CIO Profiles: Mike Kobayashi Of Ross Stores

This CIO made the tricky leap from consulting to industry.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

October 29, 2010

3 Min Read

Career Track

Mike KobayashiExecutive VP and CIO, Ross Stores

How long at the retailer: Five years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: Moving from consulting to industry--consultants often find industry skepticism over whether they can make that switch. I started my career at Arthur Andersen, which became Andersen Consulting and then Accenture. Becoming a partner at Andersen Consulting was a personal milestone, but I wanted to be on the other side of the table. Transitioning to a CIO role and then to have my responsibilities expanded to include key business functions, including the supply chain, has been a career highlight for me.

Most important career influencers: I have two: Ed Kennedy and Michael Balmuth. Ed, at Andersen Consulting, taught me to have intense loyalty for clients, focus on delivering my best efforts--and not to micromanage my career. Michael, Ross' CEO, placed his confidence in me as CIO during a unique time at Ross and has given me the support and opportunity to contribute even more.


Advice for future CIOs: Boil down and communicate complex technology jargon into business decisions that everyone can understand.

The next big thing for my industry will be ... the impact of the younger generation on traditional brick-and-mortar retailing. Mobile computing, social networking, and other factors will place different expectations on our industry and its IT function.

Best way for CIOs to cope with the economic downturn: Make sure your nondiscretionary functions are as lean and flexible as possible to allow you to focus your spending and resources on those things that will truly help drive top-line and margin-improvement opportunities.

Kids and technology careers: I think technology would make a good career for my children, but they aren't going to be able to develop their skills in the way I was allowed to. To have the best career opportunities, they must have strong foundational skills but also develop their ability to innovate. They're going to have to be more well rounded and enter the workforce higher up the skill curve than I did.

On The Job

Top initiatives:

How I measure IT effectiveness: Besides the classic metrics, such as ROI and customer satisfaction, I use more "top-line" metrics, including: The ratio of time I'm spending on new capabilities vs. nondiscretionary operations; the amount of time I spend managing my IT vs. business responsibilities; and the types of discussions I'm having with my boss and my peers. That is, are we talking about IT more in the context of operational and finance results or about complaints of system performance and IT responsiveness?


Colleges/degrees: University of California at Davis, BS in managerial economics

Leisure activities: Golfing and spending time with family

Favorite sports coach: Bill Walsh, formerly with the San Francisco 49ers, who showed you could dominate the game with skills other than brute force

Business pet peeve: When vendors don't take the time to learn about my business before trying to sell me on their products

If I weren't a CIO, I'd be ... in some other executive position (while remaining a closet CIO)

Ranked No. 31 in the 2010

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