Motorola CIO on recruiting, retaining talent

Motorola CIO Patricia Morrison talks about innovation and recruiting and retaining talent

Motorola CIO Patricia Morrison talks about recruiting and retaining talent in the global marketplace, innovation in IT and developing a process for integrating acquisitions.

Four of the five business unit CIOs who work for you are women. How do you happen to have so many women in top IT positions at Motorola?

In a couple of cases, they were promoted, and in others, they were hired from the outside. When you have an opening, you make sure you have a diversity of candidates, in gender, experience and other ways.

Given all the concerns in the industry about attracting women to IT, would you personally choose a woman for a job if all other variables were roughly equal?

I don't think that way. It's valuable to have diversity in my team -- not so much to have a woman. I consider what will make my team better. That can include personality. One of my CIOs brings consumer products experience into my team. One had supply chain experience and brought an engineering perspective. One of my CIOs has a Ph.D. in art history and was a curator at [New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art]. So it's really looking at all the unique things that people bring.

How can companies attract young women to a career in IT?

It's not unique to women, but it's a problem, if you are talking about getting kids into the IT profession from an educational standpoint. There's a lot in the media about outsourcing, and that gives misimpressions about the IT opportunity. That's one dynamic that's making people gravitate away from IT as a profession.

I recently had lunch with a group of female engineering students and asked what interested them in the engineering profession. It was a consistent view that the No. 1 thing to motivate them was their fathers. So there's got to be a feeling of confidence when you come into a difficult profession, whether it is engineering or IT. That confidence is very important.

You mean their fathers instilled in them a sense of confidence?

Yes, because IT is hard -- not that business isn't hard or nursing isn't hard. Confidence is a leadership quality. What the profession is about is problem-solving. It's not about computation so much; it's not only about programming, but about solving problems. Some of them are big, hairy business problems you are solving. Some are usability problems for products. There's a lot of art and finesse that we don't talk about when we try to attract women to the profession.

Is IT worker retention a concern for you?

We talk about retaining people every month in my operating reviews in China and India. In those regions, there's a lot of job-shopping going on, so much that it reminds me of the heyday of the IT bubble, where people changed jobs every two months. For our growth and what we're doing at Motorola in those regions, we need leaders on the ground and in IT. We need to support the growth of R&D, and we need to be where the work is. It's very important, but it's hard to retain them.

Any ideas on how to deal with that?

We don't really know yet. It's an emerging trend. We know that what motivates IT people is, "Does my customer really appreciate my work?" But how did we get to the point where we train a person and suddenly they go down the street for 20 percent to 30 percent increases in pay? It's the nature of the markets there right now.

You have a strong education background in music and math. What do those have to do with preparation for IT work?

Music programs in schools are critical. I studied music and was a math major in college. I'm actually a right-brained person with a holistic way of looking at things. Music study tends to make you think differently about how things work together, whether orchestra, choral or theater. You learn it's not the individual that makes the outcome, but it's all the things working in harmony. That's like running a project in IT or business.

How is IT at Motorola influencing the development of the company's products?

Innovation comes from solving real customer problems. We use our own products, and we have a pretty significant impact on product development. Almost 6,000 Motorola Q handhelds have been adopted in our IT [operations] because it is an enterprise device with 23 apps running on it.

What handheld device do you use?

I use a 3G Q, announced recently. I use it for e-mail and voice and for everything. As a matter of fact, I rely less and less on my laptop. I would take a laptop if I were doing a big Word document or a spreadsheet, but I'm not a big spreadsheet junkie. I have to tell you, I don't see a lot of need to have a laptop. I travel about 60 percent of the time all over the world. [The handheld] works in all the networks around the world, but not Japan, which is unique. But I can get applications on the Q and can deploy to the Q anything I can move through our mobile portals. I can do approvals for workflow and see my reports. I can do a NetMeeting live on a Q. The BlackBerry is a fabulous e-mail device, but there's a lot I can't do on it.

How is the integration work going following the recent acquisitions of Good Technology and Symbol Technologies?

I'm intimately involved with that. We've started to create a repeatable process for integrating companies. For example, with Symbol, you do basic things right away, like HR integration and setting up e-mail and Internet. For things like product portfolio integration and order-taking integration, we've started using business process management tools to create dialogue around where the processes of the two companies intersect and how to create revenue synergy. That has gone really well. BPM has been very helpful. We've also learned it doesn't pay to just rip out one of the ERP systems of the two companies being merged. We use parts of both ERP systems.

What does Motorola do best, and what does it most need to improve upon?

I really think having innovation at the core of the culture here is very powerful for Motorola. You see it everywhere you go, in every function, and not just R&D. It's an empowering environment to work in. [CEO] Ed Zander has made Motorola exciting and fast-paced, and it permeates the culture. If you talk to people who've been here a long time, they see an enormous difference.

In terms of improvements, the thing that makes me most crazy is the big company bureaucracy, which is not unique to Motorola. Sometimes IT people want to control everything for good reasons, such as securing company information. But the company also faces tough competing demands, especially in the consumer market. So my challenge is solving the bureaucracy and finding ways to free it up.

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