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CIOs Uncensored: A Focus On People

Burger King's CIO feels strongly that helping people -- IT employees and the community -- pays big dividends.
I feel strongly that my peers and I need to have a vision beyond the technology aspect of our jobs. We need to invest in growing the talent at our companies and serving the communities in which we live.

At Burger King, where I'm CIO, we've created two leadership programs for our IT employees. Although these programs are a significant investment for the company, they provide a robust pipeline of talent for the organization and are an added value for our employees.

  • We have an IT Leadership program, which looks for local talent outside the office. Qualified applicants will possess high GPAs, relevant degrees, and meaningful work experience. This two-year program gives the employees three six-month assignments in the IT department and one in a cross-functional area. These rotating assignments accelerate the employees' knowledge base as they become more valuable to the organization.
  • The Leaders of Tomorrow program is a one-year commitment that offers high-potential employees sessions every month in technical and nontechnical skills. The courses include databases, presentation skills, project management, SAP, and outsourcing. The employee has to be nominated by his or her manager and an IT leadership team member.
  • We also provide bimonthly meetings to allow managers to enhance their leadership skills through developmental seminars.

    Reaching out to our local community is a great first step toward recruiting local talent. Community involvement positions our organization as a good corporate citizen in the eyes of the consumer.

    In 2006, our team helped found the South Florida CIO Board, which connects approximately 15 to 20 CIOs throughout South Florida. We meet every quarter to talk about common areas of interest in the IT industry, and we rotate locations so each company can highlight its organization.

    The CIO board created a program to develop future IT talent locally, a response to the flight of good IT professionals from South Florida. This program was created in partnership with local high schools that have specific information technology magnet programs. Two CIOs are assigned to each high school for a multiyear partnership that develops and mentors future leaders.

    Volunteer efforts can serve as team-building exercises and earn the company valuable community exposure. Last fall, Burger King's IT team participated in its second Great American Teach-A-Thon, an awareness campaign highlighting the importance of teachers and their challenges. In 2006, our company's entire representation at the event was 10 employees from the IT department. Last November, it became a company-wide event, with more than 130 participants. Burger King sent more employees to local schools than any other company in the South Florida area.

    As I reflect on the past, my mentor's mantra comes to mind: Be detail oriented, be thoughtful, have a long-term view, and always respect the people around you. At Burger King, leading my team means thinking outside the technology.

    Raj Rawal is the CIO of Burger King Corp. Share your thoughts at our blog, CIOs Uncensored.