Ask Jim Swanson, EVP and CIO of Johnson & Johnson, what he’s working on. He gives us a long list of projects. This list is probably too long for most people to keep in mind, lead and manage. This includes his IT-specific projects such as data science and automation, but also embedding technology within Johnson & Johnson’s mission and healthcare itself.
“We have a great CEO who takes technology very seriously at the core of the company,” says Swanson. “We work together as a team. We are all on a healthcare mission.”
Swanson’s list of projects includes significant IT work, including technology enablement to spin off the company’s consumer goods business into a new company called Kenvue, as well as keeping up with changes in data privacy, cybersecurity, and medical technology. is included. But it also includes work such as keeping employees safe during the Russian-Ukrainian war and enabling work on a new CAR-T treatment for multiple myeloma patients.
Swanson’s work has been celebrated by many organizations. Most recently, he received the ORBIE Leadership Award at the 2022 Philadelphia CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards Program. This comes after a career as his CIO and Head of Digital Transformation for Crop Science at Bayer Crop Science, his CIO at Monsanto and his VP of IT for Global Human Health at Merck. His success is due to the very intentional plans he set for himself long ago, something his IT professionals early in his career can learn from.
go to experience
“I’ve been chasing experiences, not titles,” Swanson says. “If you pursue experience, you learn by default.”
For example, living in the UK and Germany has allowed him to learn about different cultures and bring back new insights to his work in North America.
“It’s part of the learning. I never got an MBA, but I learned how to read the P&L,” he says.
Finding and working with mentors is also an important part of the learning process and Swanson’s networking process. He says he has had many mentors in his career. They spanned many areas within the organization, such as business and communications. Here’s the advice he offers to others in their IT careers.
Choose the Right Mentor
“Choose a mentor who can help you in the areas you want to develop,” he says. For example, at one point early in his own career, Swanson found himself grappling with a group within the organization that was resisting some change. They felt they had been burned before and would not accept someone trying again.
“I was struggling with some people on that team,” he says. “He’s one of the most respected members and I asked him to mentor me. I asked, ‘How can I influence people in this group for the better?’ He stood by me with the people I was trying to influence. ”
write a job description
What other advice does Swanson have for those entering the IT space?
“Twenty years ago, a mentor taught me: Write your job description and do what it takes to be able to do it,” he says. Here’s his one-page description of your values and those of your organization, what’s important to you about the job, and what you want to achieve.
For Swanson, the job description always included a mission greater than himself.
“Mission is important,” he says. “I want to work for a company with a sense of mission”
The second major quality he looked for in a position was the ability to learn, which he says comes from the diversity of mindsets he’s experienced working in various locations in the United States and around the world.
Another key quality is how IT fits into your organization. He wants to work in an organization where IT drives transformation, not just operations.
Swanson is currently using this lesson with his mentee. Most people, he says, have no problem filling out his one-page form that he provides. Challenges often lie in the following phases:
“Then they have to perform,” he says. “You must do it too.”
Those mentees will have to search and find a job that fits that description. Running his own One Pager took Swanson and his family to many locations in the United States and abroad.
Advice for other CIOs
During the pandemic, many CIOs found themselves setting aside more budget for digital transformation, moving to the cloud, and advanced analytics or AI projects. Organizations were looking to embed technology into the very operation of their business. This is what Swanson has been pushing from the beginning, and he believes it is the way forward for all his CIOs looking to stay relevant in a changing industry.
“Every CIO should be a change agent in the company,” he says. “You can’t be a waiting receiver for questions…the CEO isn’t waiting.”
What to read next:
CIOs Face IT Spending Pressures, Security Challenges, and Rising Expectations in 2023
Quick Study: IT Budget and Cost Management
How to distinguish IT fads and trends