CIO Profiles: Zack Hicks Of Toyota

Toyota's Innovation Fair is the highlight of this tech chief's year.



Career Track



Zack Hicks, Group VP & CIO, North America, Toyota

Zack Hicks
Group VP & CIO, North America, Toyota

How long at Toyota: 16 years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: Building relationships that have helped bridge the gap between business and IT, and delivering game-changing innovation. I did this by first establishing personal relationships, and then extending these bridges through the team to help them create their own relationships. I also make it a top priority to create a culture where innovation is celebrated.

Most important career influencer: Barbra Cooper, my predecessor. She is a fantastic visionary and developer. She had me take on tremendous challenges before I knew I was ready and gave me the support I needed to be successful.

On The Job


Top initiatives:

  • We're focusing on mobility by putting production, sales, and customer-sentiment data in the hands of all Toyota executives; giving our field organization tools to support our dealers; and giving our dealers tools to better serve customers.
  • We're putting all of our collaboration tools onto the cloud, which allows us to move from the business of managing equipment in data centers to managing service.

Most disruptive force in my industry: Enterprise technology isn't keeping pace with consumer technology innovation.

Vision


How I give my team room to innovate: The highlight of my year is Toyota's IT Innovation Fair. It's an opportunity for our associates to use their technical expertise and creativity to prototype and showcase innovative answers to our business challenges. In six years, we've had dozens of amazing ideas shared at the fair, and some have been funded and even patented.

One thing I'm looking to do better: To continue to blur the lines between business and IT. We've been on this journey for some time.The next step is to take this marriage of IT and business and co- develop apps and tools in new ways that get them to market faster.

What I want from tech vendors: Innovation. Sometimes the fault is in vendors' contracts, which aren't always structured in a way where there's room for creativity.

The most overrated IT movement: I hate hearing complaints about not having a business strategy. Businesses do have strategies, but they don't exist in a leather-bound book. You just have to spend time with your business leaders and you'll find out their plans and needs.

Kids and tech careers: Having a technology foundation is critical, since it will be needed in any type of job they'll have. Securing a degree in any of the STEM--science, technology, engineering, and math--areas will help recession-proof your career.

Personal


Degrees: Pepperdine University, bachelor's degree in business management; University of California, Irvine, MBA

Tech vendor I respect most: Michael Dell, chairman and CEO of Dell; he connects with his customers at a level that's rarely seen these days

Person I most want to have lunch with: Tim Cook, CEO of Apple; I'd like to hear how he's going to keep the innovation engine churning

First job: Dishwasher

Favorite bands: The Beatles, U2, Everlast, Radiohead

Ranked No. 17 in the 2012 InformationWeek 500

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