Birthplace: Tremonton, Utah. A one-stoplight farm town. When John was growing up there, its population was 1,000.
Family: Gail, his wife of 45 years, and three sons: Rick, a sales representative for Brock Cabinets in North Carolina, who is involved with the Society for Information Management’s (SIM) Regional Leadership Forum; Steven, CIO of Agriliance in St. Paul, Minn.; and David, who works for Microsoft and lives in the Seattle area.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in production management and an MBA from Utah State University.
First job: Engineering aide at the Salt Lake City-based defense company Thiokol. After 10 years, John was recruited as a systems analyst in Thiokol’s information systems department.
Next job: A brief stint in information systems at Honeywell in Minneapolis. John decided to leave after hearing someone talk about the “kill capability” of a particular ammunition. “My stomach just turned over, and I thought, I’m in the wrong place.”
Working his way up: Next, John went to work at Minneapolis-based General Mills in information systems and eventually held the number-two slot there. He was recruited into the top IT job at Scott Paper in Philadelphia, where he was named CIO in 1983.
His calling: In 1989, the Church of Latter-day Saints asked John, a lifelong Mormon, to lead the IT and communications department. “My wife and I kind of looked at each other and said, Do we believe what we purport to believe in? And we decided that we did. I went there at somewhere around 20 percent of what I had been making.”
Another mission: Steve Finnerty, board member and former president of SIM, told a headhunter that John was a good candidate for the FBI slot. John ended up taking the job last July, deciding that before he retired he wanted to take on “the Everest of IT challenges.”
Leadership philosophy: “I believe that soft is hard, and hard is easy. The decoding of that is, the technology is the easy part; the human is the hard part.”