View from the C-Suite: Rhonda Vetere, CTO, Estée Lauder Companies, Inc.

Rhonda Vetere Dives into Full Contact Management
Interview by: Sandy Frinton
Published in Pulse Magazine, March/April 2014
Known as a “change agent” throughout her career that has included senior-level global IT leadership positions at AIG, HP, Lehman Brothers/Barclays and JPMorgan Chase, Vetere is bringing a fresh approach to her new position as CTO of Estée Lauder.

Whether diving off cliffs or running half marathons through snow and ice in New York City, Rhonda Vetere isn’t afraid to take risks, and push herself and her people to their fullest capabilities with her passionate and inspiring leadership.
In her new position since December 2013, Vetere is responsible for all global technology. She brings the unique perspective of having worked on both sides of the table as a customer and provider across multiple industry sectors from telecommunications to technology, finance and insurance.
“Rhonda is a leader with great strategic insights coupled with an ability to organize teams to flawless execution,” said IAOP strategic advisory board member Atul Vashistha, Chairman, Neo Group, who has known Vetere for almost a decade.

In her prior roles she moved enterprise IT through global change, spearheaded 13 successful global mergers and implemented more effective processes. From living in India and London, managing operations and teams of thousands of associates globally, Vetere is experienced at creating a high-performance global culture.

Her approach to IT is tailoring unique solutions to the region and business needs with a motto that “the world doesn’t revolve around North America.”
An author, mentor, and leadership and inspirational speaker, she’s serious about leading by example and leaving behind a legacy. Vetere believes people are #1 and instills in them her 10 guiding principles that she also lives by that include everything from being on time to meetings to not being afraid to share opinions to upper management, admitting mistakes and recognizing your team.
Vetere values the importance of trust, relationships, people, passion, innovation and doing the right thing, which were also recurring themes expressed by C-level executives throughout The 2014 Outsourcing World Summit. While a cancelled flight from snowy New York prevented Vetere from making it to Orlando to participate as a judge in our CSR game show, Pulse magazine caught up with her to get her views on outsourcing, life in the C-Suite, and how she finds balance.
P: Tell me about your new position at Estée Lauder?
R: I pride myself on being here. The culture is open and dynamic, relationship-driven and people-focused. Estée Lauder has very respectful values. My new position as CTO is very diverse in the interactions I have on a day-to-day basis with everyone from technology team members to business stakeholders.

P: What are some of the values you bring to the organization?

R: I have 10 guiding principles that all my employees know. (see sidebar). I tell people that report to me – “If I don’t challenge you three times a day, I’m not doing my job.” So I try to get people out of their boxes. I lead by example and hold my team to the same high standards that I have for myself.

P: You have been involved with managing IT services in many different industry sectors – telecommunications, finance, insurance – what are the common themes? What are the key questions IT managers should ask or areas to focus on?

R: For any company in any industry, it’s the same: How do you make the technology work? What makes the business work? It’s about running IT as a business. Some of the key factors are: measurement, true transparency and trust. You have to know your metrics; you can’t manage an environment if you don’t know your numbers. Today business intelligence and data mining is becoming more important to collect and manage data across the globe and adjust processes to meet regional requirements.

P: You have been recognized by Gartner for running Global Operations/Infrastructure across multiple technology domains. What are some of the best practices to consider?

R: Some of the best practices are: establishing a service catalog, knowing your costs and knowing what you have in your IT environment. The actual counts and how much they cost to get to activity-based costing is key.

P: What advice can you provide to companies embarking on an outsourcing relationship? What makes it work or what pitfalls should people avoid?

R: Establish the right contract with clear service levels globally in writing, ensuring all parties understand the roles and responsibilities to the detailed level. Also, have the Executive Sponsor in the outsourcing arrangement meet monthly and review a scorecard that are upfront agreed to Key Performance Indicators. Cost alone should not be the sole reason for considering outsourcing.

P: Why has trust become so important in outsourcing relationships?

R: The world has evolved. You need to have relationships and not play the ‘blame game.’ There needs to be a level of trust on both sides. You want them to know you have a partner in hand. Both sides need to drive outcomes together at the executive levels and drive that culture through as a two in the box within both companies.

P: Tell me about your early experiences as one of the first female leaders to spearhead offshoring in India and set up operations in Mumbai and Bangalore.

R: That was very early in outsourcing and I spent a lot of time in India. It was a great experience. We were establishing the workforce strategy and it was important to drive the right culture and have the right leader in India and team collaboration.

P: What did you learn from your different cultural experiences?

R: I learned the world is dynamic and you need to take off the blinders, and see and live in the culture you are working in overall. Each culture is different and I learned how to manage culturally. From my experiences living globally, I wrote Enterprise Service Management for Dummies. One of my mantras is: ‘The world doesn’t revolve around North America.’ It’s is not appropriate to have North America driving decisions that apply around the world. Processes and technology strategies have to be adjusted by region and by business to achieve the best results and enable the needs of the firm.

P: Tell me about your experiences teaching at colleges?

R: I am active in teaching about bringing real-life practices into cross-cultural environments. I enjoy
interacting with the Millennial Generation of 18 to 24-year-olds who are entering and impacting the workforce. They are interesting to keep an eye on. How they interact with social technology and mobile technology isn’t traditional and it is creating whole new markets, which I see as an opportunity.

P: Who are your role models?

R: Professionally, Austin Adams, retired CIO of JPMorgan Chase, because throughout his career he was very humble, did the right thing, made the right decisions and treated people with respect. I also admire Oprah Winfrey, Margaret Thatcher and Condoleezza Rice for their strength as women, their diversity and being risk takers, although this does not mean I support their political views 100 percent.

P: What are your favorite reading materials?

R: Harvard Business Review, USA Today and running magazines.

P: What are your interests?

R: I run half marathons. I ran one in January out of the country and I just ran one in February in New York’s Central Park. I try to do 7 or 8 marathons a year. Running keeps me balanced. I don’t run with earphones. It’s when I think. It gives me mental toughness and focus.

Rhonda Vetere at a Glance 

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Has spearheaded 13 successful global mergers throughout her career.

RECOGNITIONS: Has received six industry nominations for implementations of global data centers and has been recognized by Gartner for how to run Global Operations/Infrastructure across multiple technology domains

GLOBAL INVOLVEMENT: Society for Women’s Health Research and Women in Technology

SPEAKING: Has spoken at various global conferences and several colleges, including Smith Tuck/Dartmouth, George Mason University, Longwood University and Ohio State University. In addition, she was the executive sponsor for diversity at Barclays and actively participated in speaking engagements with Hewlett Packard.

AUTHOR: Enterprise Service Management for Dummies, HP Special Edition

EDUCATION: Holds a degree in Business and Communications from George Mason University.

PERSONAL: Currently lives in Greenwich, CT with her husband. Enjoys running half marathons, swimming, skiing, scuba diving, football and golf.


Rhonda Vetere's 10 Guiding Principles


Respect your team members, peers and management.


Communicate important information and actions to your employees, peers and management.


Listen to what is being communicated to you, even if you are not the primary source of the communication.


Know your business. Have an elevator speech prepared to explain what you do.


Show up to meetings, events and corporate functions on time and prepared.


Take accountability for your areas of responsibility, your actions and your team’s actions.


Meaning, “say what you believe,” regarding a topic or discussion point, whether you are a manager or not. People cannot understand silence.


Be honest. Don’t take credit for what is not your’s and admit your mistakes.


Employees and their efforts need to be recognized.


This means understand your metrics, KPIs, financial information and relevant performance data.

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