SIM President Deborah DeCorrevont: Growing IT in Arizona

June 17, 2013

Deborah DeCorrevont knows about building a career in IT. Now as President of the Society for Information Management Arizona chapter she aims to help others do the same.

DeCorrevont began her career in the 1970s in Philadelphia, where she worked in a number of IT roles, including as a data processing coordinator and as manager of an IT group for a small company.

In 1992 DeCorrevont and her husband moved to Phoenix. “When we moved to Phoenix, I accepted a position working for Sunbelt Business Computers, where I was responsible for software development, systems administration, and database administration,” DeCorrevont explains to KnowWPC in a recent interview. “The position involved a lot of travelling installing systems for our clients across the country.”

In 1996, DeCorrevont went to work at Choice Hotels International. “I managed the database administration group,” she recounts, “Then moved into a director position to include report development and data integration.” Eventually, she became senior director of enterprise data management. “My responsibilities included database administration, business intelligence data warehousing and participation in IT governance and strategic planning.”

After 14 years at Choice Hotels, DeCorrevont decided it was time for a change. She took about nine months off -- “to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up” -- and then went to work at SRP – her current position.

At SRP, DeCorrevont manages IT strategic planning. “The position was challenging for me because at the time SRP didn’t have formalized strategic planning for IT. We have a program in place now that includes an annual review of the strategic IT plan and an enterprise IT business technology roadmap that shows all the IT initiatives going on throughout the company.” Today, she’s working on creating an office of IT governance.

Fostering an IT ecosystem

DeCorrevont joined the Arizona chapter of the Society for Information Management (SIM) about four years ago on the advice of a colleague. “I attended a couple of meetings as the colleague’s guest and learned about SIM and thought that it was very worthwhile, and soon after became a member.”

DeCorrevont quickly took on a leadership role in the organization, as VP of Marketing. “I wanted to contribute to the organization,” she explains. The following year, she took a leadership position as head of programs, and in her third year, became chapter president.

Of the value of SIM, DeCorrevont says, “SIM offers a really great opportunity for IT executives to get together with peers -- to network, to talk to other people and find out what they’re working on. You get to share success stories, share issues where you need help or advice, and offer help or advice to others.”

One of the goals for SIM this year, DeCorrevont says, is to enhance the presence of SIM in the local business community. “We want to increase the size of our organization so we can provide even greater benefits to our members. We started 2013 with about 35 members, we have 60 members now, and our goal is to reach 100 by the end of the year.”

It’s a lofty goal, but attainable given the buzz that SIM has been getting in the Phoenix area. That’s thanks in part to the organization’s IT Leader of the Year (formerly CIO of the Year) award, which this year went to Marc Chesley, CTO at Infusionsoft, who is now a member of the SIM board. “We’re becoming increasingly well known as a leading IT leader organization,” DeCorrevont says. “We’re hoping to continue expanding our membership, getting more quality programs and having an even greater impact on the community.”

Cultivating future IT leaders

In addition to the opportunity to develop relationships with other local IT executives, DeCorrevont says that one of the best features of SIM is its ties to the W. P. Carey School of Business, and to the future IT leaders that the university is cultivating. “This relationship is something I’ve put a lot of focus on as president,” she says. “One of our 2013 goals is expanding our relationship with the W. P. Carey School.”

SIM gets involved with students in a number of ways. The group funds two scholarships per year. It also asks member companies to provide internship and mentoring opportunities to students, and it works with students in capstone sources. “Our aim is to help the students learn what it’s like to be out in the corporate IT world,” DeCorrevont says. In addition, SIM allows the year’s two scholarship recipients and two students from the Department of Information Systems Club to attend the group’s monthly meetings.

For the past several years, SIM members have worked with Information Systems Professor Timothy Olsen’s capstone class on a developing a website for the Arizona SIM chapter. “Our members tell the students what kind of functionality we want in the site, then we go back and review the work -- just like a regular client would -- sometimes changing our requirements mid-stream to give the students a real-world experience,” DeCorrevont explains. The latest iteration of the site is due to go live soon, she said.

Department Chairman Michael Goul says the SIM partnership provides valuable opportunities to look at important and timely topics. He points out SIM’s June meeting, when Dale Kalika, a management professor from the W. P. Carey School, leads a panel designed to provide SIM leaders with insights into managing millennials.

“This type of partnership is a win-win-win. Our professors can deliver practical insights to high level executives, our current and former student panelists can build their professional network to include Phoenix area IT executives, and SIM members can interact firsthand with WP Carey School students majoring in computer information systems."

Women in STEM

DeCorrevont herself has also been involved with the Women in STEM group (formerly Women in Technology) at the W. P. Carey School. Helping women rise through the ranks of IT leadership is a topic that is particularly near to DeCorrevont’s heart. “It’s true that women are underrepresented in IT. Women are going into the field, but there seems to be that glass ceiling where you don't get that many women in the highest management levels. There are some but not as many as there should be.”

Because IT leadership has been dominated by men, many women have a hard time feeling confident in leadership roles, DeCorrevont says. “Yes, you’re the minority as a woman in IT leadership, but you need to be as confident as the men you’re working with. You are able to do the job, and you just have to learn to feel comfortable.” Female IT leaders, she added, need to mentor the women who follow them.

DeCorrevont and her colleagues are certainly setting a good example: when she first joined SIM about four years ago there were only two female members in the chapter. “Now there are three women on the board,” she says. DeCorrevont is the second female president in a row; her predecessor was the first-ever female president of SIM Arizona.

From recruiting new SIM members to foster an IT ecosystem, to working with the W. P. Carey School to cultivate future IT leaders, to helping women IT leaders break through the glass ceiling, DeCorrevont is clearly committed to growing IT in Arizona.