Meet Adobe’s new CIO, Cynthia Stoddard
Cynthia is an accomplished leader with more than 25 years of experience leading information technology strategies and systems for global enterprises including NetApp, Safeway, APL Limited, and Consolidated Freightways, Inc.
We sat down with Cynthia to learn about her journey as an IT leader and what excites her about the opportunities ahead.
Why did you decide to join Adobe?
Adobe has a stellar reputation in the marketplace with the successful shift to a cloud-based business model. As the next generation of IT is moving to a cloud-based architecture, I am attracted to a company that is on the leading edge of SaaS.
And as someone who understands the power of data, I am excited to be joining the leader in data insights and personalization. Data is at the core of great customer experiences and I look forward to being part of Adobe’s journey.
The culture was also a big draw for me. Throughout the interview process, many people described Adobe as a “family,” valuing relationships. This really appealed to me.
You have a BS in Accounting and an MBA. What made you interested in pursuing a career in IT and high-tech?
I am a self-proclaimed math nerd and was trained as an accountant. When I got interested in what was then called “data processing,” I never looked back. The power of technology to improve efficiency and business practices across an organization is what first captured my attention in the IT world and my passion has only increased over the years.
My 25-year career in IT has spanned various industries including insurance, transportation, retail, and high-tech; as well as positions, from programmer trainee to CIO. My first role at a tech company was in 2010 when I joined NetApp, the data storage and management company. I was attracted to the fast pace of high-tech and how the lifecycle of products moved quickly. The pace of change and competition is different in high-tech than other industries, and that excites me.
What do you consider the most important trends or opportunities in tech over the next 3-5 years?
The cloud is a huge enabler, driving greater business value, especially with information and data. Organizations are no longer constrained by their internal toolkit. They can expand and leverage world-class SaaS solutions to ensure they have the right data and information security, and are able to link the information that is needed by the customer with the activity that is taking place.
The digitization of business is going to be a real game-changer for how we look at end-to-end business processes and journey maps for customers and employees.
As technology advances so does data analytics. We used to have to constrain analytics to a subset of information. We are now able to connect different sources of information through the cloud and are able to gain more insights exponentially. This is going to transform many sectors including science, healthcare and research.
How has the role of the CIO changed in the last few years? What key areas are CIOs focusing on now?
The legacy CIO role was largely confined to back-office IT initiatives. But as technology is driving the transformation of every business, the CIO is playing a strategic role helping to drive the business.
CIOs are becoming much closer to the enterprise customer and sharing how technology is being implemented, providing best practices around people and processes, and helping customers make the business case to invest in platforms and infrastructure. While at NetApp I made this a priority and spent 30% of my time with customers. I consider myself to be a “customer-facing CIO.”
CIOs today are also driving innovation within enterprises by contributing to the product design cycle, being the internal proxy for customers, and offering feedback to engineering teams.
How have your life experiences made you the leader you are today?
My mother (an immigrant from Czechoslovakia) and father wanted the best for my three siblings and me. There was a high vote of confidence and encouragement from my parents, and this gave me the strength to take risks and try new things.
My grandmother also made a huge impression on me. She was all of 4’ 10”, never spoke English, and was a very talented seamstress. She actually took apart her sewing machine and smuggled it through immigration. My role was to be her translator, helping to negotiate pricing and communicate changes to her customers. This experience gave me the skills to be a good listener and the ability to communicate with different types of people. I also developed a passion for sewing costumes for my daughters and grandchildren.
What leaders do you admire and why?
In high school, I had a math teacher – Ms. Killian – who was extremely inspirational and supportive. She encouraged me to enter math and science fairs and to pursue my passion in mathematics (not the coolest hobby among my peers at the time.) Having this positive reinforcement at a young age really helped to build up my confidence and had a huge impact on the decisions I made with my career.
One of my stand-out professional mentors was Larree Renda, a top female executive at Safeway Inc. Larree started working at Safeway at the age of 16 and worked her way up to Executive Vice President – letting nothing get in her way. She was incredibly knowledgeable, and had a highly infectious positive attitude. It is from Larree that I learned to never get comfortable, embrace change, and look for opportunities to contribute.
Given my experiences, I am committed to fostering women in leadership and helping girls understand how careers in STEM are very rewarding.
What would you be doing, if you weren’t the CIO of Adobe?
I would like to marry my passion for cooking with my love for learning and interacting with people. I want to be the next Diane Sawyer – with a focus on interviewing chefs and hearing about their latest recipes. I enjoy interviewing people and getting into the details of recipes. So this would be the ideal combination for me.