October 11, 2011, 3:23 PM — Ken Murdoch's colleagues at the Save the Children Federation venture where few corporate workers go: war-torn countries, poverty-stricken regions and areas devastated by natural disasters. Yet this CIO's 30-member IT team must provide the same technologies that businesspeople in posh office buildings expect. Consider, for example, that Save the Children was one of the first nongovernmental organizations to have its networks restored and running following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Murdoch's IT team made Skype operational again in less than 24 hours, allowing Save the Children officials to appear on news shows to provide information and appeal for aid, while the organization's remaining IT infrastructure was up in less than 72 hours. Murdoch credits his team for such successes. Here he discusses other aspects of leading Save the Children's IT operations.
What do you do in your spare time? I try to spend as much time at home as possible. [Murdoch has been married for 29 years and has two grown children.]
Do you have any hobbies? Coaching baseball (summer semi-pro baseball at the college level) and football (at a private high school).
What's the best business book you've read? It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, by Capt. D. Michael Abrashoff.
If you weren't in technology, what would you want to do for a career? This might sound kind of corny, but I'm doing it now. I'm working for good; I'm working for a cause.
How does IT support the overall mission of your organization? Our IT team is very much an integral part of the overall mission of our agency. Our main focus here is to make sure that we give our business divisions the ability to cut down the time it takes to do things, have faster responses in emergencies, and do everything we can do to support the agency's goal of creating change for children.
Save the Children works in areas where many global companies won't operate. What are the challenges you face in serving the IT needs of your colleagues in such areas? The biggest challenge is [usually when] we walk into a situation where there's very little connectivity and limited commercial power. I was in Ethiopia a year ago visiting a school at one of our education programs, and in the classroom, you're working on daylight. There are few power sources, so there's limited computation capabilities, and that's just in the regular day-to-day and not even in the emergency response mode.