May 15, 2021

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The Best In Technology

50 Innovative Technology Leaders Transforming Business For A Radically Different World

This new annual list highlights top tech executives who are redefining the CIO role and driving game-changing innovation.


Chief information officers came to the rescue of the business world in 2020.

As Covid-19 spread rapidly, they sprang into action, rolling out work-from-anywhere tech that enabled many millions of employees to do their jobs from their homes. They also launched new online and mobile channels to serve customers, prepping IT systems for the explosion of e-commerce activity that followed. And they did all this at lightning speed, while bolstering plans to keep employees and businesses safe from cyberattacks.

The foundations that made this historic and Herculean effort possible were already being laid by visionary tech leaders before the crisis began. The pandemic dramatically accelerated their digital transformation efforts, which harness everything from cloud computing to software-driven automation and artificial intelligence, compressing years’ worth of change into a matter of weeks or months. Now CEOs and investors have seen what technologists can deliver when challenged, the pace of change is going be dialed up forever. Tomorrow’s corporate winners will be the ones that boast the fastest digital clock speeds today.

That’s why CIOs are going to play an even more strategic role in the C-suite—and why Forbes is launching a new annual list to highlight 50 CIOs (including leaders with equivalent titles) who are leading the way in shaping the future. Based on qualitative research and submissions from executives who responded to calls for applications launched via social media, the list is informed by a group of industry experts including academics, consultants, recruiters and former CIOs. While they did not vet candidates, they painted a clear picture of how the role is evolving. The honorees work for businesses headquartered in North America or companies listed on markets in the region and have all been with their current employers for at least a year.

The list is not a ranking. Instead, it seeks to highlight how the CIO role has evolved from its traditional focus on serving other corporate functions to one that emphasizes broad innovation and collaboration. Technology leaders are using data and machine intelligence to help identify new business opportunities and then co-creating products and services with their C-suite peers to take advantage of these.

Executives on the list come from a range of industries, though the worlds of technology and finance predominate. Those sectors have long been at the forefront of innovation and invest heavily in advanced technologies, but the mix will likely change over time as more and more companies realize code is now key to success. More than a third of the executives on the list are women and many are people of color. There’s still a very long way to go to improve diversity in the technology arena, but these accomplished leaders are already serving as role models for future generations. They and the other honorees are not only transforming companies, but also the future of the global economy.

Miriam Aguirre


Position: CTO

Company: Skillz

At the end of last year, esports company Skillz went public on the New York Stock Exchange via a SPAC and now boasts a market cap of around $7.4 billion. Miriam Aguirre, who has been with the mobile-focused business since 2013 as its CTO, has defined an innovative technology strategy that has delivered patented advances in everything from skill-based gamer-matching to fraud prevention and helped it host over 2 billion contests in 2020. A first-generation college student who graduated from MIT, Aguirre is committed to building a diverse tech team and Skillz has publicly pledged to interview at least one qualified woman for every open executive role.

Rob Alexander


Position: CIO

Company: Capital One

Capital One has used software to turn itself into a financial giant that generated $28.5 billion in revenue last year. Rob Alexander, its CIO since 2007 and a former officer in the U.S. Air Force, is using cloud computing and agile development strategies to help it navigate through the pandemic and further expand its business. He’s also turned it into an AI powerhouse that boasts more than 500 worldwide patents in technology and has filed for many more. Its forward-thinking approach to technology has turned McLean, Virginia-based Capital One into a training ground for executives who go on to become top leaders at other businesses.

Bhavani Amirthalingam


Position: CIO

Company: Ameren

Bhavani Amirthalingam, who serves on the board of the Saint Louis Ballet in her spare time, has choreographed a bold tech strategy for power company Ameren, which serves 2.4 million people across Missouri and Illinois, and made a $871m net profit last year. Among her achievements at the company: Developing a 4,500-mile broadband network and super-fast mobile web connectivity to support the power grid of the future; bolstering cybersecurity around Ameren’s equipment and systems; and creating new online services that saw over three quarters of contacts with customers come through digital channels in 2020.

