How to Advance the IT Function While Simplifying it

Stephanie Harris Executive Features, Technology Leave a Comment

Guilda Javaheri shares her passion for the advancement and simplification of technology as Chief Information Officer at Golden State Foods.

In today’s technologically advanced world, the role of an information technology (IT) department has become crucial in providing effective business solutions for an organization. And providing effective business-oriented solutions is exactly what Guilda Javaheri, Chief Information Officer, and her team have been doing for Golden State Foods (GSF).

Having lived in various countries and through the opportunities Javaheri has had professionally, she’s been able to see how technology can truly lend itself to all industries and all different types of people.  “Much like the Industrial Revolution, the Technology Revolution has altered our world in countless ways and I see myself as a conduit in carrying that message and advancing its progress.

“On a personal level, my industry has broken many physical and cultural barriers globally, enabling those that were unable to have access to information, those that could not communicate to the ‘outside world’ and those who could not be part of a workforce be included now.  As such, leveraging IT as an enabler, and understanding and embracing the change that technology brings is key.”

Javaheri continues, “So much of what awaits humankind in the future will be because of advancements in technology. And this simple thought excites me to not end.”

Javaheri, who joined GSF in January 2014, believes IT can be an integral partner in achieving business goals for an organization. “My approach in managing my team is to help the team members understand that IT’s role is to offer business-oriented solutions,” she explained.

To be an effective business partner, it is also crucial that IT is fully aware of how technology meets the needs of their customers.

“I have always used IT as a services organization, supporting customers on all levels and with the same courtesy and attention,” she said. “In order to understand the challenges of a business and their individual contributions to the end goals, I have organized the IT operating levels in alignment with business groups, bringing focus, knowledge, and application into IT.”

“[We] focus on the business solution rather than technology.”

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Global Perspectives for Global Business

An Iranian-American, Javaheri left Iran as a teenager to pursue her education abroad. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from London City University in London and a Master of Business Administration from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She then relocated to Southern California, where she found a diversity of opportunities and professionals, and has remained there ever since.

Having spent her career in various IT leadership roles, Javaheri has experienced the impact of technology in the workplace and in everyday life.

“We all have been impacted by technology in our everyday life and working environment, to the extent that technology has made its way into the hands of non-technical people,” she said. “Technology has contributed tremendously to the productivity of individuals and revolutionized the ease of accessing information for both people and organizations at large.”

With the impact of technology evident in all industries today, Javaheri finds herself inspired by the opportunities that exist in today’s global environment.

“Some may argue that technology has replaced much of the workforce, but I actually argue that technology has created a paradigm shift that has motivated the workforce to obtain higher levels of education,” she said. “Witnessing how technology can enable the growth of society and improve the quality of life, and considering my internal quest for the betterment of humanity, it is what inspired me to come to IT and begin my career.”

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The Business of IT

With her global background, Javaheri has gained valuable knowledge of various cultural protocols, which has enabled her to have more perspective and be flexible and adaptable in her everyday business dealings—traits that have lent themselves nicely in her quest to make IT a strategic component of an organization’s overall business goals.

“With GSF, I have proactively managed to move IT into silos and create an environment where IT is more aligned with business units and has remained a strategic partner in existing market dynamics,” Javaheri explained. “I believe that technology can deliver business value—where information can be accessed more readily and shared more easily, therefore, enabling flexibility and adaptability to change.”

As part of this change, Javaheri has been focusing on the simplification of the IT landscape to create a competitive advantage.

IT needs to be agile and nimble in delivering solutions and services,” she said. “Today, we have a myriad of different systems that are cumbersome and costly to maintain. By simplifying the technology landscape, we increase the responsiveness to market demand and reduce the total cost of ownership.”

To support this business strategy, Javaheri has created a three-year technology roadmap to ensure the group is focused on the simplification of IT management, as well as providing purposeful IT solutions to the overall business.

