ing limited budgetary resources.
On Toy’s watch, the foundation has implemented a
professional-grade data center with advanced technologies like blade servers, storage area networks, virtualization and disaster recovery — working within an
annual budget of well under $1 million, which includes
salaries for himself and his 11 staffers, who are charged
with supporting 1,500 users nationwide.
Toy, who has worked at Make-A-Wish for 16 years,
was introduced to the organization while helping a
fellow IT contract worker do a network upgrade there.
With that project successfully off the ground, Toy was
tapped as the organization’s first IT manager and was
promoted to IT director in 1999 and CIO in 2008.
During his tenure, Toy has developed a talent for
soliciting hardware and software donations from
vendors. That’s a unique assignment that only a CIO
at a nonprofit would be expected to undertake, but the
donations help him deal with budgetary bottlenecks.
“In a large organization, you have to work within
these guardrails where this is the technology and this is
the budget,” he says. “Because you can’t go over budget,
you propose new things and they get shot down. I’m not
limited by that. I can go out and acquire new technology
and get deep discounts because I’m a nonprofit.”
Toy admits that he may have less opportunity to
grow technologically than a CIO at a large company,
but he feels that this limitation is offset by his ability
to take on additional responsibilities in the areas of
finance and operations. The lower pay of smaller firms
and nonprofits in general might be a deterrent for
some, Toy says, but it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make.
“You just need to find tradeoffs to the lower salary of
working for a nonprofit,” he says. “With Make-A-Wish,
it’s the mission of the organization that’s so rewarding.”
Daring to Go Where Large Firms Won’t
The same goes for Edward Ricks, CIO and vice president of information services at Beaufort Memorial
Hospital, where he leads an IT staff of 23.
Sure, the financial resources might be less than what’s
available at larger organizations, and his IT group is
often pulled in a lot of different directions, depending
on personalities and who can grab his ear. But even with
these tradeoffs, Ricks, 49, doesn’t see himself at a larger
organization. From what he’s heard from colleagues, he’d
be out of his comfort zone. “In those situations, so many
other folks have control over what’s going on with you,
you can feel like a widget, not an individual,” he says.
Ricks doesn’t think he’s missing out on an opportunity to do big things with technology at a larger organization. In fact, his community hospital has adopted
a number of cutting-edge healthcare technologies,
including single sign-on systems, an RFID employee
identification tool, and a provider order-entry system
that physicians use to enter orders directly.
“Ironically, one of the larger hospital systems just
came down here to visit and see what we’ve done,”
Ricks says. “They’re interested in doing it, but they just
My greatest strengths are in relationship-
building and innovation. These are skills
that translate across the board.
PAUL HAUGAN, CTO, CITY OF LYNNWOOD, WASH.
haven’t been able to get to that point.”
Ricks is equally unconcerned that his organization’s
smaller size might limit the scope of his management
skill set. “The ability to build consensus, foster team-
work and effect change at all levels of an organization
are skills that are in demand at every organization,”
he says. “I believe future employers will measure my
abilities by my successes, not necessarily the size of the
organizations I have worked in.”
Touchstone Behavioral’s Porter agrees, saying he
envisions numerous future career opportunities; these
could include pursuing another CIO role at a slightly
larger company, or branching out on a big-company
track as an IT leader in a business unit reporting up to a
division head or CIO, or taking ownership of a focused
enterprise team in applications or infrastructure.
“I think the opportunities are there,” Porter says.
“It’s fairly obvious I’m not going to get the call to take
over HP, but I wouldn’t want that call. It’s a whole different set of headaches.” u
Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has
reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.