October 10, 2012, 8:31 PM — Research In Motion (RIM) CIO Robin Bienfait is not your typical CIO.
In her own words: "I probably would be more classified as a CTO. But at RIM, it takes somebody that's like a CTO to be the CIO. You've got all these people within RIM who are highly technical and they're going to challenge everything you do as a CIO."
Bienfait joined the BlackBerry team in December 2006 after serving as AT&T's SVP of Global Network Services and Chief Compliance Officer, where she was in charge of the company's business-continuity and disaster-recovery efforts during various natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And she says business continuity is her strong suit.
CIO.com Senior Editor Al Sacco met with Bienfait this week in San Diego, the evening before she headlined the event's day-two keynote address, to discuss what she learned from her time at AT&T, as well as her thoughts on how RIM approaches BYOD internally, the importance of mobile security, how the modern CIO role is evolving and what the future holds for RIM.
Al Sacco: First of all, can you talk a little bit about your experience working on the 9/11 network recovery?
Robin Bienfait: Within AT&T, you had to be able to get into the area and pull cables. They wanted the stock exchange bell to ring on Monday morning. We typically would fly people in but, since they shut the airways down, we had to put everybody on trucks and all of our equipment on trucks. We literally built like a little "truck city" that was a replacement for the network infrastructure that was impacted.
We practiced [recovery efforts] every quarter. We would drive out to a city. We would fail the city over onto our tractor trailers. We were used to taking those 100, 150 trucks that were in my fleet and actually airlifting them. Because we didn't have the air, we had to get access via bridges and roads. We had everybody cooperating. We'd been doing [practice exercises] for 10 years. Every quarter.
Can you think of a specific lesson you took away from the situation?
A lot of people don't think about continuity when they design anything, whether it's writing software or building a service, even some of the operations that you have today. They just don't think about continuity of operations, continuity of their business or protecting their IP. So it's something you need to think about all the time. What if this doesn't work? What is my backup plan? You're never going to have every scenario covered, but [if you're prepared] when you do get an event that presents itself you at least know how to go about resolving it.