Dupe Akinyede was an accounting professional looking for career opportunity and inspiration. Then she accepted an opportunity to join an ERP financial implementation as a super user, launching her career in technology leadership.
Steve Rovniak: How did your career in IT get started?
Dupe Akinyede: I never planned a career in technology. I came from a large family of engineers and decided very early on that I wanted to do something different.
In college, I was an economics major with a great love of math and was guided by a career advisor towards the accounting profession.
But even before completing the three-year apprenticeship and certification exam, I realized that the monotony of compliance and controllership was not for me. I found it extremely uninspiring. So, I went back to University and earned a Master's degree in finance, thinking that would take me in a different direction, but I ended up back in accounting. Something had to change! And it did.
I accepted an opportunity to become a super user on an ERP financial implementation, and the rest is history. I went on to become a business analyst, programmer, and a project manager, and all around IT transformation expert using technology as an enabler. I still say that my career is not in technology but in solving problems and creating value. I just happen to use technology as an enabler. I get very excited about transformation.
What were some of the companies you worked for?
I realized that if I really wanted to make a career in business transformation, I needed to get some foundational experience. So, I made a strategic decision to get into one of the big five consulting firms to hone my skills and get a broader understanding. Fortunately, I was hired by Ernst & Young to work in their New York office. To me, this was one of the most critical decisions I made in my career. At the time one could see it as a step backwards, but it was important to lay that foundation, which has served me well throughout my career. I provided technology enabled transformation services to companies in the financial services and telco verticals. Upon leaving EY, my journey led me to Emerson Electric where I served for over a decade in several transformative IT leadership roles before landing more recently at Resideo as CIO, my current role.
What attracted you to the CIO role at Resideo Technologies?
Transformation! My passion. A 2018 spinoff from Honeywell, Resideo is now a $5 billion global provider of home comfort and security solutions. This CIO role provided the opportunity to build something new – to transform and modernize the delivery of IT services across a foundling organization and align IT with its evolving business strategy and goals.
I had executed on multiple organizational transformations and knew the challenges. Here was an opportunity to drive transformation from the top IT leadership position, both organizationally and culturally. I was also excited to bring in new capabilities such as Enterprise Data Management and governance to enable our digital transformation, and drive operational efficiency and value creation. So, it was as simple as that – it was the challenge.
Since you started in January 2022, what have you and your team been working on?
I came into Resideo knowing that there was a requirement to transform the IT organization and the IT operating model. That has been the primary initiative from day one. How do we understand the company, the people and the business and determine the most effective IT operating model and technology enablement that helps Resideo achieve its desired outcomes? It required a reorganization of IT, which is what we've been doing. It requires identifying the capabilities that we have, where there are gaps, and filling those gaps. It involves a cultural change in the IT organization and transforming it into an agile organization that defines success based on value creation.
I believe that effective transformation must start with the leadership. In the short time that I've been here, my focus has been on bringing new ideas and new thinking onto the IT leadership team. Like most companies, we are figuring out how to maintain and eliminate technical debt without holding back transformation and creation of new IT services that keep the company competitive. These are the challenges and the exciting initiatives we have before us. It's a journey. It's a marathon, not a sprint.
To succeed on such a transformation journey, you have to introduce a great deal of change. How do you win hearts and minds?
It takes a lot of emotional intelligence, and you have to get to know the people. You have to spend time listening to people, understanding their motivators, as well as the things that demotivate them. You have to give them a common cause that they can rally around and be proud of. And then, you have to empower them and give them the tools and the support to go forth and do great things. This is a recipe that I have applied repeatedly throughout my career, with success.
You also have to build trust, which takes time. They have to know that you have their backs. You have to be very clear on the goals, the objectives and the vision. Once we get alignment from the teams around the vision, everybody needs to be in the boat rowing in the same direction. Some people may be uncomfortable and choose to get out of the boat, which is okay. That may sound glib, but this takes a lot of work, a lot of listening, communicating, recommunicating, reassuring, and persevering.
What is some advice you offer to rising IT leaders?
I think a former mentor might have given me this advice, and I pass it on to this day: For all of your actions and efforts, everything that you do, you have to be able to measure the value that is created. You have to be able express the value created by your work either in terms of dollars and cents, or in terms of risk avoidance. It you can't see that measurable value, nobody else will either.
I also say be true to yourself in any work situation. Any environment that does not allow you to bring all of who you are to the work place is not one in which you can thrive.
What is one of your most effective recruiting or retention strategies?
As I said before, you have to understand people and what motivates them, but you also have to give them a sense of belonging. People want to be part of something. You have to give them a space where they feel they are valued, and part of a team. When people leave an organization, it's often because they don't feel like they belong. I often say to my leaders: "Make sure that your people are choosing to be part of your team every day, because they can choose to opt out. What are we doing to make sure that they feel like they belong and are valued?”
How do you know when your IT organization is succeeding?
I have some strategic indicators that we measure through customer satisfaction surveys and other means. But ultimately, as for any IT organization these days, success comes when we are not only meeting and exceeding the business’s expectations, but when we are anticipating ahead of the business and seeing around the corners what they will need, and have the people, process and technology pre-staged in place to be able to do that. That, for me, is when you know your IT organization is succeeding. One of the mantras on my senior team is, "We want our IT organization to be seen as a competitive advantage for this business."
That is a high bar.
That is a high bar. But to me, that is a high-performing, extremely successful IT organization – when it is seen as a competitive advantage for the business. That's where I think the future of IT is.
Have you recently read a book that you would recommend to other business or technology leaders?
I'm not a big reader of self-help type books, but I picked one up at the recommendation of our CEO, and it was an amazing read that I've recommended to my entire team. The book is It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, by a Navy captain named Michael Abrashoff. It's about how he came in as a young commander of a low-performing battleship that was kitted out with all of the technology you could need, but it had been continuously low-performing. He was able to turn it around to became one of the highest performing and most-awarded of all the ships in the U.S. Navy.
What do you think the CIO role is going to look like in five years?
I believe the CIO role in a high-performing environment is going to be a critical people leader, thought leader and innovation leader. There is an emerging convergence between the CIO, the CTO, CDO, and CISO roles, all coming under the umbrella of enabling technology to create competitive advantage. The digitization of everything – supply chain, customer experience, employee experience and engagement, data, the products and services we offer, and of course, security, is driving this convergence. Whether we call it the CIO or CTO or something else, I think that, ultimately, there will be one technology leadership role accountable for that broad spectrum of capabilities.
What is your favorite place to travel on business, and why?
Travel is one of my favorite things to do and I always make it a point to get to know the local communities and the cultures where I'm traveling. One of my favorite places I visited was Santiago, Chile. It was years ago, but memorable for me because I was delivering training to a community that didn't speak English, and I didn't speak much Spanish. Plus, I didn't have a translator, so some adaptation was required! It made for a memorable experience. Chile is a wonderful country with wonderful people and vibrant culture. Within two hours, you can be up in the mountains, down in the valleys, or at the beach. What more could you ask for?