Barbara Piehler represents a new breed of corporate CIO, one that no longer requires extensive information technology experience. In the insurance industry, this trend has been reinforced recently through the appointment of several CIOs who have built their reputations on the business side of the industry.But, while many of these executives eventually blended IT with business competency prior to taking over as CIO, Piehler, who is senior vice president, information systems, and CIO for Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co., had only accumulated about a year of information systems' experience by the time she assumed the CIO position in October 2002.

Hired to succeed now-retired Walter Wojick, Piehler faced the prospect of mastering the dynamics of IT in what has been an on-the-job learning experience.

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