, and autonomous systems. I actually co-chair one of their groups with David Bray, who’s currently CIO of the FCC. Just any thought on tensions that may ultimately come up between the desire of people who are probably fearful and, in some cases, with good reason, to regulate AI and the desires of developers to have unfettered forward motion. So, any thought on that tension, at all?

Andi Karaboutis: So I actually think developers sort of welcome the, what I’ll call standards or the rules of the road that the IEEE could put in place, or other organizations. Great developers actually like to do good. They like to deliver great capabilities. They like to provide, especially what can we learn, how can we apply it? Again, back to my world, around how to do good for patients. And so, I think they welcome it. They actually want to be part of the conversation, that’s the key thing. Instead of having something just come down, it’s how do they become part of the conversation and provide their insights on what would be good ethical programming, good ethical machine learning, mining, etc. and what we do with it. You will always have the hackers, you will always have people that don’t. But the mainstream, I think, is a very proud cadre of people that want to be proud of it. So, I really don’t see it as attention. I just hope that the IEEE is bringing in good people and knowing them as they do, I think they probably are to help with that and ever.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, and I’d say, Michael, to prove Andi’s point: So, we have at Intel a Cloud for Good initiative, and one of the first implementation is what we call our cancer cloud. And, so it takes DNA sequencing information to actually give sort of better diagnosis and treatment plans. And, one of the things that we’ve done, because data is always the key to these kinds of initiatives, is that we’ve offered a benefit to employees and their families, that if you have cancer, we will pay for your DNA sequence so that it can get you to a better diagnosis and treatment plan. So, that all sounds wonderful, right? But, because healthcare is done on a state-by-state basis, we started in Oregon, and that’s available in Oregon, and we have to work through other states to get the same kind of benefit available in other states, and then we will have to build datasets that are appropriate to that state. So when I said, it’s going to take a decade, it’s because of those kinds of things, and that’s just a reality that you face, and you have to work within the system. And you know what, I never am afraid of tension. If there is tension, that usually leads the better dialogue, and gets us to a better answer. If there were no tension, I don’t think we would be as creative and innovative in the solutions that we bring together as technologists. So, I applaud the tension, and would, hopefully you and David would do this, but request that you have a diverse set of people, you know, global representation, industry-wide representation, so that we get to answers that work, you know, across a global economy.

Michael Krigsman: So I can’t speak for the IEEE, but I can tell you this large initiative has global representation, has people from all different sectors, and certainly on the committee that David and I co-chair, we include policymakers and from the government, and independent think-tanks, and from private industry, because, absolutely, we agree that we need this balanced perspective that includes these multiple points of view.

Kim Stevenson: That’s awesome.

Andi Karaboutis: Great to hear, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: So, let’s go on to another topic in our last fifteen minutes of this show, and let’s talk about, and I’m cringing before I say it, let’s talk about women in technology. [Laughter] So, okay, so either one of you can start and beat me down right from there.

Andi Karaboutis: What do you want to talk about relative to women [in technology]? There’s a lot of us there, we’re hoping there will be more, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: Let’s talk about the fact that there are a lot of women there, and hoping that there will be more. Accenture recently came out with a study. They were partnering with Girls who Code, and USA Today had a provocative headline that said something to the effect of, “If we’re not careful, the number of women in technology will actually decline between now and the year 2025.” And as Kim pointed out earlier when we were talking, an attention-grabbing headline. But, still, there are concerns, and it’s not a panacea.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, so let’s… I always say we have to reframe this. When people start with “women in tech”, it’s like women have a problem. And, the broader issue is how do we make the technology industry and profession an inclusive profession that includes people of all sorts of different backgrounds and genders and cultures, the whole bit; because, you know, I’ll go back to my statement: we all know IT projects are all business projects. There are no teams that can be sort of, of a unilateral mindset. You need diverse experience, diverse perspectives, right? And I can give you lots of examples where products were developed by a homogenous team that didn’t represent the customer that product was for, and it failed in the marketplace. Yet, when, you know, I’ll go back to the early 2000’s, Ford put a set of women engineers on the Ford Taurus, right? And it became the highest-selling car because they had a different need understanding of their customer. At Intel, we were working on some wearables, and some of them are high-end fashion bracelets. Well, who’s going to wear the fashion bracelets? Women. And so, they were thinking about where on the bracelet do we put the USB charging port? And one of the women on the team said, “Well, I wouldn’t want to plug it in anyway, because at night, when I take off my jewelry, I lay it on my dresser. So why not create a wireless charger or a wireless pad that I can just set it on, and then you’re not destroying the beauty of the bracelet with a plug for a USB charging.”

