Chief Information Officer - an unlikely role, an unconventional CIO
By Aarti Shah, SVP and Chief Information Officer, Eli Lilly and Company
Most CIO positions are held by individuals with IT credentials and years of deep technical and technology experience. What sets me apart as a non-traditional Chief Information Officer (CIO)? I suppose it’s that my career path didn’t begin in, or even ladder through, the traditional world of technology-based roles. However, I am proud to say that my career at Eli Lilly and Company has spanned twenty-three years, across the various phases of drug development, with assignments both in the United States and abroad. When offered the CIO role, I was a bit surprised, but also thrilled to have the opportunity to make a significant and transformational contribution to Lilly’s IT organization and the company as a whole.
A little about me
I should tell you, I’m a life-long learner. My official schooling in science and math prepared me well for a wonderful career journey in information sciences, analytics and statistics. A more recent role moved my work even closer to the patient, as a Global Brand Development Leader for one of Lilly’s life-changing new medicines. My passion has been, and always will be, aligned with Lilly’s mission to make medicines that help people live longer, healthier and more active lives.
"We’re seeing the reality of automation and robotics; turning data into information and information into knowledge by the power of right data and smart analytics; designing for the optimal internal and external customer experience"
When asked to step into the role of Lilly’s Chief Information Officer, I jumped at the chance to learn and lead a different part of the business. So, what can a leader with a limited technology background do to transform an IT organization at a time when all businesses are in the midst of massive transformation and challenge? My leadership philosophy is simple, and includes three very important points:
People are at the heart of everything we do.
The passion and engagement of our people drive business outcomes and excellence. Building a championship team requires an environment where employees feel valued and fulfilled— and where leaders focus on helping their people develop their careers. We’re committed to recruiting, developing and retaining a diverse and inclusive global workforce and helping them stay connected to the noble purpose of our mission. In addition to keeping their technical skills sharp, we focus on helping them draw a direct line between what they do and how it touches the patients we serve.
Sci-fi is no longer fiction; it's reality
Business transformation requires futuristic thinking and rich technology. Product design and development, manufacturing, marketing, and sales— how business gets done today—is now both agile and accelerated. What once seemed impossible is now well within our ability to imagine. We’re seeing the reality of automation and robotics; turning data into information and information into knowledge by the power of right data and smart analytics; designing for the optimal internal and external customer experience, and managing operational upkeep at lightning speed. We are committed to innovation and have a continued focus on streamlining and standardizing to help keep our workforce productive, engaged and committed.
Our strong relationship with various business and functional organizations is critical. We’re exploring incredible possibilities with them, and integrating even tighter with business goals and plans. As IT solutions are delivered, they are integrated with business results and outcomes and we’re getting better at telling the collective value story, and building the unique brand that includes true partnership and trust.
“Playing offense” negates the need for your best defense
We’re stepping up our game to lead even more boldly. We’re moving from a traditional IT “defensive” position to an exciting, new offensive position. We’re transforming the Information Technology organization from what our internal consumers knew as a service-oriented organization into an organization that leads, influences, partners—and serves.
What an exciting time to be in the Information Technology organization! I am personally very proud and truly humbled to be surrounded by so many experts and awesome people that teach me and energize me on a daily basis. There’s more to come. Let’s talk again in a couple of years.