Becoming an IT Authority

“A significant part of a CIO’s job is inspiring their people to follow the organization’s vision,” says Ramón Baez, Senior VP & Global CIO of Hewlett-Packard. His expertise has earned Baez plenty of industry buzz and made him a sought-after national speaker.

Ramón Baez credits his dynamic career and strong work ethic to the model set by his family. At the age of 18, Baez began his career at Northrop Grumman as a trainee. Over the next 25 years at the company, he climbed from one leadership position to the next, including serving as vice president and chief information officer (CIO) of two divisions. He moved to Kimberly-Clark Corporation in 2007, where he oversaw more than 950 employees and hundreds of contractors. This past August, Baez stepped into his latest role: senior vice president and global CIO of Hewlett-Packard. His expertise has earned Baez plenty of industry buzz and made him a sought-after national speaker. Baez chats with Hispanic Executive about his professionals moves and his game plan for leading IT teams at some of the top corporations in the world.

What has inspired you throughout your career?

For me, it all started with my family. My grandfather, my father, and my uncles never put limits on me—they’ve always said I could be whatever I wanted to be in this country, but I understood if I wanted something, I’d have to work hard for it.

Generally speaking, how do you divide your time?

I spend 25 percent of my time dedicated to talent management—mentoring, coaching, and having one-on-ones with my deputies and high potentials throughout the organization. The next 25 percent is meeting with our technology teams on projects and addressing problems, another quarter of my time is dealing with our suppliers, and the remainder is spent with external customer leaders and key internal stakeholders.

What key challenges do you face as a CIO?

I think a significant part of a CIO’s job is inspiring their people to follow the organization’s vision. Just as a CEO does this for the entire enterprise, I have to make sure I am motivating those in the IT function. The challenge is changing the culture of the organization to be a high-performing organization where everyone wants to be a value contributor.

Executive TimelineWhat are some of your greatest joys.

To me, the biggest joys are all about the people—watching team members develop and become high performers and recognizing them for their achievements. I believe some of them are going to be the future CIOs of this company or some other company.

Any advice on what it takes to succeed in IT?

I think a CIO, or anyone that is in IT, has to understand the business because only then are you able to recommend the right type of IT-enabled solutions. The other key to success is being a good communicator—to clearly communicate to business leaders, the executive council as well as key stakeholders throughout the organization, why we are taking a specific action.

How are you able to stay current in an industry that is constantly changing?

We stay current by continually working with our key suppliers and meeting with their innovators and key strategists. I also participate in the CIO Strategy Exchange, which has allowed me to work with my peers in the industry and understand what different industries are doing as well.

What does the future have in store for you?

I believe public company boards are going to be a good fit for me. I’ve learned so much and have had exposure to great leaders at various companies, which has helped me formulate a mind-set that I think can be valuable to boards.