Mary Gendron has had a long successful career as a transformational leader, most recently as Senior VP and CIO of Qualcomm, where she\u2019s inspired a team of 2,000 IT professionals across the globe. Her leadership story is one of courage, confidence, culture-building, and perseverance. She has led complex global organizations and driven proactive business strategies that have consistently generated customer, shareholder, and employee value. Through it all, she says, one of the things she\u2019s most proud of is the opportunity she\u2019s had to make a difference, for customers as well as employees.\nMary is a champion of creating and sustaining a diverse, inclusive workplace that empowers employees of all backgrounds. In 2019, she was recognized for her work to empower women in STEM with Athena\u2019s 21st Annual Pinnacle Award in the \u201cIndividual in Technology\u201d category. In our conversation for the CIO Whisperers podcast, she explained that she\u2019s an advocate for inclusion not just because it\u2019s the right thing to do, but because it\u2019s the necessary thing to do for the business to thrive.\nMary\u2019s also the kind of leader who encourages the tough questions and challenging discussions because she knows that\u2019s how you get to the best decisions. It\u2019s also how you build trust as a leader. As she told me, your credentials will get you the CIO job, but you still must earn your credibility with the team.\nMary and I spent a few minutes after the podcast talking some more about her career journey, her philosophy of business-first leadership and what it means to be an innovative anticipator. What follows is that off-air conversation, lightly edited for length and clarity.\nDan Roberts: You\u2019ve built a personal brand for being a business-first leader. What does that mean, and how do you go about doing it?\nMary Gendron: I think it\u2019s very easy for an IT professional to brand themselves or to limit their brand to just being the IT professional. But they\u2019re actually embedded inside [the business]. I\u2019m an IT professional and I work for Qualcomm. So, what do I need to know about Qualcomm\u2019s business, and how does IT manifest itself to make sure it\u2019s contributing to Qualcomm\u2019s business? How do you manage the IT business to drive the outcomes necessary to springboard the Qualcomm business?\nI think that connection is very important. I tell people, if you want to be in the IT business, join an IT company. There\u2019s a whole IT industry out there. I picked the semiconductor industry. And I apply it and I round it out. I start with a customer in full view because none of us are here without our customers. And then it\u2019s figuring out what you need to improve in those products and services that you\u2019re rendering for your customer.\nAnd when you say customer, you\u2019re talking about external customers?\nRight. A lot of IT organizations refer to their internal stakeholder as customer, and I think that\u2019s a big mistake. I understand the value chain inside my enterprise, and I know what our role is. But my stakeholders are not my customers. I supply the services to my stakeholders. But customers have choices. Customers can ask for whatever they want. And if you go down that road with stakeholders, you quickly become an order taker. You abdicate the expertise that your enterprise absolutely needs with respect to their internal organization.\nOn the show you talked about moving away from the lagging to the leading indicators. I wonder if you could share an example of how you\u2019ve been able to put the IT organization in the position of being a disruptor\u2014what it means to be an \u201cinnovative anticipator.\u201d\nThe first one that comes to mind was when I started working for Celestica. We had a very good, functional email system. It worked. It delivered email. During my first 90 days at the company, nobody complained to me about their email system. But it was 2010, and we were already a little bit late in embracing cloud collaboration. Again, nobody came and told me that our priority was to fix the cloud collaboration platform. But it was this ability to understand what was offered out there, what was available and reliable\u2014that it was not just a tool but something that would totally change the way we connected, conversed, and collaborated.\nSo, we became one of the early adopters of Google Cloud. The year we implemented it, my CEO at the time, Craig Muhlhauser, said it was the best, most strategic thing that we did that year. It modernized our whole employee experience. And I had a great team that worked really hard on implementing that and we had such a high level of engagement by all the business stakeholders that they just pulled it in and made it happen. It revolutionized that company.\nInnovative disruption doesn\u2019t come with a list of \u201cthis is what I want\u201d and then you turn around and you fill the order. You have to think about what\u2019s out there. And by the way, I wasn\u2019t doing it because it was techie fun thing to do. It was essential for this business to encourage employees to bring in different conversations, to effectively connect in a way that we\u2019d never connected before, lower our costs\u2014I mean, it hit all the marks. But as I said, if you wait for people to come with the order form, you\u2019ve already lost the opportunity.\nEvery leader faces that daunting task or opportunity\u2014some big challenge\u2014and they have to answer the call. \u00a0But it\u2019s really more than answering it, it\u2019s setting yourself up to get the call and then making the call. Can you talk about some of those moments from your career journey?\nOne of the biggest moments of my personal career was accepting the job as vice president of IT at Motorola. It meant moving my family, my husband, my children, and then embarking on a whole new world. At that point my husband made the very courageous decision to be a stay-at-home dad\u2014it was huge!\nYears later, I was approached a few times regarding a job at a company called Celestica in Toronto. During a trip when I was visiting my son who was playing hockey at the time, I received a call that the CEO wanted to speak to me about the position. I said, thank you very much but my son\u2019s playing right now, and I want to focus on my family. My husband looks at me and asks, \u201cAre you sure? You will only miss the first game and this guy is pretty persistent!\u201d So, I said okay and decided to go. Attending that meeting changed my life and led to one of the best opportunities I have had.\nI always say, have your eyes open and your ears ready to hear the opportunities. It is also important to have people in your life to help point these critical opportunities out for you, even when you may not see them on your own. Moving our family from Montreal to Chicago was a big deal. But it was a decision that we made. Now that I\u2019m older, I don\u2019t underestimate how important it is to have that support network and make courageous decisions. For me, having my husband there to encourage me and to fall back on provided the safety I needed to risk and take these important steps in my career journey.\nWhat was it like to move into an industry that you didn\u2019t have experience in?\nWith Celestica, I told the CEO, listen, if you want a manufacturing expert, go hire yourself a manufacturing expert. If you want someone that understands data and the relevance and importance of data driving insights, which I got from my experience with Nielsen Company, then I\u2019m your person and I\u2019ll help you do that.\nYou know the value you bring to the table. You know what you can contribute. You don\u2019t have to have all the answers. You have to drive and own all the decisions.