Personality Peek: Szygenda Loves The Car Business - InformationWeek

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Personality Peek: Szygenda Loves The Car Business

When General Motors CIO Ralph Szygenda looks up from the pile of papers on his desk, to the left is an expansive view of Detroit, automotive capital of the world. Straight ahead is the door. To the right, in a prominent position in the center wall of his office, are four decorative frames displaying postage stamps from China.

He doesn't collect stamps, but the artwork is a subtle reminder that China is GM's third-largest market, behind Japan and America. "China is the highest area of growth in the auto industry," Szygenda says. "If I have only pictures of America, I'll forget the rest of the world."

Szygenda's personality is reflected throughout the walls, shelves, and tables in his office. There's the not-so-serious side in the framed photo of him performing a ventriloquist act at a corporate event, and his family side in the photo of him, his wife, and their now-26-year-old son at his graduation from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

His office shows that Szygenda loves being in the car business, with displays of various GM models, including a crystal 1963 Corvette, throughout. For the record, Szygenda drives a Cadillac Escalade now, but he changes cars every quarter--one of the perks of the job.

"My assistant hangs a lot of this stuff up," he says of the framed stories written about his role at GM and the trophies and plaques covering tables, desk, shelves, and the ledge below his window. A governor's citation from the state of Maryland acknowledging work that he did while the CIO of Bell Atlantic hangs on one wall. There's even an award from the American Gardening Society that reads: "Bloom Where You Are Planted."

Next to a framed poster advertising online exchange Covisint hangs a letter from GM CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr., dated Aug. 9, 1999. It recognizes Szygenda for leading GM into E-commerce. "We've decided that going forward, we'll no longer refer to you as Ralph, but Ralph.com," the letter reads. "We have also purchased the URL (at significant expense!) and see tremendous potential for significant financial upside for a public offering of Ralph.com." Across the room sits a Ralph.com trophy.

For someone who spends a lot of his time at the office, such items are good reminders that "Success is a journey, not a destination." That comes straight from a rock on Szygenda's shelf.

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