It is no secret that IE raises successful individuals in every field. With the interest in following these people’s footsteps and getting to know their key to success, a new segment has been added to The Stork: Alumni Spotlight. As the first feature, The Stork was honored to interview Fahim Siddiqui, current Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer at The Home Depot— the largest home improver, the 5th largest e-commerce, and the 3rd largest supply chain in North America. Fahim’s time at The Home Depot has led to the application of many cutting-edge solutions. Formerly, he used to develop technology in many industries including retail, energy, and telecom. Keep reading to get an insight into Fahim’s path to success after he graduated from the IE Brown Executive MBA.
“Today, I lead a team of more than 8,000 technologists for one of the top 20 largest companies in the USA, with revenues of over 156B dollars… It has been a truly transformative experience for me— it changed my life”.
The interview started with Fahim’s experience during the MBA program; and when asked to describe it in one word, he defined it as “metamorphic”. Metamorphosis connotes a change, a transformation, which Fahim believed to have experienced:
“Professionally, it was truly transformative for me. At the time, I was leading technology for a small software company that had gone public and the MBA gave me the tools to have the context around the content of our business— which being a technical person, I did not have”.
Further, he elaborated on how the program changed him on a more personal level. “As a person, what I learned from this program is that art and science are on the same continuum. The courses we took contextualized the liberal arts with technology and business, which really altered my way of thinking”. Humbly, he explained how this led him to give back to society through the arts. “Today, for instance, I sit on the board of Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and I co-founded their ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ initiative”.
What skills did you gain during your studies that have been instrumental in your professional success?
“The first important skill that you learn is to have a humanist lead towards problems and challenges that you face. Be it that you are a business leader, political leader, or any type of leader, having a view of the community around you including the underrepresented, and giving them a voice, becomes an important issue”.
“I learned that not everyone is going to speak up. You are responsible for identifying who are the people that might be affected by your decision, and give them the opportunity to have an input to come up with the best outcomes”.
“Coming together with the ever international IE-Brown class, and learning in the context of a European university, really opened up my perspective having only [prior] gone to an American university. Having this context of a global cohort allowed me to see how this diversity contributes to stronger solutions with a global context in mind. I also learned that innovation is really important, especially in how you frame questions; I learned to ask better questions as part of that MBA. Better questions always give you better answers”.
Moving towards your current professional endeavors, how are you able to integrate new technologies and your entrepreneurial mindset in such a large corporation taking into account the fast-changing technological landscape?
“Larger companies have to work harder and faster to keep up with changes, which are required daily. In fact, our executive team spends 80% of our time and interactions dealing with strategic issues that affect change. Specifically, technology has become what we call ‘the long pole in the tent’. Meaning, if you don’t have technology enabling something, then it is probably not occurring at our scale [large]”.
“78% of the budget that we spend goes towards innovation and building new capabilities. That is a specific decision that we made to ensure that we stay ahead of the needs of our customers, and ahead of the competitors as well. Being large is actually an advantage because now you have sufficient resources available to make the change that is important”.
In the podcast episode of “Inspired Execution” with Chet Kapoor, you talked about how at The Home Depot you are trying to integrate Machine Learning (ML) into the customer experience. Could you elaborate on that?
“A really good example of how we have integrated ML into the customer experience is what we do with ‘machine vision’ at our stores. In The Home Depot stores, you don’t always know when somebody has taken the last product and left the shelf empty. To solve this, our associates have devices that they use to take videos and pictures of our shelves. This allows us to specifically direct our associates to restock what is needed in a very calculated manner, near-real-time. Another example is the ML that we have integrated into our search and recommendations engine. This allows people to take a picture of something they wish to purchase and it comes up with what most closely matches what they are looking for”.
It is important to recognize Fahim’s efforts to give back to society. Recently, he demonstrated his generosity to the IE community by donating to the Illuminated Bricks campaign of the IE Foundation. He explained:
“Generosity is an important attribute, and paying it forward matters. You don’t just give back with your money, but also with your time and mentorship. So certainly, providing money for a brick with your name and a code on it is inspirational for people. Yet it is equally as important the time you give for the community, non-profits, and for mentorship and growing the people because that is how you ensure that the legacy continues”.
Hearing Fahim share his experience is extremely motivating. As change is becoming a constant in the business sector, and innovation its catalyst, it is clear that the international exposure experienced by Fahim and his cohort through IE is one of the university’s most powerful attributes. Being in an international university with the aura of entrepreneurship, there are certainly many tools at students’ disposal that should be appreciated since they may be the impetus of one’s future. To finalize, Fahim shared a last phrase he would like everyone to reflect upon: “Serve with distinction, live with empathy”.