Hospira CIO`s Healthy Passion for IT

By CIOinsight  |  Posted 06-24-2010

Hospira CIO`s Healthy Passion for IT

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.

How has all this influenced your leadership style?

How has all this influenced your leadership style?

JONES: My inspiration came from my parents. In high school, I was told to go to secretarial school, because that's what women did [at that time]. So I went to secretarial school in Chicago and worked for an assistant editor of Women's Day magazine.

But my mother motivated me to go to college and not stop until I got my BS and MBA, which I did in four years. She continued to motivate and inspire me to go beyond what was easy and stretch for the most I could do.

My experiences at IBM taught me the language of business. The company put me through training for 16 weeks, four weeks at a time. We were sent to Georgia to learn how companies do general ledger, accounts payable, payroll, billing, inventory control, etc. We learned how to do it manually, then went back and did work in the branch offices. At the time, I was a systems engineer trainee. Then we went back to Georgia to learn how to do those things in an automated way, and we took that back to our jobs.

Johnson & Johnson taught me the health care aspects of business, making me look at it from a consumer perspective. I learned about consumer products, in-vitro diagnostics, immunohematology and how to work within an FDA-regulated framework. And I learned about cell therapy from our oncology company.

All the way, as I stumbled and fell, I learned how to get back up. I made mistakes and took the scars. I lost people I shouldn't have lost. I failed at a project I shouldn't have failed at, but those failures allowed me to say, "I'll never do that again." So I got better and smarter every time.

When I got to Hospira, I had a lot of scars, but I had learned along the way that when you fall down, you don't just lie there: You get back up, because you know you can, and you know you'll go farther when you do.

So much of who you are is where you've been. I've been at IBM. I've been at J&J. I've been in the secretarial ranks. I've been on the other side of racial and gender discrimination. I know what it feels like to be appreciated, to achieve, to be rebuked and cast aside. So I appreciate the diversity in other people, and I've learned not do to others what has been done to me.

I don't want another mother or father or sister or brother to have what happened to my parents happen to them. That truly motivates me.

A few months ago, I spoke to about 150 women at one of the outsourcing companies we use, Wipro in India. I spoke about unleashing the leadership within. I was motivated to speak with them because, as a woman, I was told I wouldn't amount to much. My passion is to make sure that doesn't happen to others.

You don't hear a lot of CIOs talk about their passion for what they do, or why they got into IT in the first place.

JONES: Being a success is achieving a goal; being successful is always having another goal in mind. I'm always striving for that next thing.

If you find something that motivates you and you are passionate about it, you'll do it very, very well. If you just have a job and don't know the purpose of that job, you'll just do the job without being very engaged.

At Hospira, we measure the engagement of our employees--how much they think about their jobs or the business in their spare time. The more people think about their jobs when they don't have to, the more engaged they are. The more engaged they are, the more problems are solved. You get a competitive weapon that can propel you beyond the competition.

That's how I am. The trick is, How do I take my passion and make it viral in my IT organization and in the rest of Hospira? How can we use our drugs and investments in R&D to help improve people's conditions?

If we can get passionate about why we're here, we'll have a highly engaged workforce, which will develop capabilities faster and get them to patients faster.

So how do you make engagement viral?

So how do you make engagement viral?

JONES: In the phrase "information technology," there's an "I" and a "T." There's a value opportunity for IT leaders to appropriately blend the two. The "T" is the technology--the networks, the storage, PCs, devices, Web browsers, etc. They've all been simplified to the point where they're commodities.

The other side of the equation is the "I." That stands for innovation, insights and information. Those things should be highly valuable and highly visible.

Our business partners don't always understand the difference between the "I" and the "T." CIOs have to enable the business to understand the difference and also grasp what the value proposition will be for IT.

Recently, I met with our board and shared our IT strategy. I talked about the "I" versus the "T," so they would understand that we have an environment of technology that's very mature, stable and compliant, but we also provide insight to the business. We have to invest in the "I" and the "T" to drive value for Hospira.

If we treat our people as if they're just the "T"--a commodity--that's exactly how they will behave: as drones that can be reduced based on cost rather than raised because of value. They will not be inspired or empowered. They won't learn, grow and produce. They won't feel the passion. We have to treat our employees like the "I": valuable, visible, vested and invested.

Our human resources department started something we call IGNITE. It's about working to inspire people to be excellent, to instill new capabilities in them and to invest in their development.

If you support employees and develop them and treat them like the "I," then they become more valuable and will command more investment. They'll also be more visible to business partners. Right now, too many people in IT are invisible--the other side of the "black hole"--and other people don't understand [what IT does].

So I treat people in the "I" category by inspiring, instilling and investing in them--empowering our people. Then I share my expectations of how they should treat people. And then everyone starts to feel it.

In my first few months here, I was so busy trying to find my way around that I didn't do enough walking around to talk with employees. When I started doing that, the next day I got an e-mail from one of our employees that said, "Wow, the last CIO didn't do that" and "Daphne really seems to care." I didn't know how impactful it was to the organization for me to simply walk around and talk with people. So now I build it into my schedule each day to walk around and be visible.

It's a cliché: "People don't care how much you know; they just want to know how much you care." If you show you care and treat your people like the "I" and not just the "T," it becomes viral. And our engagement scores should greatly improve because of these ideas.

What other tactics are you using to boost engagement?

JONES: I'm working with Chicago Mayor [Richard M.] Daley on the Mayor's Council of Technology Advisors. I'm also the co-chair of the subcommittee on health care IT. The IT team at Hospira is anxious to help the mayor work in the health care IT space. That program is just getting off the ground, and I can't wait to tell you more about it when we've made some real headway.

Another group inside the mayor's council is Chicago Career Tech. Mayor Daley was on a plane and sat next to a young woman from Chicago who had lost her job. She was struggling with how she'd get back into the workforce.

Realizing how important IT is, Daley formed Chicago Career Tech, where 150 people train for two days learning IT skills, then work for a company in Chicago for two days, and then do community service for another two days, with one day off. They're being trained in Microsoft technology, project management, vendor management, help desk support and other important responsibilities.

When I heard about this, I wanted to sign us up. It's not just because we get people for two days a week to lend a hand to our staff. There are people in IT who want to do something for the community, and this helps them do that.

It also helps people in IT get supervisory experience. If they're not managers today but want to supervise someone for two days a week for six months, this program will help with their development. The more we can touch the hearts of our people--especially Generation Y--while being productive for Hospira, the more it will help with our employee engagement.