Gunther Branham remembers when a major system at the company he worked for was crashing at least two times a week. He took over the problem and solved it through “pure communication, and a little tech wizardry” — just one of the moments that earned him CIO-level responsibilities at the Fortune 100 company where he worked for many years across global corporate functions. He led teams in everything from systems planning, budgeting, and delivery, to outsourcing, ecommerce and tech center startups. Now focused on teaching, he also volunteers as a mentor for tech startup ideas and proposals.
Q: What are the most satisfying or challenging aspects of working in IT?
GB: Getting the balance right — giving the client fast delivery, new technology, high value and compliant solutions. Bringing in the right technology at the right time. A challenge can be when you have to say that it’s not the right time.
Q: What might surprise people who are considering the industry?
GB: The amount of business skills that are involved: how do you do a financial spreadsheet? How do you finance business software? For computer science people, it’s a surprise to find out how IT really fits into a company’s business structure and strategy.
Q: What makes for great IT leadership?
GB: Being able to speak to the business side of an organization and interpret their needs. Also, understanding that IT is not a magic problem solver and resisting the impulse to acquire every new kind of technology.
Q: Any advice from “the trenches,” so to speak?
GB: Figure out the kind of company you want to work for and what you enjoy doing. Don’t beat your head against the wall trying to make something fit — consider your own personal preferences, skills and goals.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t in IT?
GB: My bachelor’s degree was in physics, and I love science, so I might have pursued a PhD and geared my career toward research and development in an entrepreneurial context. But I’m very happy with the path I’ve chosen — computing is my baby.