Madge Meyer: Making Innovation "Business-as-Usual"

Madge Meyer has been recognised with 12 awards for her achievements. Madge Meyer was the Chief Innovation Officer and Technology Fellow at State Street Corporation, where she served as Executive Vice President for over a decade.

Madge believes passionately in making innovation “Business-as-Usual” – to continually develop and implement new ideas or solutions that create business value and increase competitive advantage. During the past year she represented State Street as a Consultant, assisting MIT Collaborative Initiatives to bring innovative solutions to problems broadly ranging from global sustainability to health, education and veterans’ reintegration.

Madge has been recognized with 12 awards for her industry and community achievements, including Bank Systems & Technology “Elite 8 Innovators” and the Bank Technology News “10th Annual Innovators List,” which both honor executives who leverage innovation for competitive advantage. Under her leadership, Madge’s teams at State Street were also recognized with 32 awards for innovation and excellence, including 12 IT environmental sustainability honors. Madge was also recently initiated as a Simmons School of Management 2013 Chapter Honoree into the International Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society as a leader in business and management.

Madge currently serves on the board of the Wall Street Technology Association, is a Sierra Ventures CIO Advisory Board member, a member of Simmons College’s School of Management Business Advisory Council, a CIO Advisory Board member of Globespan, an Advisory Board member of the Asian American Civic Association, and a member of the DNA Medicine Institute Business Advisory Board.

We spoke to Madge about her role at State Street and how it has developed, the challenges she has faced in her career, and the mentors who have inspired her.

TNW: Can you tell us about how your role at State Street has changed over the last decade from Technology Infrastructure Management, to Executive Vice President, Chief Innovation Officer and Technology Fellow, to Consultant? Is there any such thing as a typical work day for you, and if so, what does it look like?

MM: When I was their Executive Vice President, Global Infrastructure Manager, I had a very large international organization. We were responsible for managing our company’s technology infrastructure worldwide, including all networks, datacenters, hardware, software, middleware, end-user computing, etc. It was an intensive and extensive challenge with multiple focal points.

One priority was running the daily operations smoothly with zero-defects. Another was to simultaneously strategically position the company’s technology for future business growth and evolve regulatory requirements. It was a demanding 24/7 job. I summarized those responsibilities in terms of Business & Financial Management, Technology Management and People Management.

Our team performed exceptionally well, so we received 32 industry awards and recognitions for technological excellence and innovation, including 12 sustainability awards.

My role as EVP, Chief Innovation Officer and Technology Fellow allowed me to achieve a bigger impact for State Street’s innovation, extending beyond technology infrastructure. I was able to work with other corporate departments and business units to engage our entire employee population and bring innovation to the center of everyone’s attention. We created a collaborative innovation social media site at State Street called “State Street Innovates,” which has the highest number of employee participants. Subsequently, we became one of the major drivers for the first State Street Innovation Rally.  

I was concurrently occupied with many public speaking engagements and media interviews, also lecturing at various MBA classes and participating as a judge at several national and international Innovation Tournaments. These events helped to highlight State Street’s innovation culture and how innovation could become business-as-usual.  

My consulting assignment involves working with MIT Collaborative Initiatives on a multiplicity of humanitarian projects. One is the Albright Challenge, which is about innovative ways to address the challenges of environmental sustainability and education. It is funded by several different corporations, industries and institutions, which provide me with the opportunity to collaborate with a much broader and diverse group outside and beyond State Street. I am able to offer my own expertise, learn from the other organizations and share more new ideas with the participants.

Another area that I have been involved with is helping veterans’ reintegration. This has exposed me to important military service issues that I had no personal connection with before.

It afforded so many unexpected opportunities for me to understand their unique military challenges, and provide my technical and management expertise to a vast group of organizations all trying to help our distressed veterans. It was extremely rewarding to be able to add value to such a worthy cause.

TNW: In addition to your day to day role, you also mentor students and interns, as well as lecturing at local colleges. How important are mentors and do you have any yourself?

MM: Mentoring is very important. It definitely allows young people to understand business and internal politics much better, and it ultimately helps to accelerate their career paths.

I was mentored by IBM’s retired CEO, Sam Palmisano, at one point in my career. I learned so much from him that I will treasure this experience forever, and it has propelled me forward throughout my career.

We can also receive reciprocal mentoring for ourselves, for social media, etc., by having younger students help to guide experienced executives. This was also illustrated in my book. For example, Anna was a college co-op student in my group who was really quite proficient with social media. She also helped some of our executives to utilize social media – myself included.

I am including personal feedback from three people about their mentoring experiences at my Innovation Office. One was an experienced Vice President, the second one was a summer intern and the third one was a high-potential hire in the technology area.

Below is the quote from my former Innovation Office Chief-of-Staff, Marcy Wintrub, who worked for me for 10 years:

"Virtually everybody who knows Madge talks about how she has made them better. Because of Madge, I'm a better employee, a better team member, a better project manager and a better leader. Because of Madge, I'm even a better person."

Here is the feedback from one of our summer interns, Michael Tuner, who only worked in our Innovation Office for one summer:

“I had the opportunity to work with Madge during the summer of my freshman year in college, and at that point I was only Majoring in English, but had no intention of teaching and no steadfast idea of what I wanted to do. During my time under Madge in the Office of Innovation at State Street, I had the opportunity to really expand myself as a writer and learn what a professional and corporate atmosphere was like. She would also take me aside and talk about my interests and ability as a writer, and these sessions, combined with the work and experience I was receiving, drove me to Minor in Communication and have a more proactive role in both my academic and non-academic career.

