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Virtual Think IT Event: From Individual Contributor to Leadership

Last Friday, we hosted a Virtual Think IT Event to discuss Going From Individual Contributor to Leadership with Andy Bingenheimer, Corporate CIO at U.S. Bank, Cara Getschel, AVP, Software Engineering at Prime Therapeutics, Sarah Engstrom, CISO & VP IT Security, Productivity, and Privacy at CHS Inc, and Jessica Farnum, Sr. Director of Operations at Optum. Thank you to everyone who joined the event and participated in the discussion!


Below you will find a summary of what was discussed.


An introduction to our Panelists

Jessica Farnum has been with Optum for 3 years and focuses on optimizing processes and data within a process automation group. Prior to her time at Optum, she spent 17 years at Honeywell working with teams that helped grow her into a leader.

Cara Getschel has been at Prime Therapeutics for 14 years and has recently been involved in a modernization effort to upgrade their platforms and technology and go through an Agile transformation. Before Prime Therapeutics, she had spent many years with St. Paul Companies and Traveler’s gaining experience that helped her develop leadership qualities and characteristics.

Andy Bingenheimer has been at U.S. Bank for nearly 8 years and spent time in various leadership roles within the company. Prior to U.S. Bank, he worked at General Motors, GMAC and Ally Banks, where he grew from mistakes and learned to be a leader.

Sarah Engstrom has been at CHS Inc. for over 6 years, and she leads Security, Privacy and Productivity teams. Prior to CHS Inc., she spent 13 years at Target and developed into the leader she is today.


How do you identify leadership talent within your teams?

In Cara’s opinion, when people often think about becoming a leader, they are drawn to the idea of having more power themselves. However, a successful leader focuses on the opposite. The significance of being a leader is not about having the most power, but about being able to build and set their teams up for success. When recognizing a leader, it is important that they fit well with the team, obtain good people skills, and are motivated by team success. If people are only satisfied by their individual success, they are less likely to be a strong fit for a leader.


How can a non-technical manager be the leader of a technical team?

In one of Sarah’s early roles at Target, she managed a security team full of very technical, smart, high-level people. During her time as a manager, she soaked up as much technical information as she could and displayed her humility to this team, because she was not as highly technical. Her human-impact viewpoint in their technical team conversations made for a unique balance. It allowed her to let the team focus on their strengths and not have to worry about thinking through processes on the more human side of it. Working with a technical team and not being a technical leader was one of the most pivotal moments in her career and has undoubtedly made her into the leader she is today.

According to Andy, one common factor in people wanting to become leaders is income appreciation. There is a considerable difference in pay when you move into a leadership role. Many brilliant people hold the knowledge and experience to be in a leadership role, but may not have the proper skills for managing people directly. It is important to recognize that everyone on the team is a leader, but not necessarily the type of leader meant to lead a team.


If someone says, “I am an introvert so I don’t think I will make a good leader”, what is your response to that?

Jessica says she does not believe that is true. It’s not about whether you are an introvert or an extrovert; it is about learning the way your brain works, how you work with it best, and how you show up and do the things you are supposed to do. As more of an introvert, Jessica has began to take 15-minute book breaks during very busy meeting days. It allows her to have some alone time and recharge her battery to be the best leader she can for her team.  Like the other panelists have said, being an extrovert doesn’t necessarily make you the best leader and being an introvert doesn’t make you a bad leader either. It all comes down to your drive for team success.