CIO Spotlight: Sheila Jordan, Symantec

"It is critical that the talent you have matches business direction."

Name: Sheila Jordan

Company: Symantec

Job title: Chief Information Officer

Time in current role: Four years

Location: San Francisco/Bay Area

Education: I received my bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Central Florida, and my MBA from the Florida Institute of Technology.

Sheila Jordan is senior vice president and chief information officer at Symantec. She is responsible for driving Symantec's information technology strategy and operations ensuring that the company has the right talent, stays ahead of technology trends and maximizes the value of technology investments. Her goal is to drive increased productivity, better efficiency and strategic business partnerships through simple and intuitive experiences for Symantec’s global workforce. Sheila’s role includes oversight of the Global Security Office, and she has established the strategy for “all things security” in an ever-changing and dynamic landscape.

What was your first job? When I was 14, I was an ice cream scooper at Baskin Robbins. In case you’re interested, my favorite flavor is Chocolate Chip but during the holiday season it is definitely Eggnog!

Did you always want to work in IT? No, I completed my undergraduate degree in Accounting and received an MBA in Finance, as I was interested in becoming a CPA. In the latter part of my training, I took two tax classes and realized this area was not my passion.

After completing my MBA, I took a job at Disney and worked on a CRM project. In this role, I helped develop the CRM strategy for Walt Disney World. It was during this work that I found my professional niche. I love matching and solving complex business problems with the right technologies and architecture to deliver sustainable value for the company.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I wouldn’t call them detours as much as taking total ownership of my career growth, and I always remained flexible to try new opportunities. My perspective is that each person must be proactive in owning their career path, “Be Planful” is a motto to keep in mind.  

I recommend developing a three-year plan for where you want to go in your career, and then revising it every three years to ensure you’re always tracking towards your goals. Once you have your plan, the main focus should be on developing skill sets and a network of peers and advisors. It’s important to reach out to others for added insight and guidance. They may see skills and strengths in you that you necessarily don’t see in yourself, and offer you a different type of role. When those opportunities arise, consider them carefully.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organization in the coming year? There are two: Cyber security, of course, is top of mind and I get to see the advancements in this space first-hand. It’s exciting to see the development of technology that can further protect our respective companies. Additionally, I am excited about the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning to allow us to be more predictive, insightful, and ultimately enhance our speed and precision about our customers, partners, and employees.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Cyber security is a top priority for me – the same way it is for every CIO, CEO and board. The cloud generation faces very real security challenges, and customers need peace of mind knowing their environments are secure, without any gaps where hackers can penetrate.

Our strategy is to deliver an Integrated Cyber Defense platform (ICDX), where we unify cloud and on-premise security to provide advanced threat protection and information protection across all endpoints, networks, email, and cloud applications. It’s powered by our threat intelligence network, robust point-to-point integrations, and a broad technology ecosystem; improving visibility, enhancing controls, accelerating response, and reducing costs for our customers.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? There have been some dramatic changes that the IT landscape has witnessed over the past 20 years, which have evolved the CIO position. Protecting employees, customers, partners and their data is now much more complex. With public cloud infrastructure managed by third-parties, a higher percentage of SaaS applications deployed, Wi-Fi, mobile devices, and connectivity to an entire eco-system, security is significantly more challenging today. While the fundamental job of the CISO or CIO is the same—securing the organization—how we go about it is very different with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, and the cloud.

All of this is occurring at a time when data breaches are at an all-time high. Hackers have become quite sophisticated, employing the latest technical advances, including artificial intelligence and machine learning to breach a network, and finding the weakest points of resistance. They can attack a company in many ways, stay longer, and are more targeted than ever.

In addition, everything has changed in terms of how you deliver IT services. If you go back just five years, IT was contained within four walls.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasize customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Digital transformation is driven by how customers want to consume your products and services. As we move to the cloud, both in the Consumer and Enterprise space, we are making the customer buying experience more fluid. Symantec’s goal is to reduce the complexity of the historical security point solutions and deliver integrated platforms that make the life of consumers and CISO’s simpler and smarter.

