Sue Taylor
Thursday, December 5, 2019
By Lynn Davy

Bill Gates created software that transformed the world forever. As chief information officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sue Taylor (MBA01) enables digital transformation at the charitable foundation.

Taylor leads a team of 100 full-time employees that develop, implement, and maintain all the enterprise applications and platforms that support core business processes across the foundation. She is also a member of the Operations Leadership Team, which advances cross-functional digital capabilities to support operational efficiency.

It’s an impressive job, and one that required a significant career detour for Taylor who, before landing the Gates Foundation job, led a much larger team as vice president of applications and business transformation at Honeywell Automation and Control Solutions. As Taylor tells it, she only found out about the Gates Foundation job because of an email from a corporate recruiter asking her if she knew someone who might be a good fit.

The name that Taylor sent back to the recruiter wasn’t that of a friend or colleague, but her own. After a series of interviews to ensure the “fit was right,” Taylor was hired in 2016 to fill the role of director of applications and data analytics platforms in the Program Management Office, a move that some might consider a step down. But Taylor wasn’t thinking about titles; she wanted new opportunities to learn and grow. Not long after she was hired, Taylor was promoted to her current position as the CIO.

“It was hard walking away from Honeywell, but I made a personal decision to make more time for my family and to work for an organization where we measure our success by lives saved versus revenue growth,” says Taylor.

Looking back, Taylor says the opportunity with the Gates Foundation forced her to examine her career from a different perspective and, in the end, to choose a path that would lead her away from a 33-year for-profit career at Honeywell, and put her on a new path in the non-profit world. She says the Gates Foundation’s philosophy that “every life has equal value,” resonates with her and eventually helped her make her final decision.

Nearly four years later, Taylor says she has no regrets. Working at the Gates Foundation has provided her opportunities to collaborate with some of the most gifted and talented executives, scientists, and global health experts in the world, and she has also had the chance to sit in the same room as former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former President Jimmy Carter, and the Buddhist monk and founder of the meditation app Headspace, Andy Puddicombe. She’s also had a few opportunities to communicate with Bill Gates about strategic technology.

Taylor, who joined the Tippie Advisory Board fall 2019, says that she is excited to work with Dean Sarah Fisher Gardial and other board members to connect more business programs with engineering, science, and medicine, and to recruit more female students into STEM/business fields, including business analytics. She is also eager to convey to students she meets the importance of seeing a degree not as a career destination but as a doorway to opportunities, adventures, and even more learning experiences.

“The best careers are not usually linear,” says Taylor. “There have to be some zigs and zags, as well as some movement, some risk.”

This article first appeared in the Winter 2019-2020 issue of Tippie Magazine