Leslie J. Hunt, CIO of the American Red Cross of Greater New York (ARCGNY), was known last fall as the “tall blonde in the red jacket with all the answers.” Her work was critical in the early World Trade Center attack relief efforts.
This September, however, Hunt is leaving the Red Cross. Like many people, the events of Sept. 11 caused her to reevaluate her priorities. “After 9/11, I started reviewing what was really important to me,” says Hunt, 50, who gave her notice on June 1 and stayed as a consultant until Labor Day. “I have the luxury of not having to work, so I’d like to spend more time with my family,” says Hunt, who has two grown children and lives with her husband, Steven Hunt, CFO of The Official Information Co. in New York City. “I may even go back to school to get an MBA or study nutrition.”
Things never slowed down for Hunt after last year’s terrorist attacks. “We went from dealing with Sept. 11 to figuring out what we needed to put in place so if, God forbid, there is a next time, we’ll be more prepared from a technology standpoint,” says Hunt, who was hired as ARCGNY’s first CIO three years ago. IT issues related to 9/11 subsided by year’s end, at which point Hunt resumed work with the Atlanta chapter on much-needed CRM and ERP systems.
Although the ARCGNY is run independently from the national American Red Cross, New York did see donations decrease following concerns over the distribution of funds at the national organization in Washington, D.C. Hunt says her IT team’s projects were able to move ahead only through the continued generosity from some software vendors. “We saw some backlash from the situation at national as far as money was concerned,” Hunt explains. “But I’m convinced that the help we got from our software vendors would not have been so generous had 9/11 not happened. We came to the top of their list because of that.”
A discounted Siebel CRM system, rolled out in August, will let the New York City and Atlanta chapters view records on anyone from donors and volunteers to people who have given blood. An ERP financial system from Great Plains, also discounted, will be rolled out in the first quarter of 2003. Those systems will help the Red Cross automate many manual processes, according to Hunt, like the reentry of data from front- to back-office systems.
Hunt also developed a much-needed disaster recovery plan (“Our previous ’plan’ was to grab a server under each arm and run out of the building,” she says) and installed Microsoft Exchange 2000 on all ARCGNY desktops. The hardest task she faced before leaving was telling her close-knit staff of 12. “It was very difficult because of the type of person I am. I had built my staff one person at a time, and they were very loyal. I knew this would be very difficult for them,” Hunt says.
Hunt’s plans include kitchen remodeling and a rescheduled three-week trip to Italy with her husband, initially planned for last Sept. 15.
While Hunt leaves a loyal staff, she took the red jacket with her. Says Hunt: “I earned that jacket.”