Get to know the Premier 100 Class of 2017

The annual Computerworld Premier 100 awards shine a spotlight on individuals who have had a positive impact on their organization through technology.

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Michal Cenkl

Michal Cenkl

Title
Director of innovation and technology, Center for Information and Technology

Employer
Mitre

Location
Bedford, Mass.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Second Machine Age (2MA) factors. The confluence of data, computational capability, artificial intelligence and sophisticated user experience (voice and virtual reality, for example). We are developing predictive knowledge capabilities that serve as intelligent assistance. Our focus is mostly on possibilities of artificial intelligence for the business environment.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
Cognitive assistance coupled with analytics applied to internal business and customer data.

Biggest tech disappointment?
Most things cyber. The focus is still on endpoint protection, which is a losing game, as compared to information protection.

New titles in your IT organization:
Applied futurist — someone who can imagine a disruptive capability and describe what impact it will have and how to get there from where we are now.

Personal leadership style?
Visionary. I see my role as defining a future state, describing a path to get there and empowering people to achieve it.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
We’re adopting a “build, try, break, fix” strategy. If you’re not exposing users to emerging technologies to assess their value, then you’re not learning enough about them to make a judgment.

Christopher Chang

Christopher Chang

Title
Senior vice president and CIO

Employer
Darden Restaurants

Location
Orlando, Fla.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Chatbots and artificial intelligence present an interesting opportunity to provide “smart service” capabilities for our guests who want real-time interactions and value convenience in areas such as menu ordering and repeat commerce orders.

Coolest current project:
Our CRM initiatives represent an exciting opportunity for us as we deliver increasingly relevant messaging to individual guests. As we learn more about our guests, we are able to communicate with them in more relevant channels, at more relevant times and with more meaningful content.

Biggest tech disappointment?
The various mobile payment technologies still don’t offer a compelling reason for most people to use their phones for payment. It’s far easier to swipe or insert a credit card than to guess which merchant can accept a phone for payment.

Personal leadership style?
Participative and leading by example. I enjoy being in the trenches with the team and learning from those around me.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
We have a separate innovation team that evaluates new technologies and assesses them via pilots and proofs of concept. This team has the opportunity to explore technology without being tied to a specific project or ROI initiative.

Samuel J. Chesterman

Samuel J. Chesterman

Title
Worldwide CIO

Employer
IPG Mediabrands

Location
San Francisco

Coolest current project:
We are building a number of cutting-edge applications available exclusively to our client base.

An innovative staff idea:
We distributed a Raspberry Pi microcomputer to each staff member and challenged them to build something unique. Those challenges ensure the teams are learning and having fun at the same time. It spurs a tremendous amount of creativity and engineering.

How are you using reverse-mentoring?
We have a significant number of staffers who are fresh out of college, and we continuously look to them for trends — ranging from mobile applications or back-office technologies. We strive to make sure everyone has a voice and can be empowered to share with the rest of the staff.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
A lot more new technology will require higher processor speeds, creating a need for liquid-cooled devices. This is already evident with high-end video cards such as those needed to power Oculus technologies and 3D rendering at high frame rates.

Biggest tech disappointment?
The Apple Watch. I’m disappointed that it has to be charged every night and doesn’t have many stand-alone features.

Abhishek Choudhary

Abhishek Choudhary

Title
Manager, Information Systems

Employer
Indian Oil

Location
Mumbai, India

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
I work in the internet of things technology space by developing frameworks to source data directly from devices in gas stations and remotely control them. This supports data transfers to central servers where data would go through business rule engines and the framework would be able to trigger actions.

Coolest current project:
A retail automation project that focuses on remote device management and real-time data streaming from gas stations.

Skills you’ll hire for:
We focus on capturing secondary sales data and believe that processing the primary data from these systems in real time or batch would be a great challenge. We want to get into the space of big data management and staff a team to manage this environment.

William D. Confalonieri

William D. Confalonieri

Title
Chief digital officer, CIO and vice president

Employer
Deakin University

Location
Geelong, Australia

Career highlight:
Being nominated as a finalist for the Australian CIO of the Year award four years in a row, and winning twice.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
We have been working intensely with cognitive computing, internet of things (proximity and location services), and virtual and augmented reality.

Coolest current project:
Genie, a smart proactive student assistant using chatbots, artificial intelligence and predictive personal analytics.

An innovative staff idea:
A chatbot programatic framework.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
I have what I call a “digital future lab,” which is both a place and a conceptual framework, where all new technologies are played with and tested, and prototypes are created.

How do you find time to innovate?
It is simply the most important priority for keeping ourselves relevant. We are organized in a way that fire-fighting doesn’t jeopardize bleeding-edge experimentation and development.

Paul Czarapata

Paul Czarapata

Title
Vice president and CIO

Employer
Kentucky Community and Technical College System

Location
Versailles, Ky.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
I am a big fan of wearable technology. I have a lot of gadgets around the office, everything from Amazon cardboard VR glasses to the traditional fitness wristbands with step counters and heart monitors. I love to tinker and find things that might translate into the classroom to facilitate learning.

Coolest current project:
Definitely our predictive analytics platform to identify at-risk students. We keep feeding it with more and more data and have been able to home in on at-risk student populations, which our strategic enrollment management teams can then use for outreach campaigns.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
Artificial intelligence will take over 90% of our server and database administration needs through real-time monitoring and proactive actions based on predictive analytics built on historical load trends.

