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Recently I sat down with Charlie Feld, who is currently the founder and CEO of The Feld Group Institute but has had a career as long as there has been an IT industry and is considered the First CIO in corporate America.

We cover a number of great topics during our conversation which I have broken out into two episodes.

This episode, episode #21, of Custom Made, and next week's episode - episode #22. If you haven’t already subscribed to Custom Made, make sure you do to catch part two and all of our previous episodes.

During his extraordinary 50-year career, Charlie has been committed to helping organizations and executives achieve IT-driven transformation. He has been frequently featured in the media, and has received numerous awards and accolades in recognition of his profound influence upon the IT industry, including the Smithsonian Award for Technology Excellence, the Carnegie Mellon Award for Innovative Technology, inducted into CIO magazine’s CIO Hall of Fame and the Tech Titans Hall of Fame Award, as well as Dallas CIO’s Leadership Award.

Early in his career while he was as at Frito-Lay from 1981-1992 Charlie rose to the top of the IT function, where he became one of the first outstanding CIOs in corporate America. As Charlie overcame the early challenges of the post and developed a mature IT department, he found that he longed for the challenge of the early days once again. So he elected to found his own firm, The Feld Group, where he developed one of the first frameworks for IT organizations and provides temporary CIO services for large enterprise organizations like Southwest Airlines, Coca-Cola, The Home Depot, Delta, FedEx, EDS, and BNSF.

You can find more information about Charlie at The Feld Group Institute, and in the two books Charlie has written, The Blind Spot: A Leader’s Guide to IT-Enabled Business Transformation and The Calloway Way: Results & Integrity.

On this weeks episode Charlie discusses his journey as the first CIO in corporate America, how the IT industry lacked a formal framework, and how IT needs to handle the speed of change for their organizations to be successful.

Whilst many industries such as engineering, finance, sales, marketing, or manufacturing has existed for centuries, IT has only been part of a business for decades and still has a way to become a mature profession.

Charlie shares how he has spent his career defining one of the first frameworks and a common language for the IT organization, and influencing the role of the CIO to change how IT can capitalize on the rate of change major organizations have to manage in order to be successful and avoid disruption.

Charlie shares examples of where he has driven large transformation and modernization initiatives to stabilize enterprise organizations by addressing legacy IT operations and planning/building for change.

From his time at Frito-Lay, Charlie shares three principles he learned from his conversations with founder Herman Lay:

  1. Seek to understand a company in its simplest form
  2. Nothing good ever happens in a warehouse
  3. Look to the frontline people, and understand those doing the work

When discussing the speed of change, Charlie shares an experience that allowed him to try to better predict change. To be a good leader you need to be able to pull from all three of these perspectives:

  • Experience - The core way people have learned for centuries
  • Analytics - The ability to break down a problem
  • Stepping-back - The ability to zoom-out recognize patterns

Finally, Charlie discusses how we are only limited by our imagination when it comes to IT - which can be a challenge for some technology and engineering leaders. Technology today is almost limitless, and we have entered the Imagination Age.

You can catch Charlie's full Custom Made episode here:

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