In the Clouds with… Boeing’s Susan Doniz: “Cloud is fundamental to the employee experience”
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Welcome to our column “In the Clouds with…” We'll be hearing from IT leaders about what keeps them up at night and their secrets to success.
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Susan Doniz is the chief information officer and senior vice president of information technology & data analytics at The Boeing Company.
She leads all aspects of information technology, information security, data and analytics for the world’s largest aerospace company. She joined Boeing in 2020 after a successful career at Qantas Airways and Procter & Gamble.
An honors graduate of the University of Toronto with a degree in Engineering, Susan speaks three languages and has lived and worked in Australia, Canada, Spain, most of the countries in Latin America and the United States.
1. What business challenge is keeping you up at night?
At a high level, it’s transformation with a capital-T in a world of VUCA, a military term standing for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous—the world we live in today. On the ground, we need to digitize everything we are doing, layering in new technologies: IoT, digital twin, AI, ML, blockchain, metaverse, hybrid, not hybrid, and on and on. We want to take advantage of these to support transformation.
Then there’s the focus on modernization, doing things on the edge in a different way. Transformation is a people-centered process; we need to bring everyone along in a way that ensures they can do their best work.
And a relentless focus on simplification. We are a complex business with complex work and complex opportunities. No strategy survives execution as they say! How do we sequence these changes or base them on a foundation that ensures execution?
2. How deeply is your company invested in the cloud? What about in five years?
Cloud acts as a foundation to make all these new things possible—we’re all in—it’s a matter of how much of the elephant can you bite off in pieces; we need to make it more pervasive across our foundation. Then there’s the employee experience. If you want to work anywhere and be productive, you have to have a cloud foundation to take your data with you. Cloud is fundamental to the employee experience.
3. Tech has always faced talent challenges, from scarcity to diversity. What’s your advice for recruiting top talent in today’s climate?
The mission needs to be important and meaningful. At Boeing it’s protecting, connecting, and exploring the world. This is why I joined Boeing. The culture of learning is important; people want to feel like they are being invested in—their tool chest is richer—and they want leadership experiences, not just technology. Flexibility is critical these days. It’s not a one-size-fits-all. Each person wants to be able to choose. It’s not, here are the three flavors of flexibility. It’s truly what is right for the individual.
4. What has been the most transformational IT initiative you've led to date and what made it a big deal?
It’s this digital transformation! To build, produce and support the next aircraft requires transformation on many fronts—all the tech being used, metaverse, IoT, AI, social and training, design and approval. Then, when all testing is done, build it in a way that’s repeatable and helps sustainability initiatives. We call it a digital thread to show people from beginning to end, how the planes are built, so they can follow through its lifecycle, which is decades.
Our jobs are complex and our people have really hard jobs that need to adhere to really small tolerances, some the width of a human hair or smaller.There is a lot of data management in our processes that includes measurement, storage and control. Then, add in the regulations we need to comply with in different countries across the world.
5. Every executive has their “top secrets of success” they know they’ll repeat when taking any new job. What’s yours?
These are not secrets: I yell them from the rooftops! Know your field—what’s real and what’s implementable. Beyond being deep in knowledge, you need to network and connect with people. Find out what other people are doing.
Know your business. For Boeing, this includes flight dynamics: What do customers want, and what do our customers’ customers want?
Know your people. Nothing gets done without your people; it’s working hands, caring hearts.
People follow people. If they believe in the mission, they are inspired to do the right things; empowered and passionate are critical ingredients. Be curious, pragmatic and simplify so people can understand you.
6. What is the best advice you ever got?
It’s about communicating your message. There’s what you want to say and how you want to say it. Communication is a key component of getting things done, especially in technology. Be clear about what you want to say and how you are going to say it. This makes a big difference on whether people follow you, or they don't.
The culture of learning is important; people want to feel like they are being invested in –their tool chest is richer– and they want leadership experiences, not just technology.
1. Book on your nightstand? Lord of the Rings, Dune, and Originality by Adam Grant.
2. Lunch with a leader living or dead? Steve Jobs, at the end of his life.
3. Favorite way to R&R? Travel.
4. RTO, WFH or Mission to Mars? Mission to Mars.
5. 3 apps you can’t live without? What’sApp, TripAdvisor, FlightAware
6. Your motto or mantra? Carpe Diem.