And so, there are just a few examples of where diverse members of the team that represent your constituency and your customer base actually get you to a better outcome. And so, when I think about where technology is going, I think the world demographics are changing. You know, by 2050 in the United States, there will be no racial or ethnic majority who will be that much of a blended community, and so then why wouldn’t you have blended teams? I’m pretty proud of what we’ve done at Intel. It’s say it’s a journey and we’re partway on the journey, but we set in place very clear objectives about our hiring retention and progression, of our diverse population. And, we’re doing a great job. We’re not there yet, but I’ll tell you our hiring has been… we reported to the last two years over 40% diverse employees. And that tells you that talent is available. You may have to look in different places, you may have to change your interview teams, you may have some criteria about how you select people, but the talent is available and we haven’t lowered our standards one bit. In fact, we increase our standards every year because of the rate and pace of technology change.

Andi Karaboutis: So I, again, agree with Kim. I think she said it extremely well. The conversation has to become more robust. We do still have less women in technology than we’d all like. We’d like to see it, you know, be more 50/50, etc. The conversation has to be more robust around not just talking about women in technology for the sake of getting more women in technology, but what are the things we need to do to get the results we need. Part of it is great diversity programs, that I know Intel has and that Biogen has. Part of it is coming together in women in technology forums, not talking so much of the challenge of the results, but talking about the technology. I’m being a little harsh here because there have been a lot of situations where I’ve been asked to speak, I know Kim’s been asked to speak as well, and it’s how do we get more women? How do we do that? And I think it’s a good topic but it shouldn’t be the whole discussion. The discussion should be, “What are we doing as women to really drive technology forward? What are we doing to be at the front end of that curve? What are we doing, for example, like Michigan Council for Women in Technology, which I was very proud to be part of when I was back in Michigan, to bring a feeder pool to fruition?” And really start driving that. And again, I’ll be a little harsh, and I hope my female colleagues will forgive me: a little less ruminating about it and a little bit more really continuing the great work that we’ve started to drive it forward, and be the poster-people for these great implementations and great things that we’ve done. So, I’m being a little edgy here, I might get a little criticism for it, but I think Kim and I are saying the same thing…

Kim Stevenson: Yup.

Andi Karaboutis: … but we’ve shared a bottle of wine and talked about that actually!

Kim Stevenson: We did! We did, not too long ago. And you know, Michael, the other thing that I get asked a lot… So, men have to help, right? I would not be here in my position today without having been mentored and supported by a number of men throughout my career. And, so there’s a role for women’s growth in this challenge that we’re facing, but there’s a role for men, too. Male advocacy is really important. So, to the extent that all of the audience today, you know… If you’re thinking “What can I do?”, right, then I’ll tell you it’s really easy. Sponsor a woman that’s midway through her career. Find a young woman and keep her, encourage her in technology. And then, ask them to do the same thing for two other women. And so, a couple small steps makes a huge impact when you start getting that multiplication factor.

Michael Krigsman: You both are truly the poster examples of women with extraordinary careers, because you’ve both come out through being CIOs, obviously a very male-dominated profession focused on tech, and, you have now moved into broader business roles. We hear about the seat at the table, I mean, you’re both members of company boards. And so, what did you each do to make this happen?

Andi Karaboutis: Well, you know, I don’t know. Worked hard.

Kim Stevenson: You know, when I think about things that I would say, maybe I did differently than would be considered typically “female,” if that’s a good way to think about it. It’s a differentiator kind of thing, I definitely networked with a purpose. I still do. I network with people who I think can help me, not just people who I like. And, often women fall into that category that we network with people we like, we’re so busy, so you use your relationship time that we need… By the way, for women, “relationship time” fuels us. It helps make us whole. So, you tend to, then, network with people who you like. And in business, frankly, liking somebody isn’t the key criteria, right? Can they help you get done what you need to get done? Can they help you build a partner ecosystem? Can they help you with their innovation agenda? So, again, I think that sounds a little bit harsh, but I do think that that’s a differentiator and I think I’ve always done that. I’ve networked with people that I believe had a shared view, and were in it to help one another, sort of looking for that win-win. Whether I like them personally or not was not a criteria at the beginning. I hope through the developing of a relationship that I like them as people at the end, but it isn’t always the case. And that, for me, is okay.

Andi Karaboutis: Now for me, for me … the way… the simplest thing that’s helped me do it is overcome that little voice inside that says “Not good enough, overcome the qualifications.” We’ve all heard this story of you put a job description in front of a male candidate and ask them, “Do you think you could do it?” and they say “Yeah, absolutely!” And we females do have that little voice inside that says, “Oh, I haven’t done this, I don’t have experience, I’ve never been on a board, I’ve never sat in a boardroom, etc. etc.” And, so, for me it’s been just kind of pushing that voice back and saying, “Yeah, I can do it!” and it just takes a little more work to figure out how I make myself comfortable with it as I’ve built the capabilities needed in this description kind of thing. And that’s the thing that I tell young women, when I’m mentoring them, about the only thing that gets in your way isn’t “People don’t like you, they’re not promoting you, there’s a glass ceiling,” though some of those things can be very real. But the thing you can control and overcome is that voice inside you that says, “I don’t think I can do it.” And, certainly not just women, but I know it’s more so with especially young girls aspiring to do things that appear challenging. And I think we need to move on with that.

