Education: MBA, Washington University
First Job: Waitress
What I'm Reading: The Emotional Intelligence Quick Book, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves; Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck
My Philosophy: Be the best you can be with integrity.
Family: Husband, Mike; son, Michael.
Interests: Reading, cooking and hiking in Scotland.
Favorite Charities: United Way
Shirley Cunningham • Monsanto
Chief Information Officer2009 award winner
Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have been surrounded by great people—people who possess the skills I’ve always aspired to have. Building this great network of leaders allowed me to tap into a deeper knowledge and resource base, and has helped me significantly in becoming the leader I am today.
In 1998, I was asked to move from my home in Scotland, to Brussels, Belgium, to run information technology services for Monsanto’s Information Technology group, covering our three key business units. In this role, I went from managing 30-40 people to managing 300-400 people. My mentor and respected leaders offered me the best advice I could imagine—take roles that make you uncomfortable, because you don’t learn as much from roles you are comfortable with. I learned quickly that being uncomfortable in a role is a catalyst for change not only in your career, but also in you as a person.
Even in my role, I’m always pursuing life-long learning. There is so much to learn from the people around you, as long as you keep an open mind to learning from different sources. It is important for every person within an organization to understand the business, and challenges facing the business. If you do this, you can provide different and better solutions to help further the entire organization.
I’ve been very fortunate to work for a company that empowers all of its employees to explore career options and do things outside of traditional work functions. The company’s leadership has recognized the skills and value I can bring to a position, and I’ve had job opportunities that have gone beyond my traditional role. I think when you are choosing where to begin, or continue, your career, it is imperative to work for a company that has the values and ethics that you admire.
As a leader, I know that the business isn’t about me; it’s about the function and people i’m managing. The biggest accomplishment for me is to have my business function and people recognized for doing an outstanding job. I’m motivated by seeing people within my function succeeding, and at the end of the day, I want my team to provide outstanding value for our business. I’m always encouraging my people to take chances and learn outside of the box. My legacy would be to leave behind people that do an even better job than I did.