by Richard Pastore

CIO Hall of Fame: Cinda A. Hallman

Sep 15, 19973 mins
CIOIT Leadership

Cinda Hallman was one of the most important assets DuPont acquired in its 1981 purchase of Conoco, where she began her IS career in 1966.

Career Highlights

Today: Global vice president, Integrated Processes and Systems, DuPont Co., Wilmington, Del.
1992-97: CIO, DuPont
1988-92: Director of IS, DuPont
1985-88: Director of systems development, Conoco
Education: Bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Southern Arkansas

In retrospect, Cinda Hallman was one of the most important assets DuPont acquired in its 1981 purchase of Conoco, where she began her IS career in 1966. She moved to the parent company in 1988 and took over as DuPont’s CIO in 1992. The global chemical engineering and manufacturing giant was facing tough times back then, and Hallman’s mandate was to rationalize IS costs while improving customer focus and integrating a globalizing business.

 That’s a tall order in any environment, but particularly in high-tech engineering. “Everybody’s an expert, so it’s very hard to make sense of technical computing in a technical company,” says James B. Woods, who has his own surplus of technical “experts” to contend with as vice president and CIO at Hughes Electronics Corp. “Cinda’s brought order to the chaos with standards, infrastructure and global logistics.” The bottom-line effect has been a 45 percent decline in IS costs, or $540 million to date.

One of the secrets to Hallman’s success is her working relationship with DuPont Chairman Edgar Woolard. “When I’ve visited her at DuPont, she’s introduced me to her chairman and brought him into meetings,” Woods recalls. “When Cinda speaks, her peers in the functional areas know she’s speaking for the chairman of the board. You don’t see that in a lot of people.”

The Research Board Inc., an exclusive assemblage of international CIOs that studies best practices, is another venue for Hallman’s influence. According to fellow member Woods, Hallman has taken up the mantle of legendary board “godfather” Max Hopper. “She’s an opinion-setter,” Woods says. “When members are looking to do a large-scale client/server project, they’ll talk to Cinda if they are prudent.” Members may soon seek her advice on outsourcing as well if DuPont’s 1996 record-setting $4 billion outsourcing arrangement, which she classifies as a “business partnership,” pays dividends.

But Hallman is most gratified by her influence inside DuPont. In the Hallman era, IS has gained great visibility as a strategic business partner. A testament to that new prominence is IS managers’ participation on key business committees that help decide the strategic fate of DuPont products.

While all the Hall of Fame CIOs are role models, Hallman is also a model for women in business. “Clearly her energy, perfectionism and intelligence make her a terrific role model,” says Naomi Seligman, senior partner of the New York-based Research Board. Hallman broke the glass ceiling at DuPont in 1990, becoming the first female vice president in the company’s nearly 200-year history.

But Hallman doesn’t dwell on gender. “I never focus on the fact that I’m a woman doing this and that there’s anything unusual about that,” she says. “The philosophy I’ve had as far back as I can remember is to be very focused and clear on what you want to achieve and to stick to it.”

It’s hard for her philosophy and self-confidence not to rub off on her staff. For instance, she won’t put up with someone doubting his or her ability to contribute. “I’ll tell that person, ‘You are a professional, you are employed by your company for what you know or can do, and you need to give them the benefit of your experience.'” In other words, Hallman says, “stand up and be counted.”