Kim Anstett


Position: Global CTO

Company: Iron Mountain

In a previous role as CIO of Nielsen, Kim Anstett led a major digital transformation that took the market research firm into the public cloud. She has leant heavily on that experience at Iron Mountain, whose revenues were just over $4 billion last year. Anstett has launched a new data platform and created an AI-powered service that mines insights from the physical and digital assets that the company stores and manages for customers at its 1,400-plus facilities in over 50 countries. Anstett worked closely with Iron Mountain’s CMO on a recent corporate rebranding project that highlights these capabilities.

Paola Arbour


Position: CIO

Company: Tenet Healthcare

Like many companies, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare, which operates 65 hospitals and hundreds of other healthcare facilities, had built up a complex technology footprint over time. With over 700 suppliers, it was tough to work out how much IT was costing it—and what value it was getting in return. After joining Tenet in 2018, Paola Arbour launched a multi-year project that’s clarified what benefits it is getting and has helped drive millions of dollars of savings each year, while boosting service levels. That’s helped Tenet deal with the pandemic’s impact on its operations and finances.

Amir Arooni


Position: CIO

Company: Discover Financial Services

Since joining Discover from a Dutch financial services company early last year, Amir Arooni has encouraged its software engineers to think of their profession as a craft that demands continuous improvement. To that end, he’s moving them away from a project mindset in which engineers often rotate between different groups and towards a product one in which they join small teams that stay focused on an application or system. Together with a reinvigorated tech training academy that lets staff share their expertise, this approach aims to accelerate the digital transformation of Riverwoods, Illinois-based Discover, which made a $1.6 billion net profit in the first quarter of the year.

Julie Averill


Position: CTO

Company: Lululemon

Earlier in her career, Julie Averill spent several years at REI, where she was its first-ever CIO, and also a decade at Nordstrom. She’s keenly aware that having timely and accurate data is vital to success in the intensely competitive world of retail. So when the pandemic forced Nasdaq-listed Lululemon, which is known for its popular yoga clothing, to shutter stores for a time last year, Averill pressed ahead with upgrading the point-of-sale systems in its U.S. outlets. Her call has improved the accuracy of the Vancouver-headquartered company’s data and its inventory management just in time for a return to safe in-store shopping, which helped its fourth-quarter 2020 revenue rise 24% to $1.7 billion.

Chris Bedi


Position: CIO

Company: ServiceNow

ServiceNow enables almost 7,000 corporate customers to automate all kinds of workflows by using its software products. Chris Bedi has turned that expertise in on itself, spinning up AI-driven bots and predictive intelligence systems to support its workforce during the pandemic. His top priority, though, is helping the company, whose revenues hit $4.5 billion last year, grow by connecting with other CIOs driving digital transformation projects. Previous roles at consulting firm KPMG and domain-name registry Verisign, where he was involved in M&A deals and divestitures, have given Bedi a broad aperture on multiple industries.

Suja Chandrasekaran


Position: Chief Digital and Information Officer

Company: CommonSpirit Health

Suja Chandrasekaran aims to advance access to healthcare and improve treatment outcomes at CommonSpirit Health, a nonprofit whose revenues were $29.6 billion in its fiscal year to the end of June 2020. Her team has supported over 1.5 million virtual patient visits during the pandemic and uses machine learning to provide data-driven insights to medical staff at locations in 21 states. Chandrasekaran, who held top tech jobs at Kimberly-Clark and Walmart before joining CommonSpirit Health in 2019, is a driving force behind T200, a group that helps women advance into CIO roles and other top corporate positions.

Amala Duggirala


Position: Chief Technology and Operations Officer

Company: Regions Bank

When the U.S. government’s paycheck protection program launched, Regions Bank processed over $4 billion of loan applications in just two weeks, or about the same amount it would typically handle in an entire decade. Its systems were able to cope with the surge thanks to Amala Duggirala and her team, who have overhauled the Birmingham, Alabama-based financial institution’s tech infrastructure and automated workflows using software. By tapping machine learning and AI, they helped the bank reduce fraud by more than $50 million from 2019 to 2020.

