CIO Insights

Grit, Resilience, and Patience: Jody Davids’ IT Leadership Career

It’s just a few weeks until December 8, when Zenith Live begins, and there is so much I’m looking forward to. In particular, I am thrilled to be moderating a Women in IT panel, where I’ll be joined by lT leaders in a discussion about how confidence, a growth mindset, and professional resilience can lead to a more diverse set of IT leaders. One of the women on the panel is Jody Davids, whom I’ve had the pleasure of presenting with before and whose remarkable journey is inspiring the next generation of IT leaders.

Jody Davids started her IT career as a secretary. She earned a bachelor's degree at night and got interested in how IT functions in the enterprise. Her first programming job started after a colleague signed her up for entry-level programming training. “That’s how well thought out my IT career was,” she once told a group of rising IT executives.

She has over 30 years of experience leading and developing technology initiatives at large organizations, including CIO roles at Cardinal Health, Best Buy, and Agrium, culminating in her position as senior vice president and global CIO at PepsiCo. When Davids retired from PepsiCo in October 2019, she managed an IT team of 3,000 responsible for delivering technology services to 260,000 employees. 

Early in her career, Jody joined Apple, where she worked on the Apple III with Steve Jobs. After that, she went to Nike, a change she described as significant: it gave her insight into two distinct and contrasting types of leaders. One (Steve Jobs) a visionary icon who galvanized his teams with bold ideas, a forceful personality, and a little intimidation; the other (Phil Knight) a quieter and less bombastic leader who leaned more often on the empathetic elements of management. 

The change opened up Davids to the realization that there are many different paths to successful leadership, and she could determine her course.

Despite humorous asides about her start, Ms. Davids absolutely set an early goal of being a Fortune 200 company CIO. Reflecting on how to achieve this goal, she asked herself, “What do I have? What part of me is ready to be a CIO? What do I need to develop to truly become more viable as a candidate for a CIO opportunity?”

She also set a distinct goal to become a board-level CIO. She is currently a member of Premier Inc. and is a board advisor to the nonprofit The Eyes of Freedom: Lima Company Memorial. Davids believes that the CIO is one of only a handful of executives who genuinely have an entire organization’s perspective. CIOs have the enterprise operational knowledge that translates to boardroom intelligence and the cybersecurity knowledge and familiarity that other board members don’t.

There is a saying that has informed Jody Davids’ decisions throughout her career: “You don’t always get to choose what happens, but you DO get to choose how you respond to it.”

With this maxim as her starting point, Davids crafted a self-management practice that includes three pillars: resilience, grit, and patience. When the three pillars actively work together, they support whatever purpose you choose to pursue. Grit, resilience, and patience help future leaders navigate their course in seeking more challenging opportunities—especially when facing the inevitable setbacks. There have been many lessons in Ms. Davids’ career, both from her successes and her failures. These lessons have ultimately made her a better leader. 

I am honored to be joining Jody Davids and other leaders in the Women in IT panel session, and I hope you’ll be there.

Registration is open now. Sign up today and add this session to your agenda. You don’t want to miss it!

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