Two women have been named the country’s chief information officers of the year in the first annual award of its kind by the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and CanadianCIO magazine.
Corinne Charette, the federal government’s CIO, was given the honour in the public sector category and Brenda Hoffman, CIO of the TMX Group, which runs several trading exchanges including the Toronto Stock Exchange, won in the private sector.
The awards were given out Wednesday night as part of ITAC’s annual Ingenious Awards gala, where six organizations were honoured for innovative IT projects judged best in their fields.
Not only did Hoffman win a personal prize, but TMX also won an Ingenious Award in the large private sector category for its staff-built Quantum XA equity trading system.
Other Ingenious winners were:
Not-for-profit: The Halifax International Airport Authority, for a self-serve baggage drop system
Small/medium public sector: New Brunswick Office of the CIO for its security event management centre (SEMC) offering centralized cyber-infrastructure security.
Small/medium private sector: Vancouver’s Global Relay – a cloud archiving and service firm
Large public sector: (Two winners) Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry for its searchable, signed consent data base system; and St. Mary’s General Hospital of Kitchener, Ont., with a system that posting real-time emergency department wait times.
Canadian CIO is a publication of IT World Canada. “These two awards embody significant achievements by the inaugural inductees, allowing all partners (ITAC, CIOCAN & ITWC) of the Ingenious Program alongside the full complement of the ICT industry to celebrate Canadian innovation enabled by technology,” said group publisher Fawn Annan.
For Charette, having two women win CIO of the year awards is memorable advancing in the profession because she worries that fewer women are choosing IT for a career.
“I’m quite concerned that (the numbers of) women in IT are not going up,” she said in an interview. “We’re not maintaining parity… enrolment by women in these programs is slight down. And from a federal perspective, we see fewer younger women coming into the profession.”
Named to her position in 2009, Charette has overseen the federal Shared Services program, which is merging hundreds of data centres into seven (plus six mirror sites).
The awards committee called her “a collaborative and visionary trailblazer …she has led the organization through a period of tremendous flux, working through government transformation pressures, reduced budgets and workplace volatility.”
The government was already thinking of shared services when she arrived, but Charette helped kick-start the process in 2011. In fact she counts the creation of Shared Services Canada as one of her best moments.
Her position though has had one downside: Less time to spend on her favourite pastimes, boating and snowmobiling.
Hoffman leads a team of 500 professionals who build and operate IT systems for the country’s biggest capital trading marketplaces. The awards committee chose her for overseeing the design, development and delivery of TMX Group’s proprietary Quantum XA, the fastest trading engine in the world. “This achievement has helped to place TMX in the forefront of the highly competitive business of electronic exchanges,” the committee said.
It’s quite an achievement for a person who graduated from the University of Waterloo with an economics degree and stumbled into tech, by her account, by hitting it off with a recruiter from what was then TIL Systems, which installed trading systems in stock exchanges around the world. “Within seven months I was living in Madrid,” she recalled, and learning about IT.
Eventually the company was bought by IBM, where she built and ran the global competency centre for installing electronic trading systems global capital markets with a staff of some 250.
Called in to help TMX install a system it had built, she was hired by the exchange to transform it to be “a technology-driven organization” with a trading system at least as fast if not faster than other exchanges around the world. Publicly-traded companies need speed, or they’ll list elsewhere.
Quantum XA, launched last August, is the third generation trading platform installed since Hoffman arrived in 2001. She’s spare in describing the system except to say it has six patents, runs on fewer layers of the IT stack than most systems and can process in 5.4 seconds an entire day’s worth of trading orders that 10 years ago took a full day. “We’re processing in double digit microseconds,” she said.
She did it by encouraging staff to think in terms of innovation.
“Technology is the enabler of businesses,” she says of the biggest lesson learned over the years, “but you need to ensure you are able to communicate with business leaders and your business peers, because it’s not technology for the sake of technology – its technology for the sake of improved business services and products.”