Amy Farrow


Position: CIO

Company: Lyft

Earlier in her career, Amy Farrow worked at Salesforce, where she saw the challenges of scaling a code-driven startup at firsthand. One of them is getting new software engineers up and running fast. As ride-sharing company Lyft grew, CIO Farrow realized the San Francisco-based business, which generated $2.4 billion in revenue in 2020, lacked a consistent way to onboard IT talent. So her tech learning team created a challenge-based approach that gets recruits to complete tasks such as turning a long, written description of Lyft’s data architecture into a whiteboard diagram. New hires have been enthusiastic about the onboarding program, which has gone fully online during the pandemic.

Paul Gaffney


Position: Chief Technology and Supply Chain Officer

Company: Kohl’s

Since joining Kohl’s in 2019, Paul Gaffney has transformed the way its IT team is perceived internally. It’s no longer treated as a support function, but as a full partner in helping the company achieve its strategic goals. Among other initiatives, the group is using machine intelligence to inform merchandising decisions and create more self-service capabilities for customers. Gaffney, who ran a billion-dollar-plus commercial sales division at Office Depot earlier in his career, recently added leadership of supply chain operations to his list of responsibilities at Kohl’s, which reported $16 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year.

Curt Garner


Position: CTO

Company: Chipotle Mexican Grill

In a former role as CIO of Starbucks, Curt Garner launched the coffee company’s hugely successful mobile app and rewards program. Since joining Chipotle in 2015, he’s served up another tech-driven growth story. Digital revenues at the restaurant chain have risen from around $150 million when he arrived to $2.8 billion in 2020, which represented almost half of the $6 billion revenue Chipotle pulled in for the year. Garner’s strategy has included launching a new mobile app with features such as FoodPrint, which lets customers see the environmental impact of their food choices, and an AI assistant to help them with orders. His team also developed tech for drive-thru “Chipotlanes” that enable pick-ups of digital orders.

Angelic Gibson


Position: CIO

Company: AvidXchange

Angelic Gibson doesn’t just know tech—she’s got a marketer’s flair for promoting it too. At Charlotte-based accounts payable automation company AvidXchange, which handles $140 billion-worth of transactions a year for 6,000 customers across North America, she branded a strategy to create a more agile IT operation as the Avid Way of Working, or AvidWoW. The approach encourages close collaboration between tech and business teams, as well as prioritizing frequent code releases to meet customers’ needs. Gibson promotes personal development as well as rapid software development, with tech staff expected to devote a tenth of their working week to upgrading their skills.

Ganesh Iyer


Position: Global CIO and Managing Director of NIO-US

Company: NIO

Before joining Chinese electric vehicle company NIO, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and has a $67.5 billion market cap, Ganesh Iyer spent several years at Tesla, which he credits with honing his problem-solving skills. As NIO’s global CIO since 2016, he’s been deeply involved in thinking about the business beyond the traditional IT realm and in 2018 was given responsibility for its U.S. operations. As well as deploying cloud-based tech to support remote software updates for vehicles, Iyer has designed an AI-powered mobile app to help customers manage things such as service issues and power-replenishment requests. This had over 80,000 users at the end of January.

Eric Johnson


Position: CIO

Company: SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey, whose revenues were $376 million last year, has grown by helping customers use online surveys to conduct market research, get feedback from employees and run a host of other data-gathering exercises. Now its CIO is revamping how the San Mateo, California-based company manages its own data. Eric Johnson has rebuilt the technology stack that manages the information it holds about its more than 17 million active users and has crunched the data to develop algorithms that recommend actions SurveyMonkey employees can take to retain customers who may be thinking of leaving. Machine intelligence is also helping the company identify new growth opportunities.

