Collaboration, understanding, and authenticity – these are qualities that are fundamental to Karen Fedyszyn, CTO of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants. Karen is an involved member of the Think IT Association, a peer professional development network founded by York Solutions.

The association provides IT leaders with the chance to meet regularly to foster strong relationships, develop their expertise, and learn from each other’s experiences and skills. Think IT is composed of more than 3,500 members located around the country.

We asked Karen about her background in IT and what helps her keep growing within the industry.

Where did you start your career and what experiences led you to the industry? 

I started as an intern with IBM my last year at the University of South Florida. We were working on the early days of e-commerce, and it was truly fascinating. I could see the potential of the changes happening in business, and I was just hooked. They offered me a job after two months, and I had to finish my last year of university at night because I didn’t want the opportunity to pass me by.

What do you think are the greatest challenges facing IT leaders/CIOs as a profession right now?  

Speed to market with differentiating business solutions – before the competition gets the jump on you!

How can IT leaders get business partners to think differently about the importance of IT? 

IT is all about partnerships. For IT leaders, that means understanding your business partners’ plans, struggles, and dreams and then partnering in a transparent way so you both know where you are headed together. Collaboration is the name of the game.

What tips can you share to develop the next generation of IT leaders?

Developing the next gen of IT leaders must center on flexibility and managing business partners. Gone are the days where you are focused primarily on software development. Now, it’s more leveraging business solutions, integrations, and having amazing negotiation skills. You also have to select business partners (not vendors) that will operate as an extension of your internal team.

Tell us a little bit about your specialties and passions within IT. What’s been your favorite project you’ve worked on over the years? What about your position in the industry gets you really excited?  

I’ve worked in almost every discipline within IT, which gives me a well-rounded perspective. My favorite project ever was building Tier 4 data centers around the world. The project pushed me in ways I never expected and helped me transition to a leader. I received the annual HSBC CIO award for my work on this project. It was very difficult and even more rewarding.

Tell us about your personal brand. 

My brand is about being authentic. I have six personal core values, and I never stray from them in anything I do. I love to collaborate with others and always appreciate multiple points of view that which push me and help me continue to grow. People know they can count on me.

What has been your most valuable experience as a Think IT member thus far?

I have made lifelong connections with peers that have taught me so much. The sharing we do is so valuable and reusable.

What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?  

I love to cook for my family, spending time together at home with a glass of Cooper’s Hawk wine!

Learn more about the benefits of joining the Think IT Association.