Excerpt from the Article:
Chobani is the No. 1 Greek yogurt in the United States. Founded in 2005 by Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya, the company now has more than 1,200 employees. One year ago, Jindra Zitek was promoted to the position of interim-CIO at the company. He had been vice president of sales, marketing, business analytics and employee solutions within IT. Within a few months, he dropped the interim part of his title. As he discusses with CIO Insight contributor, Peter High, as CIO, he is responsible for Chobani’s global IT strategy, delivery and support—namely technical services including network operations, help desk and cyber-security; applications, starting with the company’s ERP and other functional tools, as well as company-wide collaboration and productivity tools.
CIO Insight: You do not have a traditional educational background for a CIO, as you studied finance and economics as an undergraduate at the London School of Economics, and you received an MBA from Columbia University. You then worked as a consultant with McKinsey. How did your background in finance and as a consultant help you in your current role and how did you develop your technical skills?
Jindra Zitek: I believe my non-technical background in finance and consulting and project implementation experience from McKinsey actually helps me be an effective IT leader and partner for the business. At McKinsey, I specialized in business transformations, turnarounds and growth strategies. Across a number of industries (automotive, energy, health care, telecommunications), I experienced how technology and applications help businesses and individual functions unlock value—for example through increasing efficiency and consistency of business processes, or delivering insights and functionality that would otherwise not be possible (or with significant manual effort only). Being a business leader first enables me to identify where IT can deliver value and effectively communicate it to my business partners and then align on joint business/IT strategy and funding. My finance and McKinsey background drives me to look for clear benefits in each IT project at Chobani, and once we kick off a new project I ensure that we have clear accountability on both the IT and business side and measurable benefits milestones. As a rule, all of our projects have business sponsors to make sure we work on initiatives that matter to the business.
I am able to focus on the value to the business and prioritization thanks to our very strong IT leadership team who I focus on technical and applications-specific knowledge and skills. While I have not worked in IT directly previously, my relationship with IT and hardware goes back to my early teenage years when I started working part time at my dad’s business back in the Czech Republic-reverse logistics and repairs for end-user devices (printers, PCs, cell phones, cameras etc). In my current role, I am making sure that I leverage both McKinsey and TPG [private equity investor into Chobani] network of IT professionals.
CIO Insight: When you first took on the role of CIO, how did you organize yourself in the early days of this period? Were there changes to the IT strategy, to the organization structure, to processes, or to technologies that you implemented?