Growing up in rural Connecticut, Noreen Randazzo was brought up thinking there wasn't a big difference between herself and her two brothers. "My father always said, 'You're just as intelligent as your brothers; you can play sports just as well as they do.' I left the family nest feeling completely equal," Randazzo says, and even then, she had two ideas about her future.
"I either wanted to be a teacher like my mother, or an entrepreneur like my father," Randazzo says. But it was the early 1980s, and she took her sister's advice and went to business school. "With a technical or business degree, you can do whatever you want in the future," she says. She quickly discovered an interest in information systems. "I found out that IT leadership and business leadership was really about strategy, risk management and business capability; really linking ideas and solutions to business needs. And I was really fascinated by that. I figured out right away this was a field that offered the kind of diversity that would be exciting for me."
The challenges she faced at The University of Connecticut School of Business 30 years ago, and later in the workforce, while not necessarily more difficult than those of her male counterparts, were different. And, with few women in IT sales and consulting at the time, there were no best practices to follow. "It was pretty tough," she says, adding that she had to be creative and, more importantly, resilient and make certain her work was understood. "I adopted a practice of being very fact-based and logical in terms of presenting and articulating the work I had done."
Randazzo began her career at Unisys as an account manager in 1985, and was VP and general manager at Siemens before joining The Hartford as VP of the infrastructure team in 2006. Now, as CIO, enterprise systems, at The Hartford, Randazzo says her most important achievement has been engaging and motivating employees from across the enterprise, as well as her external partners, to think and act as one team, driving one outcome: a shift from focusing on internal delivery of solutions to a hosted cloud-based technology model for the customer-contact center; a five-year program on track for delivery in closer to three years.
"We spent a lot of time talking to people about what needed to be different, celebrating wins and successes along the way to show people the behaviors we want others to emulate," she says. "I'm amazed at how people have embraced the change, moved out of their comfort zones and taken on different skills and competencies."
Previously, Randazzo worked in major accounts for Siemens, where she participated in mergers and acquisitions, had full P&L accountability and built out central services. She became an early expert in IT consulting and outsourcing services and counted The Hartford as a customer. But when Siemens was acquired, she realized she had lost her work/life balance and took a year-long sabbatical to reconnect important relationships and reconsider what she wanted to do with herself and her career.
"I was quickly able to figure out that I loved my work, but I didn't want to go back to a role where I would be so narrowly focused," she says. She wanted to connect with customers while leveraging her mentoring skills and IT knowledge.
"I came to The Hartford with a great sense of clarity about what I wanted to do," she says. In addition to her responsibilities as VP and CIO of Enterprise Solutions, Randazzo works with The Hartford's employee resource group and is a member of the company's professional women's network. Outside the office, Randazzo volunteers her time at the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, where she led the successful 2008 annual fund campaign. "This is an organization that is not just handing out money to people, but actually creating ways for people to become self-sufficient. That's the reason I became a founding member of the Women's Leadership Counsel. Our charter there is to do a similar thing by educating women on financial stability."
Randazzo is described as continuously developing the culture of customer services and operational excellence. She transformed contact center operations and over five years, provided advanced capabilities and significant cost savings. Catching the eyes of the WIL judges, she manages 200 associates within the her group, including employees and contractors, and formally takes on three mentees per year, creating formal career development plans.
Randazzo now has several women mentors, including Susan Dunne, president and CEO at United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, and Lois Grady, a senior executive with The Hartford. "I learned very early on that you can't be successful if you don't get help from a lot of people," Randazzo says. "I tell people I'm a work in progress."
Number of years in the industry: 27 in technology
Number of direct reports: 8
The Hartford's gross written premium: $14.1 billion earned premium
Nominated by: The Hartford
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