Greg Keeley


Position: CIO

Company: TD Bank Group

One of Greg Keeley’s top priorities at Toronto-based TD Bank Group is to ensure that the operations of the NYSE-listed bank are both stable and secure. To deliver on the first goal, he’s leaned more heavily on cloud computing, leveraging both public and private services. To deliver on the second, he’s created a series of “fusion centers” in different regions around the world that bring together members of his team with staff from other parts of the bank to help it guard against cyberattacks around the clock.

Swamy Kocherlakota


Position: CIO

Company: S&P Global

S&P Global is closing a $44 billion mega-deal for rival financial data company IHS Markit. Assuming the transaction gets the required regulatory and other approvals, Swamy Kocherlakota will have a huge integration task on his hands. S&P Global’s tech team is well-prepared for the challenge: Since becoming CIO in 2017, Kocherlakota has led an overhaul focused on agile development methods and now has over 550 agile teams at work. He’s also boosted the tech IQ of the entire company by leading EssentialTECH, a program that lets all S&P employees learn about everything from data science to DevOps.

Prakash Kota


Position: CIO

Company: Autodesk

Much of the tech employees use at work is clunkier than the apps and other services they use in their personal lives. Prakash Kota is out to change that equation at San Rafael, California-based Autodesk, which saw revenue rise 16% to $3.8 billion in its latest fiscal year to the end of January. He’s created a service dubbed “Employee Hub” that uses machine learning to give workers at the design software company Netflix-style recommendations for applications to get their tasks done most efficiently based on what it’s learned from past usage patterns. The hub also uses software bots to resolve many IT queries without the need for human intervention.

Suresh Kumar


Position: Global CTO and Chief Development Officer

Company: Walmart

Suresh Kumar’s team of over 16,000 technologists powers the giant retailer’s online operations and about 11,500 stores in 26 countries. Since joining in 2019, the IBM and Amazon alumnus has overseen a host of initiatives using cutting-edge technology, from an augmented reality app that helps employees get goods out of storage and onto shelves faster to a machine learning system that has saved the retailer tens of millions of dollars by optimizing the timing and pricing of markdowns on goods. One of his top goals for 2021: Creating even more compelling social commerce experiences for customers of the company, which reported $559 billion in revenue in its latest fiscal year.

Mojgan Lefebvre


Position: Chief Technology and Operations Officer

Company: Travelers

Insurers have been at the forefront of using AI to better assess and manage risk. Mojgan Lefebvre and her team have built a deep learning system to assess aerial photos of damage caused by events such as wildfires. That’s helped Travelers issue payments on properties that have been wiped out before in-person inspections take place, getting money to people in need faster. Iranian-born Lefebvre, who immigrated to America alone at the age of 19 and put herself through college, is also using AI to power chatbots that respond to customers’ queries and help people choose policies.

George Llado


Position: CIO

Company: Alexion

Boston-based Alexion develops life-changing therapies for patients with rare disorders. George Llado has made security one of his top priorities at the company, reinforcing its cyber-defenses and merging its physical security and cybersecurity operations to remove blind spots attackers could exploit. He’s also made a point of connecting business heads with startups whose tech can help them achieve their commercial goals. In December 2020 pharma giant AstraZeneca announced it was paying $39 billion to acquire Alexion, whose revenues were just over $6 billion last year.

Eileen Mahoney


Position: CIO

Company: PVH Corp

PVH Corp. is the owner of several well-known fashion brands, including Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Over the past year, Eileen Mahoney has helped the $7.9 billion market cap company manage a pandemic-driven spike in online commerce while keeping on track the rollout of an ambitious new enterprise resource planning system. Mahoney, who once held a top tech job at bookseller Barnes & Noble, is betting the platform, which boasts built-in AI and advanced analytics capabilities, will help the retailer create a new growth story for investors.