In addition to providing effective business solutions, customer-value solutions are of utmost importance to Javaheri and the IT function.

In today’s ever-changing market, ease of doing business with vendors and suppliers is a key differentiator,” she explained. “At GSF, we have used part of our business as a path finder in our journey for the intent of creating a repeatable process that can be rolled out globally.”

Bringing information closer to the customer and providing transparency will create greater customer intimacy, Javaheri believes.

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Achieving Business Goals

In order to achieve its business-related goals, an organization must attract, retain, and develop strong talent.

“It is a professional first date—when you think about it, both parties are assessing the potential for furthering the relationship,” Javaheri said. “In today’s market, where companies are being acquired by larger firms and creating an unstable environment for workers, GSF stands out as a well-established company in the U.S. and growing internationally.”

With a company and department that are in a good position to attract solid candidates, Javaheri shares the vision of GSF as an organization with candidates during the interview process.

“Candidates are motivated to work in a more dynamic environment that has a clear vision and direction rather than a static one,” she said. “GSF is an organization that is ‘we’ not ‘me.’ In theory, they want to be part of this team and they want to see that they are contributing to the bottom line and that their opinions matter.”

And as with anything, communication and open engagement is key to success.

“I support open discussions and effective communications at all levels,” Javaheri said. “That is what drives actions and best results. When the pillars of communication are open and fluid, you obtain a more cohesive process and focused team. I believe open communication creates an environment of trust and mutual respect.”

With these solid pillars in place, Javaheri and the GSF IT team are poised to achieve success through technology, even in an ever-changing business environment. ♦


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Foundation of Leadership

As a leader, Guilda Javaheri builds a strong team on the foundation of open communication and ensuring IT understands its overall role in a business capacity. 

Open and Honest Communication:

“When you work in a trusting environment,” she explained, “many barriers that normally hold back a team from working effectively and collaboratively are naturally broken down or become non-existent. This is the perfect ingredient in building a strong and effective team, and a healthy culture.”

Connecting the Dots:

“My approach in managing my team is to help team members understand that IT’s role is to offer business-oriented solutions,” Javaheri said. “That helps make customers’ jobs easier and more efficient.”

“IT is often focused on bringing the best and latest technology, but sometimes loses sight of what solutions actually meet the customers’ needs. Connecting those dots for the IT team is key—it’s about focusing on the business solution rather than technology. I want the IT department to become part of the fabric of an organization rather than standalone and be a servicing operation.”


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Encouraging others to Embrace Technology

The world of technology is constantly evolving and most people, by nature, generally do not embrace change well. As the CIO of GSF, one of Guilda Javaheri’s most important responsibilities is to encourage others to embrace change, brought on by new technologies.

“It is a challenge to us IT folks who are regularly faced with users who are resistant to change and have reservations to try something new,” she said.  “I’m very sensitive to that and often understand their point of view, and I draw from that—it actually motivates me to work harder at explaining the value for them.”

Javaheri observes that the more sophisticated and complex the technological situation becomes, the more important it is to simply explain the why, what, and how, otherwise IT’s job will become much more difficult.

“As part of connecting the dots for the IT team, it is important they understand the purpose and impact of the solution they bring to the business unit.  They need to recognize the importance of transparency and accountability, and it becomes a constant in their daily practices.”


 

Women in Technology

With her diverse background, Javaheri is an active participant in culturally oriented professional events. She is also a strong proponent of encouraging young women to embrace the technology field and consider it as a potential career path.

“There are only 8% of CIO’s that are women, so I encourage women to come to IT,” she said. “I speak on all the various facets and importance of IT in business in hopes of attracting more women to this field.”

Javaheri also mentors young professionals to challenge the status quo and go after their passion. “I believe that only then will you have lifelong satisfaction of the footprint you leave.”

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Stephanie Harris

Stephanie Harris is a freelance writer based in Chicago, Illinois.
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