Plenty of CIOs have pursued IT careers for the "right" reasons. But it's rare that you come across a CIO driven by deeply personal reasons.
Daphne Jones is one of those IT leaders. As an up-and-comer at IBM, the Chicago native faced two tragic losses that changed her career trajectory. Those losses came after a struggle against societal norms that said she didn't have a shot at even getting to Big Blue. But they led her to become an IT director at Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G), CIO of Johnson & Johnson's Ortho-Clinical Diagnostics division, and then back to her home, as CIO of Hospira, the $3.9 billion specialty pharmaceutical company.
Her past and current experiences--and how they've taught her to lead--are highly instructive for both sitting and aspiring CIOs. Jones spoke recently with CIO Insight contributor Brian P. Watson. What follows is an edited, condensed version of their conversation.
CIO Insight: You say there's a very personal reason why you've chosen to work in health care IT.
DAPHNE JONES: My mother was a nurse's assistant, and I have two sisters in the health care field. So it seemed destined that all the girls in the family were going to be in medicine or health care. But I couldn't stand the sight of blood, so I thought, "What a failure I'm going to be."
I didn't know what I'd do, but decided to get into technology with IBM. During my time there, both of my parents died of cancer. Their cancers could have been diagnosed earlier--and if they had been found early enough, my parents' lives could have been saved.
That was an epiphany for me. I realized that the root cause of their death was a lack of access to effective and affordable health care. Even though my mother worked in a hospital, she and my father did not have the level of care that was required to make sure they'd live longer lives.
And that led you to change direction?
JONES: After they died, I didn't feel that I was helping people with things that matter--their health. I decided to leave IBM and work in health care--to use my knowledge and passion to support people who deal with patients every day. I knew about Johnson & Johnson, and I wanted to use my talent to help drive what J&J was doing.
Since my parents passed away, I've been living every day as if my life--and the lives of all the people I never see--depend on everything IT does. The IT organization provides access to information and tools that will drive affordable health care and therapy to enable people at the other end of the drug, pump or IV bag to feel better, be healthier and live longer.
That motivates me every day. I have little patience for a lack of excellence or effectiveness. All of us in IT have to get the solutions into the hands of Hospira's sales force, our research and development department, and our supply-chain organizations, to enable them to deliver what will help patients get what they need.