by Ben Worthen

CIO’s Live Up to the Challenge

Apr 01, 2004 2 mins

Despite the lessons of history, someone always takes the CIO job at companies that have a history of turning over and tossing out IT executives. Marc Lewis, president of North America for the executive search firm Morgan Howard, writes it off to human nature. As a general rule, he says, executives are title-driven. “When a marquee-sounding job comes up, few have the courage to turn it down,” he says.

IT leaders who have accepted these jobs deflect questions about the positions’ history. Jeff Kubacki, vice president of global infrastructure and operations at Ecolab, focuses on his own performance to date. “As the new guy, I have to earn my wings every day,” he says. “We’ve created a vision and delivered results.” He adds that “I received a note from our CFO on my first anniversary. He said, ’I can’t believe it has only been a year. You are off to a great start.’”

United States Tennis Association CIO Larry Bonfante distances himself from his predecessors. “IT never communicated with [the executives], and on the rare occasions that they did, they spoke in a technical jargon,” he says. “Part of the problem that has been pervasive is lack of candor?a lack of chutzpah. People have not been willing to make hard decisions and tell the emperor he has no clothes. No one could admit the magnitude of the problems we had.” Bonfante is able to talk straight. “I knew I had to make changes, and I felt equipped to do it,” he says.