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Video profiles: Tech leaders on and off the clock

When it comes to maintaining work/life balance, some CIOs go the extra mile. Here's how salsa dancing or raising chickens might make you a better tech leader.

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In this occasional series of video portraits, Computerworld explores how top tech leaders offset the demands of the office with a rich and varied personal life. Enjoy our profiles of Navy Federal Credit Union CIO and ballroom dancer Bill Hills and Accuride CIO and gentleman farmer Paul Wright, and check back soon as we add footage with other top tech leaders.

Bill Hills, Navy Federal Credit Union

By day, Bill Hills, a 2016 Premier 100 Technology Leader, puts in long hours as he leads his IT team of 1,000+ employees through an ambitious multiyear reorganization, but after hours, he's on his feet and ready to tango.

Hills is an avid amateur pilot, a lifelong tennis player, and, most recently, a nascent ballroom dancer. Hills, his wife and children have a family tradition of taking up a new activity together, one where they're all "equally helpless," Hills says with a laugh. The family first mastered tae kwon do, then moved on to ballroom dancing.

Hills loves his weekly dance lesson not just for the physical exercise and release from office life, but because it keeps him in the mindset of a learner. "It's really great to be in a setting like the dance studio where I am the student. There's a lot for me to learn, and a lot for me to practice," Hills says. "Our organization is the same way -- as we continue to develop and continue to mature, we're learning all the time."

To better support Navy Federal Credit Union in its to become the preferred financial institution for its members, Hills has embarked on a sweeping plan to reshape the IT function -- which means he and his staff have had to adjust to a significant amount of change as they move from an asset-focused organization to a service-oriented organization.

"There is a tremendous amount of technology expertise that's embodied in the staff that we've assembled, and for me to be open to their new ideas is critical for our success," says Hills. "The dance keeps me grounded in the notion that I am a learner too. I think enhances the conversations that we have as team and as an organization."

Paul Wright, Accuride

Paul Wright, a 2016 Premier 100 Technology Leader, has always liked to make things. His father and grandfather both had careers in manufacturing, and back in his college years, Wright had an internship at a steel mill. It's a passion that's reflected in his home life, where he tends chickens and collects sap for maple syrup. And it's also evident in the work he chose, diving headfirst into a challenging career in information technology.

Wright is vice president of IT and CIO at Accuride Corp., a global supplier of wheels and wheel components to the commercial vehicle industry. The company is based in Evansville, Ind., with locations in North America and recently expanding into Europe.

As Wright describes it, Accuride is in the business of transforming raw materials into the car parts people can see rolling by them on the road every day. "Being able to say, ‘Yeah, I made that.' That's cool," he says.

A recent implementation of a cloud ERP system, known as Plex, eliminated seven ERP systems across the organization and created one common standard. The system has also driven an upgrade to networking and infrastructure to a standard that communicates effectively with the cloud.

"When you're moving to the cloud as an organization, you have to change your mindset, you have to understand that people are going to want to access data wherever they are in the world, whenever the time," says Wright. "So we've had to build really robust systems that allow for that. Now we've got real-time manufacturing data that people can see wherever they are."

"When you have facilities that are running 24/7 around the world, then you're always available for [the business]. Both the IT side and the business side are important for a successful project. And I think we've done that."

Building things and making systems work -- it's the right mix of career challenges for this IT leader.

This story, "Video profiles: Tech leaders on and off the clock" was originally published by Computerworld.

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