When Rita Carter started her career in accounting, she noticed a disconnect between the domains of business and technology. They spoke different languages and had distinct priorities – but Rita had a deep understanding of both worlds. Now CIO she uses her multifaceted knowledge and experience to promote technical innovation and business growth.

Rita is active in the Think IT Association, a peer professional development network founded by York Solutions. Think IT brings diverse leaders together to discuss technology challenges across industries. The association gives members opportunities to share ideas, skills, and solutions as they form strong professional relationships with one another.

We talked with Rita about how her career in IT has developed and what keeps her excited about her work.

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

I fought hard not to go into the IT business, as all of my four older brothers lived and breathed IT since they could read. The latest in programming or hardware was often a topic of conversation at the dinner table.

I began my career as a CPA, consulting for one of the Big Four. It was there that I began to see a huge gap between the language of business and the language of technology. Since I was fluent in both, I began exploring and learning and found a passion in connecting technology innovation to positive business outcomes. My understanding of both cultures and jargon proved to be critical to my ability to learn – and was ultimately critical to my success.

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

CIOs need to gain credibility as providers of growth solutions, not just technicians who respond and implement as directed.

Being a CIO is like herding cats. Challenges and innovations fly from unexpected directions, and we need to make a better effort to bring viable innovation to the table – and explain it well.

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

I have four proposals:

  • Work harder.
  • Go above and beyond to deliver valuable solutions.
  • Clearly communicate not only the benefits of a solution, but the process involved in delivering it. We can no longer be a black box.
  • Introduce innovation, don’t just respond to it.

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

Master the art of empathy. Feeling for your staff, customers, boss, colleagues, whomever, enables greatness.

Find something valuable in everything – because it’s there. Learn to speak the languages of business and of technology fluently.

Tell us a little bit about your specialties and passions within IT.

My specialty is transformation. So many organizations are behind the digital curve and can’t envision how they are going to get to a position of competitive advantage. I enjoy the challenge of creating that vision and executing it. I am passionate about making a positive impact, organizationally and financially, through the use of IT.

What’s been your favorite project you’ve worked on over the years?

Projects in my career that implemented a paradigm shift have been some of the most memorable and exciting. IoT in a manufacturing plant, new ERP implementations, and moving a distribution company to the cloud are some examples.

What about your position in the industry gets you really excited?

CIOs are poised to make significant contributions to growth, productivity, and sustainability in all industries, and I’m excited to be part of the catalyst that makes that a reality.

Tell us about your personal brand.

I am very entrepreneurial, and IT is my tool of choice. The possibilities for transformation and improvement in any organization are endless. And like any good entrepreneur, I understand that the implementation of organizational change is as much of a challenge as creating technology.

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

The networking aspect of the organization has been very beneficial. It is always good to keep an open mind about how our industry should run and grow, and I always take away some new perspective from every meeting. Learning about the successes and challenges of others has been motivational.

What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?

Ha! I listen to my two sons talk about the latest in machine learning/AI, network security, space exploration and the latest video game while playing with our two-year-old German Shepherd, Diesel. A great way to de-stress and keep up at the same time!

Interested in joining the Think IT Association? Learn more about the benefits of membership.