Where IT Leaders Connect

Rob McGillen, Board Member

Rob McGillen,

Board Member

Musicians.  Athletes. Artists. Philanthropists. Parents. Grandparents.  This photo, taken recently at our SIM Board dinner, illustrates well the benefits of membership in SIM.  During the night together, we celebrated family achievements, supported career transitions, grieved for friends' loss, and shared in our respective life journeys.  

The tag line "Where IT Leaders Connect" is the abiding philosophy for SIM.  We host monthly social events and sponsor philanthropic works for our members.   Moreover, we provide a forum to connect and opportunity to help our members grow.

Leadership in any capacity can be a lonely role.  Our membership is composed of hundreds of leaders in Chicago responsible for technology and business decisions, often with millions (if not billions) at stake.  Risks, corporate pressures, and ambitions all factor in.     

Finding like-minded, experienced, and supportive friends is something you find in the SIM organization.  Unlike other membership organizations in town focused solely on glitz and glamour events - SIM provides our members a place to find kindred spirits, exceptional advisors, and those who want to share their journey with you.  

In the next weeks, the Spring season begins for our members.   CIO roundtables, our Spring gala, expert speakers, and philanthropic events are all scheduled.   For our membership, the chance to connect is here once again.   We look forward to seeing you soon, and sharing a bit of your journey together.     

Changes over the years

Bruce Schinelli,  Board Member

Bruce Schinelli

Board Member

I was reflecting with a colleague last week that I recently passed a work anniversary; eleven years as CIO at the same company.  As we conversed, it struck me that the conversation and topics at CIO or senior IT leadership events had changed dramatically over that span of time.  In 2007, typical meetings and seminars at events might have been; "Is IT relevant?", "How to Engage with the Business", "How to Get a Seat at the Table", and perhaps my favorite, "Will there be CIO's in the Future." If you listened to the research agencies and councils, most CEO's and other executives, if they thought about IT, didn't think much of it.  While this continued for a while (2007 coincidentally bringing the introduction of the iPhone), the rise of digitally enabled forces like mobile were causing the disruption of entire business models.  The easy access to external cloud services fueled the next level of angst and predictions; "50% of all IT spending will be outside the IT budget", "How do you control/stop/take advantage of Shadow IT" or "Get close to your Marketing Officer, they'll have all of the budget."  But at the same time, there were indications that thinking was changing.  The same research was showing that as businesses got Kodak'd (entire business models digitally disrupted), the awareness of the criticality of IT was climbing.  Still, though, the cautions were rampant about the rise of CDO's (the "D" being either Digital, Data or both) who would dilute the influence of the CIO, and advice was to not get caught with the plumbing.  Around the same time, Security moved from a few prescient professionals shouting into the wilderness before the Target breach to the constant drumbeat it is today.  In addition, the bills started to come due for all of the outside services, and it was evident that they couldn't connect to anything you already had. 

In 2016, a survey by Lloyds of London showed the number one risk perceived by Global CEO's was Cyber risk - and they didn't mean just security.  Diving into the numbers, they were not only worried about Security, but their businesses being digitally disrupted, and they were talking to their CIO's more than ever.  This leads to today, where the percentage of CIO's reporting to the CEO has never been higher, and it's rising each year.  That we have numerous examples of CIO's that have moved on to COO and CEO.  That there's no end to pace of change and technologies that could disrupt our business models and companies.  So, my conclusion is: There's never been a better time to be in Technology, and never have we as senior IT leadership had more opportunity to add value.  Today, very few are worried about a seat at the table; it's more likely IT leadership is getting asked first, because you simply can't get compete effectively without an effective strategy, and all business strategies have an IT component.

Which brings me to my main point: if you're getting this, you're already part of the best IT community to share great ideas, successes and challenges.  Don't just be a member, get out to events and hear how your peers are dealing with the forces shaping the business of the future; and just maybe take something back that drives value for your company.

2018 New Year's Resolutions!

Mark McGee, Board Member

Mark McGee,

Board Member

On January 11th we kicked off the SIM 2018 programs with our exciting Winter Social, which brought in a large turnout to Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) with incredible Artwork, Food, Networking, and Philanthropy as SIM made a large donation to Arts & Business Council of Chicago (A&BC). 

