The Grill: Rotary CIO Peter Markos

Mary K. Pratt

How's this project progressing? We're gathering the data as best we can, asking how much money went into it, how many hours, and the estimate of the beneficial impact, and then we're getting into true analytics. Some of what I'm describing isn't that difficult to find in a for-profit, but at an NGO, emotion plays a more prominent role than data. People tend to overestimate the [economic benefit], so that cultural transition is a challenge we have to deal with.

Is it your job as CIO to help that cultural transition? Yes, absolutely. I don't think of myself as a CIO. I think of myself as a member of the executive team tasked with making the organization as successful as possible and reaching its full potential. The CIO is a more tactical, day-to-day thing I deal with. I think business first, and technology is one of the tools on the tool belt to get it done.

You've talked about your work in building culturally diverse, results-oriented teams.Why is that important? Our staff, our members, if given an opportunity to share their input into a process, you can get a much better outcome. That matters, and it also helps with buy-in because by getting their input and by being involved, they're more committed to making it successful. And cultural diversity is important because we are a global organization. We don't want to end up with a U.S.-centric set of solutions that won't work in Europe or Asia. We look at the center in India [Rotary's Information Technology Development Center in Pune, India] and encourage them to have a say. We made a significant investment when we opened that, that the culture would be open and collaborative, and when people share an opinion that they'd be respected. That made a difference in results. We get better solutions that meet the needs of our global constituents.

How do you ensure it? I saw in our first few hires that we had people who wouldn't fit that model. So I had a conversation with a colleague who I thought could ensure that open and collaborative environment and I asked if he wanted to go to India, and he did. He was able to draw out employees. He made a world of difference. And I take trips, and I personally talk to every employee. At the end of the day, the most important thing is really about relationships. If you want people to be open and collaborative and really feel a part of the team, there's a personal connection that has to be made. We invested in that.



Peter Markos

Family: Married, with a 5-year-old son, a 2-year-old daughter and a reef tank filled with too many saltwater fish to count.
What are you currently reading?A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. "I'm trying to decide if the book or the HBO series is better."
If you retired tomorrow, what would you do? "I'd spend more time with my family. No question."
What's the next step you'd like to take in your career? "I'd love to get into a for-profit role that's a similar mix to what I have now -- business and IT. By bringing those together, you can have a significant impact very quickly."

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