James McGlennon


Position: CIO

Company: Liberty Mutual

One of the hallmarks of next-generation tech leaders is that they help organizations spot new revenue opportunities. At Liberty Mutual, James McGlennon didn’t just spot one; he turned it into a standalone business. In 2013 his team created a new digital assistant for sharing messages and information internally that was a big hit with employees. The insurer’s CIO continued to invest in its development and in 2017 Liberty Mutual launched a wholly owned startup, Workgrid Software, to sell the app and other workplace-related tech to the world.

Mike McNamara


Position: CIO

Company: Target

Target’s tech team helped the Minneapolis-based retailer successfully navigate the pandemic’s impact by supporting the expansion of contactless pick-up locations, same-day home delivery services and other initiatives. Its revenue soared by $15 billion in 2020—more than the growth it had seen in the previous 11 years combined. Since joining the retailer in 2015, CIO Mike McNamara has laid the strategic foundations that made swift change possible, establishing cross-functional teams that spread tech expertise throughout the business and bringing more software-development resources in-house. To highlight internal innovation, McNamara created quarterly Demo Days at which IT staff show other Target employees what they’ve been working on.

Justin Mennen


Position: CIO

Company: Rite Aid

Justin Mennen is one of the key architects of Rite Aid’s RxEvolution strategy, which includes an initiative to reimagine traditional drug store layouts and incorporate technologies such as telehealth services. The Camp Hill, Pennsylvania-based company, which has over 2,400 outlets and generated $24 billion in revenue in its fiscal year to February 27, had already been building the technology to support the transformation of its locations before the pandemic struck. Some of its new-look stores opened in 2020 and more are rolling out this year.

Shamim Mohammad


Position: Chief Information and Technology Officer

Company: CarMax

As an executive at video rental chain Blockbuster, where he worked for several years, Shamim Mohammed saw what can happen when a company underestimates digital disrupters. At CarMax, which made a $747 million profit on almost $19 billion of revenue in its latest fiscal year, he’s part of a leadership team that aims to ensure the secondhand car retailer doesn’t fall into the same trap. Mohammad has worked closely with C-suite colleagues to establish cross-functional teams that are measured not on their output of code, but on how they’re helping CarMax achieve its business goals in specific areas through digital innovation.

Sathish Muthukrishnan


Position: Chief Information, Data and Digital Officer

Company: Ally Financial

Sathish Muthukrishnan used cutting-edge tech and data analytics to transform the digital capabilities of Honeywell’s aerospace arm before moving to his current role at Ally at the start of last year. He’s been helping the Detroit-based financial services company fly higher by sharing tech best practices across its different business lines, which include auto finance and online consumer banking. Another one of his priorities is to keep Ally, which had $182 billion in assets at the end of December 2020, ahead of the competition when it comes to experimenting with emerging technologies such as quantum computing.

Chris Nardecchia


Position: Senior Vice President Information Technology & CIO

Company: Rockwell Automation

Before joining Rockwell Automation in 2017, Chris Nardecchia worked for a long time in the pharmaceutical industry, including stints at Amgen, where he led its business transformation program, and Pfizer, where he built the company’s manufacturing IT group. He’s drawn on those experiences to advise Milwaukee-based Rockwell, which helps automate industrial systems, on its support for businesses making and distributing Covid-19 vaccines. In addition to his CIO duties, Nardecchia also served as interim head of Rockwell’s $2 billion software-and-control business line from October 2020 to February of this year.

Ashish Parmar


Position: CIO

Company: Tapestry

When the pandemic struck, some tech leaders put ambitious digital transformation projects on ice. Not Ashish Parmar. The CIO of Tapestry, which owns luxury brands Coach, Kate Spade and Stuart Weitzman, went ahead with a plan to move its enterprise resource planning system to the cloud while simultaneously dealing with Covid-19’s impact on its businesses. Almost all of the company’s workloads have now moved out of on-premise systems, with Parmar and his leadership colleagues betting the cloud’s scalability and flexibility will give Tapestry’s brands a competitive edge as the economy recovers. The business, whose revenues hit $5 billion in its 2020 fiscal year, added over 1.5 million new customers in North America via-e-commerce channels in the second quarter of its current one.