The beginning of each new year I reflect on the previous year and think about the next 12 months, what goals I would like to accomplish, what to do differently, new habits to start and others to get rid of (New Year's Resolutions!) Here are some questions to ponder for this year... How has your career progressed in the past year? Has your network and relationships expanded or contracted? Continuing education? Where can you make a positive impact and give back? Can you get more involved and being more social? Work Life Balance, time to have a bit more fun this year! 

Please be sure to renew your SIM membership if you have not already done so and take better advantage of the membership and the incredible network (SIM Chicago is one of the largest chapters in the United States and the best Senior Level IT Network in Chicago). It is well documented that your ability of achieving goals increases by over 50% by putting them in writing. Please take 5 minutes and schedule yourself for all the upcoming programs this year 2018 SIM Program Calendar.

Welcome to 2018!

Ron Mathis, Board Member

Ron Mathis,

Board Member

SIM Chicago hosted our final event of the calendar year 2017 on December 7th with a "SIM in the Suburbs" breakfast at the Clubhouse in Oak Brook featuring Glenn Schneider, CIO of Discover Financial. Glenn was named 2017 CIO of the Year for his transformational IT leadership of this $11B banking and payment services company. If you know peers and colleagues that may be the 2018 CIO of the Year, please see the information at the end of this email to nominate them!

sim-chicago-glenn (1).jpg

The event was well attended, entertaining and above all informative. I always leave a SIM event with new ideas, shared experience of others, or even just a catchy phrase that I can use to better communicate with my team. In this case, I took away a little nugget offered by Glenn that describes the essence of Agile methods as practiced at Discover: "Make progress, not perfection", or to paraphrase, don't get hung up in analysis paralysis. Certainly perfection is nice, but not always required to meet requirements of the task at hand. 

Please join us for our next event, Tech Talks, in partnership with Chicago Innovation Awards on Tuesday February 20th at Studio Xfinity, 901 W. Weed St. in Chicago.  

The Approaching Tsunami

Gail Holmberg, Board Member

Gail Holmberg,

Board Member

I have participated recently in a number of events centered on the topic of industry disruption.  I saw a virtual assistant handle level one customer assistance and improve her approach based on customer feedback.  I heard from a CIO who is about to test driverless vehicles for warehouse deliveries. A food company is looking at leveraging Blockchain to track product from the live animal at the farm to the package at the store.  And, Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, literally peppered us with examples as the luncheon speaker at the Evanta CIO Executive Summit.  These are not theoretical examples; they are current initiatives.  These innovations go far beyond the concept of "digital transformation".  We are clearly on the cusp of a wave (or more likely a tsunami) of unprecedented industry disruption.

This disruption cycle is changing the definition of the successful technology leader.  The new leader is expected to bring thought leadership to the executive team and the board regarding potential industry disruption and emerging opportunities. The leader will be expected to embed technology in business processes, services and products.  The "workforce" of the business and of the IT department will include virtual assistants and robots as well as humans, and the leader will be expected to manage their interactions.

Therefore, one of my New Year's resolutions is to take the time to more deeply reflect on the implications of this tsunami and its likely impacts on the industries I serve.  And I will be making time to have more sharing conversations with other technology leaders and vendors to gather additional insights.  I want to be prepared to be a leader who can help companies ride this wave.

As you make plans for the new year, don't forget to renew your SIM membership and save the date of January 11 for our SIM member winter social.  

Philanthropic Efforts

For many years, SIM has supported several philanthropic activities through monetary donations.   These monetary donations supported scholarship grants, the Illinois Arts & Business Council and i.c.Stars. Recently, SIM Chicago took a leap of faith in our members and coordinated an opportunity for members to volunteer for an activity with Feed My Starving Children.

We didn't know what the response from our members would be. Time is a precious commodity for all of us, and we are faced with making decisions around our time every day.  The question facing the SIM Chicago Philanthropy committee was... would our members be willing to take a few hours out of their busy schedule on a week day evening?  This volunteering time has opportunities to network, but it would be a different level of networking than what SIM members were accustomed to at other SIM Chicago events.  We were pleasantly surprised that 30 members and guests came out to support the event.  With the other volunteers on our hour and a half shift, we helped package 171 boxes containing 36,936 meals formulated for malnourished children. This is enough food to feed 101 kids for a year, which was headed for distribution in Cuba.


Looking forward, we will be adding one or maybe two "give back" events to the 2018-2019 program year.

