At Jacobs Engineering, the $12 billion engineering and construction firm, executives each have a primary, functional area of responsibility, but according to CIO Cora Carmody, “We are also fungible in that we take on additional roles wherever the company needs us.”
Carmody became CIO of Jacobs Engineering in 2008, and a year later, Craig Martin, CEO, asked her to do something new. “He told me, ‘You’re going to lead due diligence on our next big acquisition,’” says Carmody. “And four days after we completed that acquisition, he said, ‘Now go do it again.’”
New to M&A, Carmody was a little apprehensive about the challenge. “I was scared to death, and for a few days, I hoped that they would decide not to do the deal,” she says. But her confidence quickly kicked in, and Carmody dove in.
Having now led the due diligence process for two acquisitions, Carmody has some lessons learned to share.
Why do it?
As CIO, you have enough on your plate as it is, and with every acquisition, you have the additional responsibility of integrating the technology. Why take on a leadership role at the front end, as well?
Greater knowledge of the business: “First, we get a prospectus, and determine if the risk and cultural fit make the company worthy of pursuing,” says Carmody. “Then we put together an indication of interest, work with the lawyers, take a small team and meet with the prospective company, and if all goes well, we do a real due diligence,” she says. “Eventually, we get to a price and a “go/no-go” decision that we take to CEO and the board of directors.
All of this work has allowed Carmody to learn a great deal about how to value companies and how to judge risk. “I can put together a strategic rationale for why a company would be a good acquisition,” she says. “That kind of insight was not available to me as CIO.”
Carmody also improved her communication skills through her M&A leadership role. “The due diligence report has to be concise, compelling and complete,” she says. “Leading our acquisitions has made me a much better writer, which comes in handy as a CIO.”
Career Advancement: Several years ago, I interviewed a number of CIOs who had become COOs. Typically, the CIO to COO journey happens as follows: once the CIO builds a high-performing IT organization, she has the credibility to bring some of her leadership skills to the rest of the company. While holding onto her CIO role, she might also lead customer care, or strategic planning, or an enterprise PMO. She demonstrates her skills as an enterprise leader, and when a GM or COO position opens up, she is promoted. CIOs turned COOs cite M&A due diligence as a common example of a leadership role that got their CEO’s attention.
Become a better CIO: Carmody says that has a result of leading acquisitions for Jacobs Engineering, she is now a stronger CIO. “This experience has allowed me to build credibility with my business peers in new ways,” she says. They know that I am a business leader, not just a techie. They now that the CIO isn’t someone who just pushes gadgets.”
If you are ready to follow Carmody’s lead and run M&A for a few of your company’s next acquisitions, the first step is to makes sure your IT organization is in order. The second is to ask for the job. At Jacobs Engineering, the culture is to give additional roles to the executive committee. If that is not the culture in your own company, you need to put the bug in your CEO’s ear. “You would be surprised at how many CIOs sell themselves short,” says Carmody. “If you can raise your hand and make a good case for yourself, it will be worth it. You will be amazed at how much you learn.”
About Cora Carmody and Jacobs Engineering
As the Senior Vice President, Information Technology for Jacobs Engineering, Cora Carmody provides leadership for information technology (IT) initiatives centering around the consolidation and improvement of Jacobs’ mission-critical IT Systems including Enterprise Resources systems such as HR, Financial, Contracts, and Procurement Systems, Operational support systems such as project control, engineering/design and collaboration, as well as infrastructure systems and services such as networks, servers, desktops, web, etc. Cora was with Litton/PRC from 1978 – 2001 (and CIO there from 1996-2001), Invensys plc from 2001-2003 and SAIC from 2003-2008; additionally she taught at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan part-time from 1981-1984.
Cora has an M.S. degree in Computer Science from Fairleigh Dickinson University (1985) and B.A. and M.A. degrees in Mathematics from the Johns Hopkins University (1978).
Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. is one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of professional technical services. With 2013 revenues of nearly $12 billion, Jacobs Engineering Group offers full-spectrum support to industrial, commercial, and government clients across multiple markets. Services include scientific and specialty consulting as well as all aspects of engineering and construction, and operations and maintenance.
Martha Heller is CEO of Heller Search Associates, an IT executive recruiting firm specializing in CIO, CTO, CISO and senior technology roles in all industries. She is the author The CIO Paradox: Battling the Contradictions of IT Leadership and Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT. To join the IT career conversation, subscribe to The Heller Report.