Ep 69: Christine Rice: Journey of a Successful Leader

Diva Tech Talk was thrilled to interview Christine Rice, formerly President of the three combined divisions of VisionIT (www.visionit.com) Corporation, and now CEO and President, solely of its IT staffing division: VisionPro (http://www.visionproteam.com/). VisionPro has 20 offices throughout the United States, and helps its clients hire highly-specialized technology talent.  The company is also global since it supports its parent, 21-year-old VisionIT, with offices in Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

As a child, from a modest background (“My dad was a blue-collar worker at Ford”), Christine had not been partial to technology subjects. “I got involved through my siblings,” she said. Both her older brother and sister worked at EDS (Electronic Data Systems), a $22 billion company acquired first in 2008 by HP (www.hp.com/), spun into a product division, and then in 2017 merged with Computer Science Corporation to form DXC Technology (http://www.dxc.technology/), publicly traded on the NYSE under the symbol: DXC.  While she was in high school, “hearing my sister talk about IT, and the projects she was working on,” spurred Christine. “You could see the joy in what she was doing.”  When Christine graduated, “I had a choice,” she said. “Did I want to go to school, in the evening, and work? Or did I want to go away?” Close to her religious family, she prayed; and was inspired to assume the multitasking role of attending college while working. She, too, began at EDS, while first attending Wayne County Community College in Detroit (www.wcccd.edu/), and then transferred to Central Michigan University in Midland, Michigan (https://www.cmich.edu/) from which she graduated with a B.S. in Business Management, while still maintaining a fulltime job.

Christine’s first EDS position was as an orientation specialist charged with onboarding newly-minted engineers joining that rapidly growing company. “I met a lot of people. It was a great entry into the workplace.” Although young, “I always had a confidence about me,” and that helped her move ahead at EDS, throughout her 15-year career there. After her first job, she moved into employee relations/human resources. “We were very aligned to the company’s legal department,” she admitted. “Our job was to lower the company’s liability in hiring, firing, and disciplining employees.” Starting as a specialist, she was promoted multiple times, working her way up to regional HR manager, directing a substantial team, and working with EDS leaders at every level of that corporation.

Christine left EDS to join her brother, technology leader David Segura (https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidseguravisionit/) several years after he founded VisionIT in 1997. VisionIT, today, is a global software development company, systems integrator, reseller of key solutions (like SAP), and innovation lab for the development of new applications.  But at startup, it was founded as a technology services and Web development venture. As David realized his need for increasing organizational talent “He came to me for help,” Christine said. “I didn’t realize helping would quickly turn into a full-time job. What a journey!”  

With David’s tech background, and Christine’s human resources and legal expertise, VisionIT flourished.  “As a startup company, you really wear multiple hats,” she acknowledged. “I started selling and promoting the company.”  Due to her strong network of established relationships through EDS, Christine cemented a number of large clients quickly, and the customer base multiplied. She concentrated on human resources, hiring/firing, fostering talent at VisionIT. “As we were serving companies, doing application development and a variety of projects, they would come back to us,” and ask for resources to make additional progress. So, Christine decided “why don’t I concentrate on building the staffing side of the business?” Later In this interview, she exclaimed that “we are in interesting times in IT,” (with the rise in connected vehicles, connected homes and connected cities) and that energizes her, and is part of her company’s future vision.

Two of Christine’s strengths are the ability to clearly communicate at all levels of an organization, and consultative business-building. “I like being in front of the customer,” she stated. “As a company, it is where we get our best ROI, because I truly take an interest in the customer’s problems, and how we can solve them.”  She mentioned a variety of recent projects including a large information technology cost-reduction program for a key client that resulted in a $4 million savings. She also points to her relentless work ethic: “I was wired to work hard and deliver. And people will focus on that.”

Christine shared some of her lessons for entrepreneurs. “When you are hiring people,” she said, “hire slow, but fire fast.”  As

a leader she stressed that “integrity is very important,” and that any leader needs to “build trust with your organization.” To do that, she behaves with utmost transparency, freely sharing with her team the reasons why something can or cannot be done at any point in time. In her own life, what offers Christine ultimate happiness is the combination of caring for her family (two college age sons and her husband) and “corporate success and hitting our goals --- I get so much satisfaction out of those. It’s a feeling you just can’t describe.”  To achieve balance, she stresses time management: carving out time for things that have the most priority and being disciplined in using time well.

Christine’s guiding principles for aspiring leaders are:

  1. Surround yourself with other strong leaders “because you’re not going to have all the answers.”

  2. Network, and “get involved” in your community and professional associations.

  3. Listen, attentively, as much as possible.

  4. Never stop learning (“I have a picture frame on my desk that says that!”).

In her philanthropy life, Christine works with children and young adults of Hispanic origin. “It’s important for inner city kids to see people who look like them be successful,” she said. She speaks frequently to students and gives presentations on behalf of Latina/Latino organizations who concentrate on education and career path mentorship.

Her advice, especially for “the young folks” is: “Take that risk.  If you’re not making yourself uncomfortable” according to Christine, you are not making progress.

Her final piece of wisdom is “dress for success --- mentally!  Focus on the positive.”

Christine Rice can be reached at crice@visionproteam.com.

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