New titles in your IT organization:
Chief network and infrastructure officer. This position and the accompanying team are responsible for core network and infrastructure architecture across the state, as well as management of our cloud services.

Personal leadership style?
I am a strong advocate of the servant leadership style, which has served me well for building trust amongst students, faculty and staff for myriad projects over the years. I feel strongly that the ability to listen and empathize with someone opens the door for collaboration and progress.

Paul Daugherty

Paul Daugherty

Title
Chief technology and innovation officer

Employer
Accenture

Location
Florham Park, N.J.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Three technologies are poised to take off: artificial intelligence (A.I.), virtual experiences and blockchain. I’ve created R&D programs in all three areas, formed practices to train and hire talent, and am pursuing investments in key emerging leaders. I’ve also launched a quantum computing R&D program.

Coolest current project:
I sponsor several Accenture programs to address the gender and diversity gap in technology, including Girls Who Code. I had the privilege of meeting almost 500 high school girls at the New York Girls Who Code event and gave a keynote speech, with founder Reshma Saujani, to congratulate them.

An innovative staff idea:
My Accenture Labs team has been doing R&D in crowdsourcing for several years, and this year that group combined with our application testing team to launch an innovative and disruptive crowdsourced testing service using our own technology as well as that of a leading crowdsourcing startup.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
A.I. and related technologies are ushering in a new era in the relationship between people and machines. Machines will communicate in a more human fashion, and keyboards will join tools like the slide rule on the way to obsolescence.

New titles in your IT organization:
Managing director of ecosystem and ventures. This is a new senior role in our organization, reporting to me, responsible globally for all relationships with partners in our ecosystem — from leaders through startups — recognizing the strategic importance of ecosystem partners to our business.

Lesley A. Dickie

Lesley A. Dickie

Title
Vice president, Global Business Services, IT

Employer
Raytheon

Location
Billerica, Mass.

New titles in your IT organization:
We are adding new roles in our Business Analytics Center of Excellence, such as data scientist, to support our capabilities with predictive analysis, and user experience experts to ensure we design and build our applications and systems with end-user productivity and ease of use in mind.

Personal leadership style?
I’d describe my personal leadership style as collaborative and teaming. I continuously listen and look for ideas to make things better and simplify the way people work while also encouraging the organization to do the same. Through enterprise teaming and collaboration, I seek the best way to implement change and transform the organization.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated this year?
We needed to assign a thought leader to the very large export/import global trade initiative to help shape, influence and inform us about approaches, investments, risks and opportunities. I delegated this responsibility to our director of engineering solutions and IT compliance.

How has your vendor management strategy changed in the past few years?
It’s shifted to a more aggressive stance in terms of leveraging vendors and strategic partners to perform managed or outsourced services, accelerating our knowledge of new technologies and innovation, and filling resource gaps and needs in countries where IT doesn’t have a local footprint.

Read Dickie's full profile.

Jim Dye

Jim Dye

Title
Director, global IT infrastructure

Employer
Pittsburgh Glass Works

Location
Pittsburgh

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
Business will be in the cloud. And the internet of things, made exponentially more powerful by the emergence of the algorithmic economy, will change the face of manufacturing and services forever. Businesses will need to pivot quickly, otherwise they’ll be playing catch-up with those that have strategically shifted to driving industry disruption through a data-driven, digital-first approach.

Personal leadership style?
I prefer to constantly look to identify opportunities for mentoring and coaching, setting vision and direction, building trust and harmony throughout the team and ultimately establishing a strong team identity. But when needed, I’ll act as a pacesetter and/or provide more rigid structure and directives.

Your spare time?
I build and race first-person view (FPV) drones — quadcopters equipped with cameras at the nose that are controlled by pilots wearing FPV goggles that display live-streaming footage. The goal is to race other drones and their pilots on set indoor or outdoor courses (speeds vary from 50 to 100-plus mph).

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
We partner with the business to form a pilot with defined key performance indicators. Emphasis is placed on failing fast and quantifying all perceived value and risks. If successful, we scale. If unsuccessful, we evaluate whether it was the technology or the idea that was bad and then define the next steps.

Saman Michael Far

Saman Michael Far

Title
Senior vice president, technology

Employer
FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority)

Location
New York

Career highlight:
A Nasdaq IPO in the late 1990s when I was employee No. 4 at Open Text.

Coolest current project:
The use of graph analysis and link analysis to integrate disparate data so conclusions across data sets can be inferred from facts in the data.

Skills you’ll hire for:
Deep programming skills, data structure and algorithm knowledge, and machine learning skills. I am hiring people for key positions and training existing staff. The training model has employees learning on their own in the evening and on weekends and then vying for projects on which they can use their new skills.

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
I use a startup model where technology staffers are encouraged to follow technology areas and bring key ideas forward. Interesting ideas, regardless of their source, are implemented as quick proof-of-concept projects in conjunction with a business unit.

How do you find time to innovate?
I host internal hackathons, spending the time alongside the teams and reviewing the team projects, taking time to talk to the developers and understand their thinking. I also spend significant time with startups to define proof-of-concept projects that they can participate in with our staff.

How are you working with startups?
I seek out startups working on core technologies that we may be able to use.

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