The second thing is, I stopped beating myself up for not having the demeanor that a lot of people expect of me. I am passionate, I can be emotional, and, you know, I would beat myself up driving home thinking, “Oh, was I a little too emotional or a little too passionate?” And once I put that thing aside and started focusing on, “Did I deliver what we needed to do? Maybe how could I do it better with the results for it?” I got out of my own way, and we women need to get out of our own way. Again, being a little harsh, a little edgy, I hope people forgive me, and sort of embrace that and take it. I think that’s really important and what’s helped me.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, I would say, being your authentic self is a great attribute for any leader. And so, if that means you’re a little bit more passionate or you’re prone to tears, so what? It’s who you are. But, when you have to cover, that’s an official social scientist term, “cover,” and try to pretend you’re somebody that you’re not, all your energy goes into covering instead of actually solving the problem and so… I’ve been called a lot of things during my career. Some of them have been positive, some of them haven’t been. But, frequently, and actually this has been true for a long time. People will say I’m “intimidating,” and, for a long time, that bothered me, because what they think is intimidating… When I look in the mirror, what I see it as is passion. I just want to get something done. And I finally just decided to own it. Right? So yes, I am a little intimidating. But, you know what? That’s who I am, and you just have to sort of own it. None of us are perfect, men or women. We all have our quirks. If you can stay authentic and open up, and that way, I think you can be a lot more effective.

Michael Krigsman: Well, that was really just amazing hearing you both talk. We only have a few minutes left. What advice or recommendations do you have for organizations that want to do more?

Andi Karaboutis: Stop thinking about the IT organization, the CIO, the digital data organizations in the traditional sense of they are digitizing processes and capabilities, and start thinking, like many companies already do, how to take the person, the organization, the technologies available, and put the challenge to them to how will they help contribute, or completely change, what the company should do in order to be more innovative and really drive top-line and bottom-line growth.

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, and I would say, I’ll take the team aspect of it. Make your goal to build high-performance teams. Most companies can buy the technology that you need, when what you want is a high performance team that’s made up of a diverse population that represents the customer base you’re going after today, and the customer base you’re going after in the future. And then, you’ll be able to partner with great technology companies across the board, to help bring the technology to life. But you need that high performance team that really will implement it, because in the end, technology is good for business.

Michael Krigsman: Boy, I wish that we had a lot more time, because there’s so much to talk about. But, maybe, let’s finish up by asking each of you, what advice can you offer to CIOs? I mean, you’ve both been there, and done that, in the past and you have a very broad perspective. And so, what advice do you have for a CIO that wants to be just great at what she, or he does? Andi, how about you?

Andi Karaboutis: So, it’s a little bit of what we said earlier on. I’ll emphasize it Michael, which is continue to not just be an expert in technology, and continue to not just understand your business, but think about, imagine a day when, or imagine a life of around your business where you’re actually futuring. And you’re thinking a couple steps ahead. The days of “Let’s go see what the business needs,” or even “Let me look at the position and vision of the company and see how I can support it,” which is very important. That third step of “Imagine a world where… What can I do to actually bring in and modify what the company can bring to the table as a leader versus a peer, or a follower,” if you will?

Michael Krigsman: And Kim, your thoughts?

Kim Stevenson: Yeah, I would say company strategy first. Are you executing the company strategy, and you’re bringing the technology pillar into the company strategy? And, part of what the unique ability that you have in IT is to help make those company tradeoffs. So the strategy is a great plan, but in execution, you have to make a tradeoff across business units within product portfolios, you name it. And often, you will bring a unique perspective to help make those tradeoffs that get us to the best strategy. And so, it’s a business recommendation, not necessarily a technology recommendation, but it’s so key to be able to set yourself apart from the business leaders who get paid on their maximizing their P&L, and having that corporate perspective and helping you execute the strategy I think is key. And just never forget that if you try to approach it from being in the seat of the business leader, then I think that you are able to relate better to the challenges that they have, and help work through those knotholes that inevitably come up.

Michael Krigsman: Wow, well I am going to have to go back and listen to this conversation. This has just been so rich, and I want to express such a grateful appreciation to Kim Stevenson from Intel, and Andi Karaboutis from Biogen. Thank you both, so very much.

Andi Karaboutis: Thanks for having us!

Kim Stevenson: Thanks, Michael!

Michael Krigsman: You have been watching Episode number 199 of CXOTalk, and I also want to thank Livestream, because those guys provide our video infrastructure, and they’re breathtakingly good and the make CXOTalk possible. So Livestream, if you’re out there, thank you guys so much. And I hope that, everybody, you will join us again on Friday when we’re going to be talking with the CIO of Brooks Brothers. It started a long time ago, and we’re going to hear about their digital transformation. Bye-bye.

Published Date: Oct 26, 2016

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 388