03 May 2020

2. Leading in Crisis with CIO, Roxanne Seymour  

We have started a series called Leading in Crisis. Today we caught up with the CIO of Serta Simmons Bedding, Roxanne Seymour. She guides us through the highs and lows executive leadership amid COVID-19. Is your company focused on security right now? If not, they should be. We talk about everything from hackers, attackers, and bad actors to communication and team morale.


[00:01 - 02:10] Opening Segment

Did you see anything like this coming when you thought about starting 2020?

  • IT professionals look for disasters and cyber security breaches and anticipate unexpected downtime, but we never saw anything like this coming 

[02:11 - 16:47] How a CIO Leads Through Crisis

  1. Tell us a little bit about your role before and after COVID-19, what has shifted for you?
    • The pandemic started to impact the business in February 2020
    • We begin to move into disaster recovery mode
    • We begin to pull the trigger on our contingency plans
    • We shifted the entire organization to work from home
    • What usually takes months to change we are changing in days and hours
    • We needed extra layers of security for multifactor authentication


  1. Have you ever led during a crisis like this before? Did any of those principles transfer to the crisis we are in right now?
    • Most IT professionals do experience some level of IT disruption in their career
    • We applied some of the principles from previous disasters to this one
    • You have to communicate first and foremost and then roll up your sleeves and do whatever needs to be done


  1. As an IT Executive what does it look like to communicate what is happening with the other executives? And what are some of the big goals you are talking about right now?
    • We talk about capability and capacity from an infrastructure prospective  
    • Are all of the remote users up and working and productive?
    • Will our network allow for this type of capacity?
    • We are also focused on security. This is the time when hackers, attackers, and bad actors will come at you from a company or infrastructure perspective
    • Fishing scams are a big part of what hackers will do to get and steal the information
    • We need to have lots of information to all members of the organization. To do so I:
      • Communicate with the IT organization daily
      • Communicate with the Executive Team 3 times a week with network status, security posture, and new capabilities 




  1. Did you size down the number of IT initiatives because of COVID?
    • We are focused on two initiatives right now:
      1. Security – ensuring we keep productivity up
      2. New Capabilities - we have had to go direct to consumer due to the crisis
    • Launching a new product line in a couple of days is unheard of
    • When you go from months to days to get a new product out the door it takes a lot of IT interaction and support


  1. What have you been learning about your own leadership in this season?
    • I am having to increase the frequency of my communication ten-fold
    • As a leader we need to be real and raw
    • We need to acknowledge what people are going through in order to help them and keep them focused.
    • It is important to communicate frequently; in simple, clear, transparent and engaging ways.


  1. Are you doing long term planning in a time like this?
    • We are doing both. We are looking to see what is out there for us as a business, but we also must keep the tactical and operational things going every day.
    • When our plants close and open there is a lot of IT support needed to flex


  1. What would advise leaders to do at a time like this?
  • Keep a clear head and remain calm
  • Make decisions quickly and process your data points quickly
  • The business climate is changing, and you must make IT decisions that could make or break the business
  • You must be brave in your choices and communicate the risks of your decisions, but you must be sure that you make those decisions with a contingency plan.
  • Favor reversable decisions over one-way options
  • Make decisions that you can change on a dime


[16:48 - 19:07] Closing Segment

Any final thoughts?

    • I have had to step up my communications in this season
    • I send regular communications to the IT organization, I regularly blog now, and make sure that I keep things light with the IT nerd joke of the day


Tweetable Quotes:

“You must be brave in your choices and communicate the risks of your decisions.” – Roxanne Seymour 

“You have to be sure that you make those decisions with a contingency plan.” – Roxanne Seymour

“Favor reversable decisions over one-way options.” – Roxanne Seymour


Resources mentioned in the episode:


You can connect with Roxanne on Linkedin or visit her company’s website at www.sertasimmons.com

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