Susan O'Day - Disney
Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Susan leads Disney Technology Solutions and Services, delivering technology capabilities that enable business segment strategies while achieving enterprise efficiency and promoting cross-company collaborative innovation. Susan joined Disney in 2008 from Bristol-Myers Squibb, where she served as CIO and VP of Global Shared Services. She oversaw the company’s information management and global technology strategy that significantly improved and streamlined operations and processes. Susan began her career at CSX Corporation where she spent 11 years, ultimately becoming Assistant Vice President of Telecommunications. At CSX Corporation, she led the railroad division in telecommunications and computer operations, research and application development.
What traits do senior leaders need to effectively support and advance STEM today?
Aside from the obvious benefits of having highly trained and qualified employees and cast members in the STEM disciplines – something that is essential to our company -- the increased capability in critical thinking skills and the ability to make data and fact based decisions are an important differentiator.
What principles do you, as a leader; apply to your professional and personal life to advance the STEM cause?
Advocacy and involvement. We need to help kids recognize that STEM areas are cool. The stereotypes regarding top STEM students and professionals are slowly changing. I was fortunate to be educated in a single-gender environment where I was permitted to focus on my studies and encouraged to pursue science and math without the peer and social pressure that many kids are faced with today. We need to celebrate STEM accomplishments as we would athletic, artistic or commercial achievements.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
STEM allows focused, result-oriented training and education. This builds confidence, self-assurance and provides a solid foundation for woman. We need to be more aggressive in showing girls and young woman role models and highlighting stories of successful leaders. Creating active networking and internship opportunities is also essential in allowing individuals to learn and practice their skills in constructive environments.
What about STEM gives you passion?
The opportunities for woman who have capabilities and STEM training are huge, particularly in software engineering. Girls and woman bring a different perspective to complex problems. Software engineering is about looking at desired value, actions and capabilities and translating them into discrete and solvable challenges and opportunities. Then, they need to be applied to software design disciplines to remove complexities. It is exciting and, as a career, very rewarding. We do not have enough girls and young women being trained or working in the field and I want to change that. Many of us who have come up through technology organizations are working to raise the level of dialog on this topic and apply time, energy and resources to make a difference.