Working with Madge has helped to really shape my priorities and objectives for not only my Undergraduate, but my Graduate and post Graduate career. Because of my experience, I now have both a professional and academic plan for what I want to do and I have accomplished and created a few interesting innovations along the way. Chief amongst them, a political talk show I have created at my school, which I intend to expand and improve greatly upon. I am beyond grateful to have such a supporting and motivating mentor as her.”

The third feedback came from a young information technology trainee, Andrew Xue, who was hired through our special Professional Development Program. He was in my group for a 6-month rotational assignment and had been working very closely with me on many different tasks.

“In terms of mentorship, I definitely consider you one of my important career mentors. One of the important things that I related to, besides the Asian American part, was that you were able to effectively leverage your technical background to navigate the complex corporate hierarchies, to become a successful business executive and leadership speaker.

Also coming from a very technical background, I was able to learn early in my career that communication and salesmanship are as important as intelligence and the quality of the product. While working in your Innovation Group, I was able to sit in on many vendor pitch meetings and I was able to watch experienced technical sales people pitch their products with varying levels of success. I learned some great career lessons, such as “know your audience,” and how important it is to have a deep understanding of the customer’s business".

TNW: To what do you attribute the success of the 220+-year old State Street?

MM: Extremely strong leadership and vision, timely innovation and a laser focus on customers and markets. For example, State Street’s retired CEO, Ron Logue, articulated elegantly in the Foreword of my book exactly how State Street originally created and successfully grew the first ETF (Exchange-Traded Fund).

TNW: Your team has won a series of awards and honors for your achievements in innovation, IT excellence and financial contribution to State Street. Can you tell us about some of these?

MM: One of our goals is “Zero-defect execution.” We all know how critical it is to keep our datacenter operations running with no impact to the business and/or our customers. State Street used to have many worldwide datacenters. When we started our datacenter consolidation project, we decided to have 2 major datacenters per region for reciprocal recovery. As we consolidated many datacenters in Europe to 2 key locations, we did so flawlessly. Subsequently, we received an award.

TNW: What do you look for when recruiting team members?

MM:

People must be passionate about what they do and with an open mind for innovation. To ensure success, they must feel driven, energetic and on a vital mission.

TNW: What has been your biggest career challenge? How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?

MM: When I started working, it was a male-dominated world. Furthermore, as an Asian woman, I confronted two challenges – being both female and Asian. People normally consider Asians to be hard workers, but not leaders, since most Asians are culturally quiet and polite. I was receiving great evaluations, but not corresponding promotions. Since I was quiet, I didn’t know how to promotionally package my personal accomplishments, so other employees claimed all the credit for themselves by including mine with their own. In my book, I talk about how to package our accomplishments using actual facts.

TNW: Have you ever experienced any discrimination as a successful woman in the workplace? What strategies did you develop to overcome this?

MM: Companies generally would not tolerate discrimination. However, since people gather from different backgrounds and cultures, some unconscious bias regarding gender or race always existed. I ignored any of those issues. I would be wasting my own time and energy, and nothing would change anyway.

I redirect my time and energy away from anything that I cannot control. This is probably the original personal “secret of my success.”

TNW: Do you believe the gender gap is beginning to close?

MM: Data has shown that the gender gap is closing slowly.

I think the proper way to close the gender gap is to appoint the best qualified person for the job, disregarding that person’s gender and race.

However, unfortunately companies sometimes try to achieve quotas by favoring gender and race over the demonstrated quality of the best candidate.

TNW: You have previously summarized your philosophy with the phrase, "The best is yet to come!" What is next on the agenda for Ms. Meyer?

MM: I would like to make an impact on the future by making innovation universally business-as-usual. It should become everyone’s personal expectation and responsibility.

I am representing State Street, working with MIT Collaborative Initiatives on their “Albright Challenge” and veterans’ reintegration initiatives. The Albright Challenge focuses on sustainability and education. I am certain this initiative will produce important new ideas and opportunities for education and preparing for the future. Veterans’ reintegration is an urgent issue, and we should all do our very best to help our military personnel reintegrate successfully into the community.

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you’d like to share with our community?

MM: I would like to comment on my recently published book, “The Innovator’s Path.” It shared the eight-discipline framework for managing the risks and rewards of change to create business value and attain a competitive advantage. You will learn the principles behind each discipline and how to instill the practices into every level of your organization. There are sixteen exemplary innovation leaders across diverse industries who illustrate my disciplines, contributing their fascinating stories and lessons learned.

The eight disciplines of innovation move beyond conventional thinking to establish higher standards for what is meant by:

• Listen—perceiving a hidden wealth of insight and information

• Lead—inspiring others to achieve beyond their expectations

• Position—defining an agile, strategic road map toward the future

• Promote—conveying the value of your innovations and your brand

• Connect—reaching and achieving across and beyond traditional boundaries

• Commit—replacing fear of failure with calculated risk-taking

• Execute—delivering customer-focused business results, quickly and measurably

• Evolve—relentlessly accelerating the pace and challenging complacency

Read “The Innovator’s Path” and discover how your organization can create and sustain a phenomenal journey to the future.

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