This was a worthy cause for our members to support, but it should not end there.  The holiday season presents a time to be thankful for what we have and to give to those who may be less fortunate. We hope this is an enjoyable time for you, but that you pause to reflect on the blessings in your life, then do something positive for someone or for a cause that is dear to you. As a leader in your organization, we would challenge each one of you to consider taking the lead on such an effort within your organization. You may be surprised at what happens not only in the organization you support but also in your own organization.

Rich Whitney

SIM Chicago Philanthropy Committee

The Most Important Meetings in your Week

John Svelnis, Board Member

John Svelnis,

Board Member

In any given three-month span, your most critical meeting may very well be your quarterly board read-out, or perhaps a leadership offsite where you discuss the innovation IT is driving to increase market share.   I am here to tell you within each of those individual thirteen weeks, as an IT Leader, your 1x1s with your direct reports are your most important meetings.  While these meetings are critical regardless of level, I believe they grow in importance as you move up within the organization, as you transition from managing work to managing people to managing people managers.

Why are they your most important weekly meetings?  They help you build the relationships with your directs, and those improved relationships drive both the development of your team and the results for which both you and your team are accountable.   Rare is the conversation, let alone repeated conversations, that hits that daily double. 

The Internet is littered with white papers, articles, and podcasts on the structure and logistics of 1x1s.  My take is that what is critical for these conversations to be effective, is what these discussions do not become:  Specifically, that they become neither project readouts, nor venues to focus solely on topics you, as the manager, want to cover. As it relates to the former point, this is not to say key project updates should not be discussed at all, they absolutely should. The trick is ensuring that time is allocated for longer horizon topics, such as career development, to be covered.  As it relates to the latter point, as the boss, there will always be opportunities for you to solicit responses to the open questions you have - how long does it take for your directs to return a text, call, or email on a hot item?  Maybe the question that better drives this point home is how long does it take you to return a text, call, or email to your boss when she has a question on a hot item?   Not long, I suspect.  Your direct having an established outlet to comfortably raise points of discussion is what is important - strong professional relationships are not forged with one side living full time in response mode to the questions of the other.

If you are not holding 1x1s with your direct reports on regular and frequent basis (bi-weekly can be effective as well), you are missing an opportunity to maximize the value your team drives to the organization.   If your direct reports are not having similar conversations with their directs, a similar chance to improve exists.

Giving Thanks!

Rick Merrick,  Board Member

Rick Merrick

Board Member

Thanksgiving is next week. I am busy, like many of you, getting ready to spend much of next Thursday cooking, watching football, and spending time with my family. It's a special time of the year where we remember to give thanks for all that we have; that includes our family, friends, and the careers that we built. We also should not forget to be thankful for the many people we work with every day. Teams matter more than individuals. Remember that you did not get to this place in your career by yourself. You had a team and colleagues to support you, along with friends and family. Remember to give thanks to your team and recognize their contributions. 

As a CIO, I continually try to promote the successes of my team and make sure that they get all the credit for their accomplishments. People want to feel valued for their accomplishments: they want to be recognized. It can be as simple as sending a congratulatory email, taking a few minutes to talk about a common interest, or writing a card on their birthday. These small actions show that you value the team around you, not just the work they produce, but as individual people. 

As the IT leader, you have the opportunity to create an environment where a positive culture can emerge. That culture should be collaborative, where you succeed or fail as a team. Don't just give them the tools and resources to succeed, give them the environment. 

Enjoy the holiday season and remember to give thanks, not only at home but for the people at work too. Remember that when your team succeeds, you also succeed.

Three hiring mistakes and how to avoid them

Jane Prugh,  Board Member

Jane Prugh

Board Member

Have you ever hired the wrong person? If so, don't beat yourself up - you're in good company.  A recent survey reports that 75% of employers have hired the wrong person.*  We all know it is painful and costly to hire the wrong person. The average cost of a mis-hire can be six times base salary for a sales rep, 15 times base salary for a manager, and as much as 27 times base salary for an executive. Ouch!**

With more recruitment tools available today you'd think it would be easier, but people are as likely as ever to hire the wrong people. Here are three common mistakes I've seen how to avoid them.

