CIO Spotlight: Kristie Grinnell, DXC Technology

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? “I would say ‘Just do it and always be curious.’ The best way to prove you’re the right one for the role, is to just do it.”

Headshot Kristie Grinnell, Senior VP & CIO  at DXC Technology
DXC Technology

Name: Kristie Grinnell

Company: DXC Technology

Job title: Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer

Date started current role: December 2021

Location: Ashburn, VA

Kristie Grinnell is senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO) for DXC Technology. She is responsible for leading business transformation including defining IT strategy for new digital capabilities, streamlining current operations and improving overall efficiencies and performance of DXC's IT environment — all with the goal of enabling DXC to provide excellence and innovation to its customers worldwide. Grinnell previously served as global CIO and vice president for supply chain at General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT). Her career in professional IT leadership spans more than 20 years. Grinnell serves as chair of the Capital CIO Advisory Board and is a member of the STEMforHER Advisory Board. A strong supporter of academic STEM programs for young women, she is a recipient of the 2018 Women in Technology STEM Leadership award, Washington Business Journal's 2020 Women Who Mean Business Award, a 2020 Capital CIO of the Year ORBIE Award Winner and a 2021 National CIO of the Year ORBIE Award Winner and most recently Top 100 Women in Tech and Top 100 Leaders 2022 from Technology Magazine.

What was your first job? My first job was fresh out of college. I worked for General Motors for three years as a manufacturing engineer, with the responsibility of ensuring that production in Detroit was not shut down — which is very relevant to what I do today.

Did you always want to work in IT? I did not always want to work in IT.  When I first graduated from college and even grad school IT wasn’t a big thing (for example, we didn’t even have email at GM; we still had mailboxes with paper memos!). My career evolved into IT as more and more opportunities unfolded. Now that I have been in IT for over 20 years, I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else. This is where all the action happens. You don’t have a business without IT!

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I earned my BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and I also hold an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss.  It all begins with the environment I was raised in. My dad always told me that I could do anything I wanted to, and he instilled a confidence in me that anything was possible. I will always remember a motto my dad lived by, “Raise your daughters to be a doctor, not to marry one.” Of course, growing up I didn’t think that one day I would become a CIO; the position really didn’t exist back then. But I quickly realised from my very first job that I liked working with people more than being behind a screen designing machines. As a result, I went back to business school and eventually to a role at PWC while the e-biz bubble was starting to grow. From there, jobs progressed, and opportunities unfolded, my family blossomed, and I eventually transitioned into internal IT, and now into my CIO role here at DXC Technology.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? This coming year will be focused on data, process and simplification making it easier to work at DXC. We will continue to look at how automation and AI can assist in making our processes more efficient and bringing the right data to the surface to help us make better business decisions. While not investing yet we are always watching new technologies like generative AI (ie ChatGPT) and working with our partners to see what it can do in our environment. Metaverse technologies would be another great example of how we are thinking about what the new workplace will look like in the future.

 What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? The priority is to become a data-driven organisation to help us make better business decisions and give us better business insight while reducing the friction of process and systems in our organisation. We will support that by working through value streams (or end to end processes), identifying data, process and system pain points, and by resolving the issues we find. As well, we’re innovating to accelerate our digital DXC.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? As we saw through COVID and many of the supply chain issues we had worldwide, every company is a technology company and every process needs technology to enable or accelerate it. The CIO role is more and more seen as a true business leader helping to drive and enable business strategy while innovating for competitive advantage. This will continue to mature and morph as business and industry changes demand.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? We are leading a digital transformation at DXC. It is my responsibility as CIO to work across all of our business lines, offerings, delivery and back office functions to ensure we operate as a frictionless business. That means looking across people, process, technology and data and collaborating across teams to deliver business value, provide business insight and solve business problems. 

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? This is what we are working on now with the value stream governance and IT operating model. Having been at DXC only a year, this is a work in progress, however, we now have new organisation governance structure, tightly coupled with our value stream partners to determine what business outcomes we are trying to achieve to deliver on DXCs growth journey. This requires us to align on KPIs, to ensure we are moving the needle in the right direction to drive our digital journey.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Our culture starts with our corporate values and it’s driving it down through not just words but actions. For example, we have activities and event to bring our DXC IT community together, such as DXC IT’s Got Talent, Parent Panels, a Holiday Showcase, Gaming with Grinnell… that type of thing. We also have conversations and solve problems together with our values at the forefront. My entire team has a goal “to live our values everyday”.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Anything related to data. It’s data architects, data scientists, data everything … I would also add solution architects as well. Everybody’s looking to build up their data organisation, which makes it really hard to fill key positions.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Take a risk!

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. At DXC, we have robust continuity planning.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I would say ‘Just do it and always be curious.’ The best way to prove you’re the right one for the role, is to just do it. And if you’re curious and continually learning, you can always find that next thing.

What has been your greatest career achievement? The biggest accomplishments at all the roles I’ve taken is putting the right team of talented people around me, so that we can be successful overall. I see my career achievements as everything my team has accomplished. 

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I think I went through my entire journey for a reason. I don’t think I could have become CIO without having to take some of the knocks and live in the uncomfortable. So I don’t think I would change anything.

What are you reading now? Sooner, Safer, Happier: Antipatterns and Patterns of Business Agility by Jonathan Smart. It’s all about agile ways of working.

Most people don't know that I… am adventurous in my personal life. Every vacation is a chance to explore through experiences.

In my spare time, I like to…read and spend time with my kids.

Ask me to do anything but… don’t ask me to clean the bathroom.