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Top 10 Women in Retail Tech

Chain Store Age presents its third annual “Top 10 Women in Retail Technology ” report, which showcases the achievements of an influential group of technology executives. The professionals in the class of the 2017 — profiled below in no particular order — exemplify the innovation and leadership needed to suceed in today’s fast-changing retail environment. They share a record of success that is worthy of emulation by all their peers.

Beth McCormick,VP of applications, PetSmart

Beth McCormick worked in retail throughout high school and college — an experience that sparked her initial interest in retailing. However, it was her role as an IT consultant that helped her realize she found her niche and “fell in love with retail technology.”

“I learned the distinct challenges retail clients faced and how technology could help meet those challenges head on,” she said.

Her consulting experience lead her to join American Eagle Outfitters in 1999, where she was responsible for store systems across the brand and applied technology to push for more superior customer experiences. During her tenure, she held various IT leadership positions, including VP of applications.

After 14 years at American Eagle, McCormick joined PetSmart in 2014 as VP of applications. While there, she has built a new IT organization responsible for development, delivery and application operations that support key initiatives across the organization.

McCormick is also responsible for bringing PetSmart’s digital platform in-house. The architecture took 10 months to complete — just in time for the 2016 holiday season. She said the project, which also included replacing fulfillment and customer care partners, “was a fast-paced, very challenging project and whenPetSmart.comwent online it was quickly robust and stable.”

McCormick has been fortunate to have significant roles with two large retailers. But she said it’s still challenging at times to be the only woman on the team or in the room.

“There are still far too few women executives in IT, and we must work hard to change that,” she added. “While I’ve always had tremendously supportive bosses and leaders, I still find myself in situations where I am treated differently.”

McCormick’s success is driven by building trusted, respected partner relationships with business leaders, listening to customers’ needs, keeping up with technological trends and, most importantly, aggressively delivering value to the business.

“[Retail IT] is incredibly fast-paced, stimulating and challenging,” she added. “IT has to move fast in order to keep pace, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Kristen Williams,Senior director e-commerce, Walmart

Even as a student at the University of Arkansas in 1999, Kristen Williams was passionate about IT. After taking a position as a network cable installation tech on campus, she learned technology “from the ground up” — a concept so profound that she changed her major from industrial engineering to computer engineering. The change landed Williams a position as a network analyst at Walmart upon graduation in 2001.

She worked her way up, holding a variety of roles and leadership positions — and always using her passion for retail technology as a conduit for new opportunities.

“I am attracted to both the tinkering side of technology, and the cognitive side,” she said. “Technology is not only a pathway for executives in the field. It can solve problems, make users’ lives easier, and open more doors for businesses.”

Williams is eager to learn new tech trends, drawn to new projects and uses technology as a means of reaching new goals. One accomplishment she is proud of is helping Walmart integrate its online and offline experiences; building and expanding its online grocery and pickup business, as well as driving its omnichannel operation both domestically and abroad.

“Driving e-commerce integration was a huge accomplishment and a highlight in my career so far,” Williams said.

Yet, of all her accomplishments, Williams said she is most proud of the fact that she has become “a well-rounded player who can help the company solve problems.”

“I am always looking to satisfy my next goal,” she said. “Staying abreast of technology trends lets me move toward my potential, and keep moving forward. Working toward new accomplishments is not something I am willing to sacrifice.”

Deb Dixson,Senior VP, global chief information security officer, Best Buy Co.

As the breadth of digital technology — and data — continues to expand, information security professionals across the retail industry struggle with how to secure their organizations. This challenge is something that Deb Dixson confronts daily.

Dixson’s passion for technology evolved through a sales job where she sold grading, scheduling and testing software and hardware to the education industry The first step in her retail technology journey was as an IT contractor tasked with replacing a homegrown gift card system with a vendor-provided system.

“It gave me great exposure and the opportunity to interact with many facets of the business, including the need to constantly morph and change to meet the needs of our customers — and I was hooked,” Dixson recalled.

That need for reinvention prompted Dixson to explore what was happening in retail related to information security. With an eye on protecting enterprise data, she created the role of chief information security officer at Best Buy, serving in the position from 2000 to 2009, and then at Delhaize America from 2010 to 2014, where she also served as senior VP and U.S CIO. Dixson rejoined the executive team at Best Buy in 2015 as senior VP, global CISO.

As employees and customers have access to so many more solutions that collect data and access networks, “it’s transforming how we need to think and act, as well as the conversations we have to have at all levels,” Dixson said.

“The pace of proliferation and the power of these devices are moving far faster than standards and regulations, which has historically been a guidepost helping us articulate and manage risk,” she explained.

Forging a path that hadn’t previously existed is a testament to Dixson’s passion for retail IT and speaks to her interest in solving new problems as they arise.

“Doing the research and putting the proposal together to create one of the first CISO roles and information security teams in retail, taking teams through major transformations to better serve the business, and helping partners create solutions to address gaps in the industry are the things that I look back on,” Dixson added. “I’m grateful to have been in the right place at the right time to have made an impact.”

Ashlee Aldridge,Senior VP and CIO, DSW Inc.

Ashlee Aldridge believes that retail success stems from teamwork and strategic relationships. After spending 1999 to 2003 at Deloitte, where Aldridge worked with a number of retailers and consumer packaged goods companies, she got hooked on retail. Her first role came in 2003 when she joined Zale Corp. as VP of strategic development. A year later, the jewelry retailer named her C
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