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The former CIO of Southern Company shares what she and other successful female business leaders have learned in their careers.
Author of the best-selling book Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge, Becky Blalock is a sought-after speaker and thought leader. She is currently the Managing Partner at Advisory Capital, a strategic consulting firm specializing in the energy, information technology, and medical industries.
During her 33-year career with Southern Company, Blalock held a variety of leadership positions before becoming Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer. Under her leadership, Southern Company was recognized as one of the 100 Most Innovative Companies by CIO magazine and one of the 100 Best Places to Work in IT by Computerworld.
Blalock is a member of the Board of Directors for the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. She serves as Chair of the Advisory Board of Emory Healthcare and is on the advisory board of several private equity companies. She was named a Fellow of the International Women’s Forum and Leadership Foundation and has received the Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award from the Georgia CIO Leadership Association and the Legacy Award from Women in Technology.
The following is an edited transcript of Blalock’s recent phone conversation with CIO Straight Talk Contributing Editor Gil Press.
Why did you decide to major in business in college at a time when it was rare for women to take that career path?
I was one of only three women in the University of West Georgia’s school of business in the late 1970s, and it really happened by accident. I was working three jobs and putting myself through undergraduate school when one of the professors advertised that he would pay $5.00 per hour for help with a market research study. That was three times what I was making in other jobs, and I was lucky — no one else even applied. The professor, Walter Wood, had patented the idea for frozen orange juice concentrate. I worked with him in mining large volumes of data to find trends and patterns. It turned out I was really good at that, and he suggested I get a business degree. I said, “I don’t really know anything about business. Nobody in my family has been in business.” But I took a couple of business classes and got hooked.