by Michael Kanell

COMMUNITY SERVICE -The House That Cios Built

Sep 01, 20052 mins
IT Leadership

There isn’t enough time, but there are demands aplenty. The drumbeat of corporate life speeds up, along with the never-ending flow of technology mandates—do it faster, do it cheaper, do it now.

So where is there space for a conscience? After all, many executives want to do some good while they are doing well. And some companies insist that executives make time. “When I get my performance review, they say, ’What are you doing to give back to the community?’” says Southern Co. Senior Vice President and CIO Becky Blalock.

Blalock is among a group of Atlanta-area CIOs from about 15 companies who meet roughly every three months for lunch. But because they are too busy to even do lunch, they ensure these meetings are spiced with some value. They talk shop and swap ideas, often going back to their offices with a new angle on a nagging problem, or just a sense that they are not alone in what they face.

Last fall, Delta’s then-CIO Curtis Robb (he has since retired) suggested a project for the group that was not work-related: Build a home with Habitat for Humanity. “All I had to do was bring up the idea and everybody jumped on it.”

Nine companies signed up. Close to 300 people from these companies worked on the Smith Street home in Atlanta during seven days in May. At the end, there was a house for Tracey Lacey and her daughter, Quasha.

Company policies on volunteering differ. For some, the work is paid; elsewhere, it is just time off. Either way, the CIOs had to plan for the absence of people working on the project—including themselves.

Blalock says she shoveled dirt for the lawn. “Then they took me up on the porch and they showed me how to sand.”

Yet Blalock and the other CIOs were no less busy in May than they were any other time. Squeezing in such a project may be as simple as picking a date. Says Robb, “Unless you schedule time for it, you’ll never get to it.”