Hiring for IT-Business Alignment at Wyeth

In this latest Hiring Manager Interview, Wyeth CIO Jeffrey Keisling explains how working with the business on IT staffing helps promote IT-business alignment.

By John Mann
Tue, March 17, 2009

CIO — Jeffrey Keisling takes great pride in the relationship between his 1,800-person IT organization and the business at Wyeth: "One of the greatest measures of our success is that the employees in IT are indistinguishable from their business colleagues," says the drug-maker's vice president of corporate information systems and chief information officer.

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The IT-business alignment of which Keisling is so proud begins with the company's hiring process. Business executives participate in interviews with candidates for senior leadership positions in Keisling's IT organization. Likewise, Keisling says he interviews candidates for positions outside of IT.

Further promoting IT-business alignment at Wyeth (which Pfizer is acquiring) is the fact that 11 of Keisling's 12 direct reports are members of line executive teams at the $22.8 billion pharmaceutical company. So they report both to Keisling and to the individual line executives they support. Keisling and the line executives participate equally in performance reviews for the 11 direct reports.

Another reason why IT employees are "indistinguishable" from their business counterparts is that many of them come from the business to work in IT. Keisling says he's hired employees from Wyeth's commercial and manufacturing groups to head up business intelligence and operational effectiveness initiatives.

With the emphasis Keisling places on IT-business alignment, it should come as no surprise that Keisling looks for candidates who are businesspeople first when he's hiring. He seeks employees who've had a clear impact on the organization's they've touched and who "lead with a clear sense of purpose."

Here, Keisling explains how he makes hiring decisions and offers his advice for acing a job interview.

John Mann: What are some of the IT challenges you face now and how does hiring figure into them?

Jeffrey Keisling: I think it is fair to say that every chief information officer in every industry today is challenged to improve the operational performance of the company while lowering costs in IT. What's interesting is that everyone has the same tools. Everybody can buy the same technology, whether applications or infrastructure, and the only thing that really makes a difference is the quality of the people. Across Wyeth, not just in IT, it is all about finding and retaining talent and strong leaders. Our leaders can and do move across the company, and in- and outside of IT. We have a long history of developing people, and we have a very comprehensive and mature model for managing talent across the enterprise.

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