Phil Crawford, Chief Technology Officer for Godiva Chocolatier, has always loved computers. This love for technology has developed into his new position as CTO for Godiva, where he works to maintain high standards of customer experience, ensure technological stability and position his team for the future.
Godiva as a brand needs little introduction, and Phil’s leadership helps the company maintain its established presence as a premier chocolatier. With a rich heritage in dedicated craftsmanship and an expansive worldwide presence, Godiva chocolate is a mainstay in the retail locations, cities and countries the brand operates in.
We had the chance to ask Phil about his career and the state of the industry for the latest edition of the National CIO Review. From his plans for future innovation at Godiva to potentially disruptive technology, we were able to discuss the most pressing concerns that technology executives face today. We also had the chance to discuss some of Phil’s influences, favorite books and leadership strategies.
Walk me through your CIO path. How did you decide to pursue a career in technology, and how did you progress to your current organization?
I have had a passion for technology for as long as I can remember. When my mom, who was a public educator, and father purchased an original Commodore 64 computer and compact Macintosh in the 80s, something clicked for me. These machines struck such a chord of curiosity in my mind that I spent countless hours learning all about the hardware and, subsequently, software that powered these magical little devices. I became addicted to learning about programming languages and how creating some simple lines of code could transform a blank screen into something magical. This was the real launching pad for my career.
Throughout my professional life, I have been connected to technology in one way or another. I have been blessed to work for some amazing mentors and brands that have continued to push my envelope for learning and creativity.
Would you consider yourself a CIO/CTO or a hybrid? Why? What are the essential differences?
I would consider myself a CTO and CDO (Digital Officer) hybrid. I think that the nomenclature of titles too often gets in the way of the task at hand. We have been living in a digital age for quite some time now. To stay relevant, I like to say that all leaders in this space should be a combination of technologist and digital chemist.
What initiatives have you overseen to date in your time with Godiva? What’s on the horizon?
I just celebrated my one-month anniversary with Godiva, so it’s a bit premature to speak about what I’ve overseen. I can tell you that I’ll be modernizing and building Godiva’s technology stacks for a robust, worldwide footprint that will enable our brand to make more meaningful digital connections with customers. I’ll also be leveraging my experience in building, innovating, and scaling transformational digital technologies to further elevate Godiva’s customer experience as a global, omni-channel brand.
What new or disruptive technology issues or emerging trends do you see as impacting your industry in the future?
AI will be a game changer in our industry. It will improve our internal support, optimize infrastructure, be a predictive moderator for production systems, enhance the customer experience, and improve our inventory management.
Share your thoughts on the availability of IT talent. What strategies do you employ, and what’s different in your organization?
Top IT talent is becoming increasingly harder to attract and retain, especially as competition for skilled personnel among companies becomes more prevalent. We are fortunate to have a powerful brand that resonates with candidates and a reputation for providing compelling development and career opportunities. We constantly look to evolve our employee experience and are proud of our employee proposition, which differentiates us from our competition.
What personal traits and attributes are essential for today’s CIO versus 10 to 20 years ago?
I don’t believe you can put a differentiator between the attributes necessary 10-20 years ago versus today. Core common leadership is, and will always be, core common leadership. Sure, business itself and technology have changed, but leaders will always need: a sense of humility, integrity, eagerness to continually learn, innovative thinking, internal and external awareness, and an overall drive to be successful.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a CIO?
First and foremost, be humble and always remember your roots and where you come from. Second, continue to educate yourself outside of traditional schooling. Keep up with trends. Read. Go to seminars. Never stop learning. Finally, remember that is ok to fail as long as you learn from it and don’t make the same mistakes again.
How do you decompress from the challenges of being a technology leader? What do you do for fun?
Easy. Hit the gym, read, and spend time with my family. It is all about a life-work balance, not a work-life balance.
Who have been your biggest influences, and why?
Professionally, my biggest influence has been Steve Jobs for many reasons. He was a radical thinker and extremely bold in his decision-making. Jobs was always steadfast on pressing ideas and ideals among his peers to strive for perfection in product. He was also concerned with changing lives for the better through Apple’s products and believed that technology could address societal issues. Finally, Jobs was hyper-focused on creating lasting products and solutions, which in turn created a lasting company and legacy.
Personally, my biggest influence has been my parents. They gave me the building blocks for the man, the husband, and the father I am today. Without their love, wisdom, work ethic, drive, and the values they instilled in me, I would not be where I am today.
Which books have you gifted the most over your career? What are the top books that you recommend?
• “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight
• “Creative Followership” by Jimmy Collins
• “The Digital Transformation Playbook” by David Rogers
• “The Digital Matrix” by Venkat Venkatraman
• “Setting the Table” by Danny Meyer
If you weren’t doing the job that you have today, what would be your dream job?
I have always said that if I was ever going to do something else, I’d be a veterinarian. I’ve just always had an affinity for our little furry friends.
We have asked you many questions, but as a final question, what would you want our readers to know about you that we haven’t asked?
As a leader, I believe it’s incumbent on me to help develop the leaders of tomorrow. It’s something I’m incredibly passionate about. To help them develop and reach their full potential, I need continue to educate myself. By far, one of my favorite resources for learning more about leadership and innovation is anything by Craig Groeschel. I often reference his quote, “Be Humble. Be Yourself. People would rather follow a leader who is always real than one who is always right.”