Brad Peterson


Position: CIO and CTO

Company: Nasdaq

Brad Peterson likes to play the Blues, featuring on harmonica in Nasdaq’s corporate band, NLX (short for No Latency Xperience). He also knows how to tune up algorithms, having collaborated with other arms of the financial technology company to roll out an AI system in 2019 that helps detect irregular—and potentially malicious—trading activity. Peterson’s staff of over 2,000, which accounts for almost half of Nasdaq’s workforce, is now working on a strategy that will ultimately see all of the 28 financial markets that it operates migrate to the cloud.

Penelope Prett


Position: CIO

Company: Accenture

As a consultant, Penelope Prett acted as an adviser to many tech leaders; now she’s putting that advice into practice as the CIO of Accenture, which generated $44 billion in revenue in its 2020 fiscal year. Prett has moved almost all of the company’s 1,500-plus applications to the public cloud to make it nimbler and is helping it apply other leading-edge tech. An example: By developing algorithms and other applications to improve financial forecasts across Accenture’s 400 operating entities, her team has helped cut by a fifth the amount of cash these hold for operational liquidity.

Meerah Rajavel


Position: CIO

Company: Citrix

To challenge the notion of IT being nothing more than a cost center, Citrix CIO Meerah Rajavel talks about having a P&L, with the “L” being the tech budget and the “P” being the value her team contributes to the top and bottom line of the business. One of its roles is to act as a testbed for the software Fort Lauderdale-based Citrix develops to help workers get jobs done—code that helped it generate over $3 billion in revenue last year. Having experimented with them, Rajavel sees a bright future for microapps, which make it easy to complete specific tasks, such as filing an expense claim, without having to wade through cumbersome software applications.

Prasad Ramakrishnan


Position: CIO and Chief Information Security Officer

Company: Freshworks

The scale and scope of cyber threats are growing worryingly fast, so security remains top of mind for many CIOs. At privately owned Freshworks, whose software for managing things such as call centers and IT help desks is used at 50,000 customers, its tech leader and security chief, Prasad Ramakrishnan, has built a 24/7 security operation whose readiness is tested by frequent drills. He’s also retired over 1,200 data dashboards that had sprung up as it grew in favor of a far smaller number of standardized metrics. That means Freshworks, which raised a $150 million Series H round in 2019 at a $3.5 billion valuation, can track its progress more easily.

Sheri Rhodes


Position: CIO

Company: Workday

Workday, which sells cloud-based HR and finance software, has been buying other companies at a steady clip. In late 2019, it acquired Scout RFP, which helps businesses manage supplier relationships, and in January this year it purchased HR software company Peakon. One of Sheri Rhodes’ priorities as CIO at the company, whose revenues rose 19% to $4.3 billion in its latest fiscal year, has been to create M&A playbooks to help her team swiftly integrate new arrivals’ IT and processes. A separate project she launched to overhaul Workday’s data strategy has made it easier to import information from acquired companies’ systems.

James Richards


Position: CTO

Company: Udacity

Online learning business Udacity struggled for a long while to find a winning business model. Last year, though, the venture-backed company turned a profit thanks to a pivot that has focused it on corporate remote learning, which has been boosted by the pandemic. CTO James Richards and his team helped make the shift in focus a success by implementing a new platform that lets outside subject experts upload content faster and by increasing page download speeds by 40%. Richards credits time spent earlier in his career at smart device maker Nest Labs (now part of Google) with helping him learn how to constantly improve products’ performance. In November 2020 Udacity secured $75 million in debt funding from Hercules Capital, taking the total amount of capital it has raised to $238 million.

