As international CIO and VP of enterprise and know-how providers (BTS) for Chicago-based Abbott, Sabina Ewing’s IT work has helped facilitate a interval of unprecedented development for the worldwide healthcare firm over the previous two years, together with greater than $45B in income previously 12 months alone.
Ewing is a visionary change chief and a grasp storyteller, in addition to one of the intentional leaders I’ve met in 30-plus years on this trade. She skillfully balances the seemingly unmanageable calls for positioned on a world CIO whereas nurturing and balancing excessive EQ and IQ.
Throughout our dialog for the Tech Whisperers podcast, we explored the artwork of “being intentional about being intentional,” in addition to what it takes for a CxO at a legacy firm to ascertain and execute on a daring know-how agenda. We spent a while afterwards delving into Ewing’s method to constructing a high-performance tradition and the way that’s fostering digital enablement on the greater than 130-year-old firm. What follows is that dialog, edited for size and readability.
Dan Roberts: You’re extraordinarily intentional about workforce technique. Why did you determine to make it the No. 1 pillar of your total technique?
Sabina Ewing: The explanation it’s No. 1 is I can’t do that on my own, so I would like to ensure I’m investing within the of us that truly make it occur. The opposite piece is the daring transformation that we’re going after and the technique periods that we’ve put forth. My mantra is, I play to win. As a operate of that, I must have my distribution curve from a efficiency perspective skewed to the best. And as a operate of that, I’ve to not solely put money into or rent individuals; I’ve to put money into the those who I’ve at present. One in all our companions talked about that it value six occasions extra to carry somebody from outdoors into an organization and get them to a sure functionality and operational stage versus investing within the individuals that you’ve got.
It’s additionally about ensuring we’re making a tradition of efficiency. After we take into consideration high athletes, they step their recreation up once they’re taking part in with different extraordinary people. You’re pretty much as good as the highest 5 mates you spend most of your time with, so once they’re going after it, you’re going to do the identical. Everyone focuses on excessive potential individuals and coping with their lowest performers, however to ensure that me to skew to the best, I’ve to maneuver all of the individuals within the center into a distinct place when it comes to their capabilities.
Abbott is an modern firm, and innovation typically sparks from these ‘unintentional collisions’ across the proverbial watercooler. How are you excited about the way forward for work when it comes to equipping individuals to proceed to innovate the way in which Abbott has executed traditionally?
We provide flexibility, however we’re within the workplace, as a result of that’s how we see it working for us. So we now have what I name 3D unintentional collisions. In my group, we even have check-ins, as a result of I’m acutely conscious that there’s a psychological well being dimension to what we’ve been going via these previous few years with the pandemic. We host one check-in in a time zone for the Western Hemisphere and one in a time zone for the Jap Hemisphere, and our of us in sure international locations additionally produce other actions that they’re taking. It’s actually a world effort to be sure that we’re fostering group and belief, as a result of that lets you attain out to one another in that casual technique to create and innovate. As a result of along with the unintentional collisions we now have the place we work, we have to have that as a world group to faucet into that functionality and creativity.
Abbott can be very huge on communities of observe that enable us to give attention to particular innovation areas to ensure that us to pursue these areas. One of many first communities of observe that I met with was our superior analytics [community], and we had been pulling from our scientific group, our engineering group, our know-how group. In order that’s one other mechanism for creating these collisions and deliberately sourcing from throughout your group to get the very best pondering minds round it.
Transformation is tough. How do you retain your power excessive so you may energize your individuals to maintain pushing that boulder up the hill?
The very first thing is, I’m motivated by Abbott’s mission. Being in life sciences, given what we’re doing, and search to do, on this planet, the position that healthcare performs in each individual’s life, to not point out, recognizing that the colleagues in my group are passionate and really dedicated in direction of that Abbott mission — that, in and of itself, is extraordinarily motivating. I additionally need to inform you, what is absolutely motivating and useful is, I’ve acquired an amazing management staff. They’re invested in our objective and technique. Having them dedicated to this and the success we’re having is a operate of their management.
The opposite piece is that Abbott is extraordinarily aggressive. I typically say that I consider us, as a operate, as being a company athlete. You’re at all times striving to be higher. My aim is to be the very best know-how group in healthcare, and I see our position round that as extraordinarily essential. I typically say we’re now not the oldsters within the rear with the gear. The twenty first century demand is to be entrance and heart, and I’m motivated by that.
I used to run the 800 meters outside in observe and area, and the 800 meters is 2 laps across the observe. I’ve already run the primary lap of my profession. And what I say proper now’s, I’m on the again straightaway, and that’s the place you begin to open up your stride and drive house, what’s your legacy going to be? And the way are you going to have left the world, and the way do you permit the skilled influence? In order that motivation of, okay, I’m in my zone, I’m going after it, I’m challenged. I’m ready to have the flexibility to ship influence. All of that retains me motivated. That, and I’ve acquired two children and a husband which might be relying on me.
What do you hope your legacy will likely be as a CIO?
I need to have left others ready to unleash their very own full potential. The opposite is having had an influence that’s significant for my employers and demystifying the notion of what it appears like when you may have feminine management and when you may have an individual of shade — doing it my distinctive Sabina means such that it resonates and motivates others to assume in a different way about what management ought to seem like, sound like, and the way it’s enacted for the corporate.
I’m terribly proud not solely of the transformation that we’re doing when it comes to modernizing and digital enablement for Abbott, however I additionally need us to be a task mannequin. So I began with my management staff. It’s fifty % girls, fifty % males. Sixty % of my of us had been both born outdoors the USA or had expat expertise. They’ve a world perspective on how they give thought to issues and convey that dimension. That’s actually one thing that I’m pleased with.
After which, if I may in any means make a slight bend within the lexicon that transforms the notion that IT is a back-office operate into the cognition that, on this age of digital and know-how, we’re synonymous with the enterprise. To the extent that I, together with my friends, can assist change that notion that IT is by some means completely different. Most individuals discuss IT after which we now have the enterprise. No. Know-how is the enterprise in each area.
Within the meantime, I’m having a blast, and it’s as a result of there are huge meaty challenges to go after. It goes again to , how are we not solely remodeling our enterprise, however making ready Abbott for the subsequent 130 years. However I’m not going be right here for one more 130 years! So I take my baton, I run my leg to the very best of my means, and if you’re a staff participant, you’re beholden to the remainder of your staff. So it’s important to then invariably hand the baton off in an amazing place.
For extra from Ewing on the way to lead with intention in addition to how she’s executing on her daring imaginative and prescient for know-how and transformation at Abbott, tune into Tech Whisperers podcast.