On hand were: Mark Staples, VP and CIO at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston; Deborah Scott, CIO at Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Matthew Ferm, managing partner at Harvard Partners; Niraj Jetly, SVP and COO/CIO at NutriSavings; and Richard Kropp, SVP and CHRO at Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
spoke with Scott
sense of the role of CIOs in promoting wellness among their staff, establishing proper work/life balance, and issues of diversity hiring in IT.
IT leaders share best IT culture practices
The forum brought together hundreds of local IT leaders, Scott
"We were talking primarily about being leaders of our own technical staff.
But we also talked about technology to enable the workplace in general--for things like telecommuting and policies that organizations have regarding that type of work arrangement."
First up on Scott's agenda was the issue of wellness among IT staff.
The topic is one that is near and dear to Scott
for personal reasons and one that she
places especially high priority on.
"One of the things that I brought up is that I think it's important as a leader to be a good example of how to have a balanced life," Scott
"Wellness is really important to me because in my 40s I had a health breakdown.
It was when I was between my late 30s and early 40s that I realized that I couldn't do more by just sleeping less and drinking more caffeine.
I had a health crisis and I realized that I needed to get on an exercise program to build up my strength or I wasn't going to be able to be successful in my career.
"So I spent my 40s focusing on strengthening myself through exercises and doing races so I could be strong," Scott
"I carry that forward now to be an example for my staff.
I schedule an appointment at my lunchtime every day to go to our recreation center and I work out."
That is a key differentiator, Scott
doesn't want to be one of the bosses that always works through lunch, holds meetings through lunch, and doesn't let anyone have a break.
"I have gotten such a routine, and a reputation as being someone that always goes to the gym at lunch that some on my staff will suit up their running shoes and join me on the track so they can talk to me," Scott
"Another thing is taking time off and letting people flex their schedule, When they have to come in on a weekend or a holiday to work on some crisis that you are mindful of that, that we allow people to have a break," Scott
Going hand-in-hand with personal time is flex time, and Scott
strongly supports that as well.
"I don't want to put a rule around it because you never know what's going to happen, but the general principal around it is that we need to allow people to flex their time," Scott
"IT is a 24/7 service."
With some IT staff, that can be easier said than done, of course.
"Yes, the very technical back-end people that are very conscientious--it's hard to get them to stop working," Scott
places strong focus on identifying and developing specific skills within individual staff members.
"That's really challenging in a limited staff environment where you don't have the luxury of having multiple people in some of the specializations.
But it's important and we are always striving to identify who it is that we need to have up to speed enough to take over for someone," Scott
A champion for telecommuting options
While there has not been a huge demand for telecommuting with her
current staff, Scott
is a firm believer in it.
"We had to work through a lot of issues on what were the expectations on the part of the work and the supervisor in order to make this work," Scott
The topic of diversity also consumed much of the discussion at the forum, and Scott
has strong feelings on whether there is a gender gap in IT and a so-called glass ceiling, at least in her
As to the issue of a gender gap, Scott
acknowledged that may be a problem in corporate circles, but not in academia.
"I have not found there to be insurmountable challenges for me," Scott
"People look at me and say, 'Wow, you broke through the glass ceiling.' If so, it didn't hurt very much. [
click to tweet]
"I do work to hire a diverse staff," Scott
"We have women systems administrators, we have women that deal with software and systems, and I've got a director of academic computing who reports to me.
We have more diversity than the average in the industry."
Whether women are drawn to IT is really a matter of personal commitment combined with the right working environment, Scott
"It's a case of interest.
Is this the topic that you want to immerse your life in and are these the people that you want to hang out with?
"In my case, yes, I've always been interested in tech. I've always hung out with extremely nerdy people.
I'm married to a scientist.
My son is a computer science student.
I'm comfortable in this community and all the women in my department are comfortable in this area."
"But if you're not comfortable in this area, and these are not the type of people that you have an affinity with, it would seem like a foreign land," Scott
Still, "I haven't seen the type of discrimination that I read about in some of those articles," Scott
Probably yes to both questions, Scott