More Things My Mother Taught Me About Being a CIO

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center turned 50 this year and so did I.  One of Goddard’s commemorative activities was a town hall meeting moderated by Center Director Rob Strain with former Center Directors Tom Young, Noel Hinners, Joe Rothenberg, John Townsend, and Al Diaz.  We often learn so much about our future by looking at our past.

It’s appropriate as we enter Mother’s Day weekend for me to reflect that I don’t have to look back too far in the past to learn from my mother.  I’ve blogged about this topic before and the calendar warrants further reflections on some more of those learning moments. Young Harriette holding newborn CIO Linda

As the oldest of four children and as one who probably remembers most what it might have been like for Harriette as a young divorced mother, I marvel at her abilities in the area of teamwork, leadership, business acumen, and project management.  This may sound like CIO competencies but they are clearly also maternal competencies.

As I replay the tapes in my mind, I see how some of her clichés and sayings have relevance today in my role as a CIO.

The best way to make a friend is be a friend

My mother raised three introverted children plus a rather sociable baby sister.  When we invited kids to our party, we could barely muster 5 guests – and 4 of them were our cousins.  Baby Sister Lisa was so sociable, she was coached by my now experienced mother to invite her entire class of 21 girls to a slumber party so that a decent number would attend —  22 showed up. 

But the bottom line, is that friendship and customer fulfillment are built on pillars of servanthood, partnership, service, teamwork, leadership, and commitment.  Delivering mission value to your customers is the foundation of a credible relationship.

Make your bed and lie in it

Sometimes growing up, it’s very difficult to grapple with the concept of accountability.  Often excuses like “the dog ate my homework” or “but I forgot” substitute for adolescent responsibility. 

As CIOs, not only do we have to articulate an IT strategy, but we have to implement it and achieve our organizations goals.  And we need to hold ourselves accountable for delivering those results.

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you

Any true native Washington, DC resident will recall the graceful branches of the plentiful Weeping Willow trees.  Sadly, as some of us “old school” folks will remember, they make formidable switches for poorly behaving kids.  I can’t say that I actually remember getting a spanking from a branch of that scary tree, but the thought of the possibility hurts just the same.

A friend of mine recently challenged me about whether or not I actually liked being a CIO.  The TRUTH is that this gig, like most leadership gigs, is not very easy.  Sometimes, it hurts and often every day is like getting a whipping for something that went wrong or for something you did wrong.  Regardless, we must press forward, leading and managing a credible and capable IT organization to achieve what our organizations have asked of us.

In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.

Alex Haley makes a good point here.  As we live in the PRESENT and strengthen the links to the PAST, our FUTURE offers us infinite channels to success.

Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

5 thoughts on “More Things My Mother Taught Me About Being a CIO”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful story. I was very moved and touched. I truly hope your success is overtaken with more success! NASA should be proud they found you.

    I look forward to continually following your Twitter updates and to reading your fantastic blog. Perhaps you’ll consider following my updates as well.

    Very Kind Regards,

    DL Turner
    Sr. Managing Partner/CEO
    SysCorp Worldwide LLC – St. Louis, Mo.

  2. This was a very inspirational post, thanks so much for sharing. Makes me want to hug my mom!

  3. It is great that women nowadays have the same possibilities to move into leadership. For centuries it wasn't possible. I am a male myself and but I need to say that it fills me with joy when women getting into management roles.

    Martin Voelk

  4. That's great. It make me think of the Margaret Thatcher quote, “Being a leader is like being a lady, if you have to go around telling people you are one, you aren't.” Thanks for what you do.

    Powerful Dreams Inspire Powerful Action.
    When you can taste, smell, and touch your dreams, you can enroll the world.

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