Rick Rioboli


Position: CIO

Company: Comcast Cable

After becoming Comcast Cable’s CIO just over four years ago, Rick Rioboli invested in building a culture of continuous improvement and switched his team’s focus from managing individual projects to building reusable tech capabilities and platforms. One of them is an artificial intelligence platform called aiQ that’s been key to helping Comcast develop services such as the Xfinity Assistant, which uses natural language processing and other smarts to help customers resolve questions related to their TV and internet service. These innovations helped the business add over half a million broadband customers in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Elliott Rodgers


Position: CIO

Company: Ulta Beauty

Ulta Beauty had to temporarily close its stores last year because of the pandemic, but the Bolingbrook, Illinois-based retailer was able to cope with a subsequent surge in online orders for cosmetics and other products thanks to the digital foundations Elliott Rodgers had already laid both as CIO and in his prior role at the company. Before becoming the tech leader of Ulta, which reported $6.2 billion in revenue in its latest fiscal year to the end of January, the former U.S. Army officer ran its supply chain operation, boosting its e-commerce fulfilment capacity tenfold and creating 1,500 new jobs.

Gareth Ross


Position: Head of Enterprise Technology and Customer Experience

Company: MassMutual

MassMutual’s tech leader doesn’t just champion internal innovation at the Springfield, Massachusetts-based financial services company, whose revenues rose 8% last year to $31 billion. Gareth Ross is also the steward of a number of wholly-owned startups such as Haven Life, which offers medically underwritten term-life insurance entirely online, and LifeScore Labs, which has created an algorithmic risk-scoring model to help underwriters and agents. A failed internal effort some time ago to build a business to help Millennials manage their finances taught Ross the importance of getting to market fast and iterating swiftly—great advice for startups everywhere.

Neal Sample


Position: CIO

Company: Northwestern Mutual

Neal Sample and his team are making Northwestern Mutual’s underwriting process better, faster and cheaper by enabling customers to submit data more easily online and by using algorithms to improve risk assessments for the company, which announced a record $6.2 billion dividend for its policyholders last year. Data-savvy employees will still be central to success, though, which is why Sample supports an educational partnership between the Milwaukee-based financial services firm and two local universities that have developed a data science institute with the help of funding from Northwestern Mutual. Last year 700 students enrolled in the program and it has seen a 50% increase in applications since it launched in 2018.

Sri Shivananda


Position: CTO

Company: PayPal

Back in 2015, Sri Shivananda was busy disentangling PayPal’s IT systems from eBay’s as the two companies completed their separation into distinct, publicly traded businesses. Since becoming CTO of PayPal the following year, he’s created a highly scalable tech infrastructure that processed $936 billion-worth of payments in 2020 and supports 380 million active accounts, up from 162 million at the time of its divorce. A cornerstone of this is a hybrid cloud strategy he’s put in place to support future growth at the company.

Nikolaj Sjoqvist


Position: Chief Digital Officer

Company: Waste Management

Nikolaj Sjoqvist, who became chief digital officer at Waste Management in 2017, has focused his team on initiatives that boost the bottom line of the waste and recycling company, which reported just over $15 billion in revenue last year. He works closely with its COO and chief customer officer to enhance digital services and has created a design studio that develops and tests things such as online self-service tools in collaboration with customers. The former McKinsey consultant’s team has also helped turn garbage trucks into roving data platforms by using cameras and onboard sensors to track load volumes, the contents of recycling bins and other information.

Michael Smith


Position: CIO

Company: The Estée Lauder Companies

Michael Smith’s team works closely with the $114 billion market cap beauty company’s R&D group to create new processes and products, as well as with its manufacturing team to help bring machine intelligence and other advanced technology to its factories. Smith’s also championed creating a more diverse tech workforce, both within Estée Lauder (which regularly features on Forbes’ list of the best employers for women in America) and outside the business. Last year he joined forces with some other CIOs to launch TechPACT, an organization to address the significant underrepresentation of women and people of color in the tech world.