Problem 1: Hiring people too much like yourself

Now, of course you want to hire people who are compatible with you and your organization, but it's not unusual to select people with whom they have too much in common. By nature, we connect with people like us and bond over shared backgrounds and personalities. In the workplace, this can lead to skill gaps and a lack of diversity. If you hire people who have the same experience and skill sets, you are limiting what your organization can achieve. Hiring a new person is a great opportunity to identify what's missing in your company or on your team so you can plug those gaps.

The solution:

Look at your own personal gaps and those of your organization. What are you missing? Which skill set(s) would add more value to your company? Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and seek out people who are different, who are strong where you are weak and vice versa.

Problem 2: Clearly defined role and responsibilities

When you need to hire someone quickly, it's tempting to reuse old job descriptions, or to quickly list the role and responsibilities without careful consideration. You know in your mind what the role is and who the right person is - you already have the vision of the person doing the job and fulfilling the responsibilities. But, you are busy so you quickly put together a "job description" that misses the key points of the real person you want to hire.

The solution:

It's ok to use an old job description or to jot down some quick points about the role as a starting point, but take the time to ensure it's right for YOUR job opening. Take a step back and ask yourself: Is this an accurate description of responsibilities? What is success?  How do you know a year from now when you are doing the performance review, you made the right hire, that it wasn't a mis-hire?

Problem 3: Lacking a clear hiring strategy

Some employers make the mistake of doing their recruitment in-house without external resources. It can be helpful to have an outside perspective. The other side of the coin is actually using too many outside resources. I see this a lot when companies engage multiple recruitment firms at the same time; you might think you'll get more candidates, but in reality, you'll get a lot of duplication and poorly matched candidates. Do you know why that is? Have you heard of cherry picking? If you don't have an exclusive partnership with a firm, one who dedicates themselves, or provides a commitment to your needs, then you will get resumes thrown at you that match keywords.  How about a culture fit, personality fit, integrity, job stability, career goals?    

The solution:

Be selective and strategic when planning your hiring approach. Choose one recruiting firm to facilitate the process and ensure you get the right person for the job. Seek out a company that will take the time to set a strategy (ask them what it is), visit the office(s), and conduct interviews with the team in advance.  This will go a long way in identifying the absolute best talent that will fit with YOUR culture.

Hiring can and should be exciting - it's a chance for you to revisit your organizational structure, fill gaps, and bring new energy and talent into your business. You can make better decisions and find the best people by being aware of these pitfalls and taking steps to avoid them.

*2016 Careerbuilder Survey

**Brad Smart, Topgrading

Balanced Attack Plan

Paul Corning,  Board Member

Paul Corning

Board Member

As head coach of your organization you get to set the game plan.  It is your job, your responsibility, to establish the strategy and tactics across your organization.   Championship teams can win with many different combinations, but rarely do they succeed without achieving a balance of offensive and defensive mindset.  You need to keep your IT team focused on both if you want to win as an organization. In your industry, in your company, with your team, how have you intentionally focused their collective mindset for the best possible outcome?

Example offensive and defensive positions:


Latest malware or security threat, taking action on audit issues

Broad strategy for access and security, CISO leadership, security awareness programs


Current projects, current portfolio, upgrades, break/fix work

Leading business innovation,  Technology strategy, Enterprise Architecture 

Operations & Support

Provisioning, data center management, call resolution

Cloud strategy, data center optimization, minimizing calls, DevOps


Reporting and descriptive analytics, data quality issues

Predictive analytics and machine learning, data governance


Lowest cost, up-time

Agility and scalability


Current players in best position, filling gaps, contracting

Career development, succession planning    

Business Process

Process Improvement, BPM

Digital Transformation

It would be easy to think that we should focus 90% of our mindshare on the current hot technology or solution (offense), but as you can attest the political reality of any IT organization forces a more typically defensive mindset.  Rare is the long-tenured CIO who does not balance innovation and growth with excellence in operations and keeping the systems up and lights on.

There are many moves that you can make that will help achieve the right balance in your team.  It is unlikely that you can focus only on offense, or defense, in any one area of your organization. Budget and staffing issues can make it difficult to carve out an offensive focus but it is a critical dependency for your team's success. For IT to win, you need a balanced game-plan across your organization that you and your leadership team must own.  

Please join us on Wednesday, November 8th for a  member give-back event at Feed My Starving Children in Schaumburg, where we will help out at a local food bank that serves our community.