Over the past several years, Symantec has acquired eight companies including Blue Coat, LifeLock, Fireglass, and Skycure to bolster our Integrated Cyber Defense offering. As we managed the acquisition of these companies, which presented IT challenges that are fundamentally different, we were focused on creating a cloud-friendly work environment. We were specifically focused on an environment that would help streamline operational efficiency, lower operating costs, and improve our customers’ experience by focusing on three major components; systems of engagement, systems of record, and infrastructure.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? Digital transformation is a phased approach that includes foundation, stabilization, and growth. The way to measure the success of each phase of the transformation is different, and therefore the KPIs are different as well. IT is moving towards measuring its value against the impact it brings to the bottom line of the company. IT’s attribution to revenue is the only way to move forward in the digital business.

What does good culture fit look like in your organization? How do you cultivate it? It is critical that the talent you have matches business direction. You have to be agile with your team and make leadership movements.

I am a big believer in services owner-led organizations. Whether it is video, web, pricing, or quote to cash, my leaders own a service end-to-end on run, grow, and change. Leaders are empowered to solve problems and act as a general manager in their respective services. We optimize the cost and delivery of each service every quarter through our quarterly review.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? As a female executive in Silicon Valley, I personally feel an industry-wide gap in terms of gender diversity. I think we have to tackle this issue like we would any other business problem or opportunity. There isn’t a silver-bullet answer – success will be brought on by a combination of efforts. It’s crucial to have qualified women in senior leadership positions. Our head of HR, Amy Cappellanti-Wolf, and our Chief Diversity Officer, Cecily Joseph, work to see that diversity is embedded in our culture at Symantec

What's the best career advice you ever received? From an IT perspective, you must show momentum. Much of our work is complicated and takes time. I have found it critical to develop a plan and then execute flawlessly every 90 days. It builds confidence with your partners and excitement within the IT team. It’s also important to value your peer group and develop strong relationships.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes, I take career development very seriously and have a major responsibility to ensure all levels in the organization are growing and advancing their skillsets. When developing high-potential vice presidents, it’s important that they have the opportunity to lead in all major areas of the business (infrastructure, applications, data services, etc).  It’s very common for me to have a VP leading our Business Application Services team shift to lead our Data Services, Communication and Collaboration organization, or vice-versa. This is a win-win for the individual as they experience a new area, enhance their knowledge, and bring new ideas to that part of the business, and it also keeps our employees’ energized by having a new leader.

I also hold quarterly, all-day organizational health reviews where my direct leadership team and I discuss our succession and progression plan.

To develop and grow the most coveted and talented global IT team, we use a four-prong approach that includes:

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Security is a data problem. As a CIO, I have to determine what data is most critical. CIOs must have an integrated architectural approach that spans every layer — from network to endpoints — and allows you to protect your company's data. CIOs can't be reactive — they must use technology to detect, respond, and recover quickly.

Over Communicate – When leading a complex project, over communication is key, and it’s not an event - it is a dialogue that must span the entire program.

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest achievement is one that has transcended over the length of my career versus being one single accomplishment. I am a change agent, and I enjoy taking on a challenging problem that seems almost impossible to solve, and finding the best solution. A critical success factor is to always collaborate with the business so we address the business problem, not only the technical issue. You can’t be successful by solely focusing on the IT side of the equation.

One example that meets this complex criteria is the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) consolidation activity. Symantec has successfully integrated multiple different ERP systems in one. As we acquired various companies, each one brought their own unique ERP system that was tightly woven with their business processes. We are about to set an industry standard by implementing seven releases in just 19 months. Five have been completed and two more will be finished by November 2018.

It’s important to keep in mind that the average ERP upgrade in most companies is done every 1-3 years. Completing seven in 19 months is unprecedented. Our success has been dependent on partnering with the business to simplify processes, resulting in a total transformation. This was not just a systems integration. An undertaking of this proportion required a massive amount of coordination across IT, the business, and multiple countries.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have networked earlier in my career and established relationships much earlier. Relationships are as important as getting the work done. Earlier in my career I focused more on the work, but I learned through the years how critical relationships, at all levels, are to the success of the work.


What are you reading now? Team of Teams, by General Stanley McChrystal Hit Refresh, by Satya Narayana Nadella Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance

Most people don't know that I… Have a passion for all water sports but water-skiing is my favorite!

In my spare time, I like to… Work out, and the more intense the better. I specifically enjoy a workout where you rotate to different high-intensity stations with very loud music. Music motivates me.

Ask me to do anything but… Pump gas! In fact, I dislike it so much so that I’ve been known to run out of gas. I’m very excited about a company called Booster, where they deliver gas to your car while you’re at work, home, etc. I think it’s a fantastic idea and program!