Darwin John hasn’t thought about his career since he left Scott Paper in 1990.
At that time, John felt he had reached the apex of his professional life, serving as vice president of planning, development and information at a major corporation. The experience (11 years at Scott Paper and six-plus years as an IT executive at General Mills before that) and rewards that went with those roles freed him to pursue what he calls his personal mission in subsequent jobs: to serve and teach others what he’s learned, and to continue his own professional education.
That’s what John did when he became CIO of the Mormon Church in 1990. He did it again last year when he served as CIO of the FBI for just 10 months.
Now John, 65, has taken his next step. One week a month, John imparts his 40-plus years of professional experience as a strategic adviser for Blackwell Consulting Services, a management and IT consultancy. He’s a sounding board for founder and CEO Robert D. Blackwell Sr., as the company seeks growth and its next generation of leaders among 240 consultants. (John also still works one week a month for the FBI as a consultant.)
When word spread that John was leaving the FBI CIO job, Blackwell paid John an unexpected visit to his office in D.C. to try to get him to join his company. The two men had developed a professional relationship three years ago, when Blackwell spoke at a Society for Information Management leadership seminar that John facilitated.
John had many options after the FBI. He could have joined a big consultancy, a corporate board or a small software company. In a recent interview, John explained why he chose Blackwell.
Alignment with his personal mission. John viewed the position with Blackwell as fitting his philosophy of making job changes that mesh with life goals. “Aligning with organizations where there’s a match between who you are and what you represent positions you for the highest probability for success,” he says.
A satisfying role to play. When John first visited Blackwell’s Chicago headquarters last June, he met bright, capable employees with whom he thought he’d like to work. Enabling growth “is a very fulfilling experience for me,” says John.
A good fit on corporate values. John says Blackwell respects its employees and its customers, believes in quality in the services it delivers, and is committed to staying current with leading-edge technologies and business practices.
Joining Blackwell “was an intuitive conclusion,” John says. “It just felt right in terms of the people, in terms of what the organization stood for, and in terms of me being able to make a difference.”
Blackwell, in a letter to clients, cited John’s experience. “Darwin has lived and experienced the role of CIO, so he knows the pain, the anticipation, the worries and the pressure associated with the title.”
John’s own view emphasizes a broader perspective. “Life is not a career. Life is a mission. You need to be clear on what your mission is. Align every decision against your personal mission. If you get real clear on your personal mission, you can make a difference.”
News of other moves
’Twas a busy summer at e-commerce players. Christopher Hjelm, former senior vice president of technology at eBay and a FedEx alumnus, joined Orbitz as its CTO in July. Hjelm succeeds Alex Zoghlin. Lars Rabbe, the CIO at Yahoo since July, manages the portal’s IT staff, enterprise applications and networks; he reports to CTO Farzad Nazem. Eric Meyer left Netflix, the online DVD movie rental service he cofounded, to be CIO of Internet bubble survivor LowerMyBills.com. In August, Dean L. Denhart, former executive vice president and CIO of online real estate marketing company Homestore, became CIO at online dating company MatchNet.
CIOs Who’ve Answered the Public Service Call
Teresa Pudi joined nonprofit Habitat for Humanity International in 2001 as vice president of information services after 20 years in retail, manufacturing and consulting industries.
Paul Strassmann, former CIO at Xerox and former director of defense information at the Department of Defense, served as acting CIO for NASA from July 2002 to March 2003.
Bill Friel, CIO of Prudential Financial, began the New Jersey chapter of Tech Corps, a national nonprofit organization (founded by CXO Media Publisher Gary Beach) to help elementary and secondary schools use technology.