Theresa Wilson knows a thing or two about staying power. During the course of her 33 year career with Wachovia (now part of Wells-Fargo), Wilson has steadily climbed the corporate ladder while surviving countless layoffs (or "efficiencies," as she calls them), mergers and acquisitions. She began her career with Wachovia as a programmer in 1976 and was promoted to senior programmer, senior analyst, project manager and division manager. In 2002, she was named a CIO.
Wilson attributes her longevity to her love for change, her tenacity and her ability to execute. Still, her career path inside Wachovia hasn't always been smooth. An African-American woman in IT, Wilson has battled perceptions that she wasn't smart or capable enough by disproving her naysayers and by taking her career into her own hands, she says. For example, early in her career at Wachovia, a manager had promised Wilson that she could lead a project after a year. When 12 months had passed and Wilson's manager backtracked on his promise, she set out to prove that she was ready for a new position despite what he thought.
"I decided then that I had to take my career in my own hands and do things that would prove what I could do to others. I made sure I was visible to all the appropriate folks, to make sure they knew what I was doing and to let them know the things I liked to do."
The one time Wilson ever doubted her job security with Wachovia was between 2001 and 2004, she says, during Wachovia's merger with First Union, when she had to apply for a position for the first time in years. She had been used to getting tapped for assignments, whether it was to install the first ATM or a new deposit system. Wilson needn't have worried: She got the job as the division information officer for the commercial/treasury services area.
Today, Wilson serves as CIO of operations at Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia in 2008. She leads a 500-person IT organization responsible for technology strategy, new software development and maintenance, and desktop and server implementations. She spoke with The Alexander Group's John Mann about her hiring practices.
John Mann: Who was the first person you ever hired?
Theresa Wilson: I hired someone early in my career when I was a project manager with Wells Fargo. I was looking for a technical lead. The person I hired still works here. He loves to tell everyone that I hired him.
Did you receive training on how to hire?
Not formal training. However, I have been conducting interviews since the beginning of my career, which has helped me become a better interviewer. Years ago, when we moved to behavioral interviews, we received instructions on how to conduct those kinds of interviews.
Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.