Cathy Southwick


Position: CIO

Company: Pure Storage

Some 10 years ago, Cathy Southwick was leading a huge technology project at AT&T. She started to micromanage the process, but quickly realized it was better to set the overall vision and then let her team decide how to deliver on it, stepping in to guide them and remove roadblocks only when needed. Southwick’s taken that approach to Pure Storage, which grew revenue to almost $1.7 billion in its latest fiscal year. Among other moves, she’s rolled out online tools to boost collaboration between its software engineers. Some of the work they’ve done has pumped up Pure’s productivity, with results such as a 50% rise in automated approvals of subscription deals over the past 12 months.

Pawan Uppuluri


Position: CTO

Company: Glossier

Under the leadership of CTO Pawan Uppuluri, privately owned Glossier is switching its foundational technology to a service-oriented architecture that makes core software components reusable and interoperable. This will enable the beauty retailer to build and scale applications faster and maintain them more easily. Uppuluri, who spent 14 years at Amazon working on the Alexa team and other areas before taking on her current role in 2019, sees a more agile architecture as a key to enabling new and even more engaging digital experiences for Glossier’s customers.

Sylvie Veilleux


Position: CIO

Company: Dropbox

Early in her career, Sylvie Veilleux found herself teaching object-oriented programming to locals in a remote part of Indonesia. It was a valuable lesson that work can take you everywhere—and be done from anywhere—that she’s taken with her to cloud-storage-and-collaboration firm Dropbox. The company, which reported $1.9 billion in revenue in its 2020 fiscal year and has over 700 million registered users, has decided remote work will be its default mode going forward. Veilleux’s team is now looking into robust tools to support this significant shift, including things such as virtual whiteboards and digital meeting spaces.

Milind Wagle


Position: CIO

Company: Equinix

Equinix, which runs a fleet of data centers, counts plenty of tech executives amongst its customers. Its CIO, Milind Wagle, thinks a great deal about data too, especially when it can be used to help those customers and the company’s bottom line. One example: His team has built data-driven models that can more accurately forecast customer usage patterns and associated power needs, enabling Equinix to better predict when individual data centers will hit capacity limits. Innovations such as this helped the company boost revenues 8% to $6 billion last year.

Michael Wisler


Position: CIO

Company: M&T Bank

M&T Bank just opened a 250,000 square foot “tech hub” in Buffalo, New York, to house some of its IT staff as well as workers from local startups. It’s also home to a new tech training academy for bank workers and people in the community who want to develop their skills. The hub is the brainchild of M&T Bank CIO Michael Wisler, who hopes it will inspire “creative collisions” between entrepreneurs and the bank’s staff, as well as give a big boost to Buffalo’s tech ecosystem. M&T, which held $143 billion of assets at the end of last year, should get an extra infusion of tech talent thanks to its $7.6 billion acquisition of regional bank People’s United Financial in February.

May Yap


Position: CIO

Company: Jabil

One of May Yap’s top priorities as CIO of Jabil, an $8 billion market cap manufacturing company headquartered in Saint Petersburg, Florida, has been to use artificial intelligence and data analytics to boost productivity at the business, which has 100 sites in 30 countries. Moves such as using machine learning to augment manual inspections of production lines have saved it millions of dollars. In a prior Singapore-based role for the business, Yap, who has also worked at IBM and PwC Consulting, set up an innovation lab to tap augmented reality and other leading-edge tech for Jabil’s operations.

Angela Yochem


Position: Chief Transformation and Digital Officer

Company: Novant Health

When Carl Armato recruited Angela Yochem to Novant Health in 2018, the not-for-profit’s CEO laid out a vision for patients and caregivers becoming part of a digitally enabled community. Yochem has been working to turn that vision into reality at the business, which generated $5.7 billion in revenue last year. An example: AI-based image analysis and remote consultations with neurosurgeons have cut average time to treatment of strokes to a third of the U.S. average. As the pandemic developed, Yochem partnered with drone company Zipline, getting special federal dispensation to use its drones to deliver urgent supplies to medical campuses in North Carolina, where it has its headquarters.