Working Geek: Fred Hutch CIO Kathy Alexion shifts from ‘corporate soldier’ to mission driven

Kathy Alexion, CIO at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, at the nonprofit’s annual holiday gala in 2018 with her husband Tim McDonald. (Fred Hutch Photo)

With a resume that includes Amazon, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Chase and others, Kathy Alexion confesses to being a “corporate soldier.” But her nearly three years at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have revealed an extra element of professional satisfaction.

“I like the corporate world,” Alexion said. “But there’s something special about being in a nonprofit, that you’re doing good things for humanity.”

When she arrived at the Fred Hutch, as it’s commonly known, all of the organization’s 40-plus years of digital records were stored onsite.

“We had a lot of technical debt cleanup to do,” Alexion said. She helped lead the push to shift half of their data to the cloud, a digital leap that should accelerate the Fred Hutch’s cancer research.

Kathy Alexion with her daugther Lucy McDonald and husband Tim McDonald. (Photo courtesy of Kathy Alexion)

In January, Alexion was promoted to chief information officer (CIO) and vice president of information technology. Her purview includes network and systems engineering, the Project Management Office, enterprise application services, information security and business operations.

While she finds the work rewarding, Alexion said there’s a tricky tension that she has had to navigate. On one hand, the Fred Hutch is literally on a life-or-death mission to cure cancer, which creates a definite sense of urgency, she said. On the other hand, the organization has typically moved at a slower, cautious, academic pace. Her challenge is to bring some of the urgency of the bigger goals to the institutional culture.

Alexion will have the chance to highlight some of the Fred Hutch’s new tech initiatives and collaborations at the Hopperx1 Seattle conference on March 22-23. She’s the final keynote for the localized version of the annually-held, international Grace Hopper Celebration.

“It is a huge, renowned conference and I’m excited and honored to be closing it out,” she said, “and to be representing women in technology.”

We caught up with Alexion for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for her answers to our questionnaire.

Current location: A wintery Fred Hutch campus on South Lake Union in Seattle

Computer types: When it comes to tech, I’m generally an equal opportunist and use both a PC and Mac

Mobile devices: iPhone

Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: Apple Music, Audible, OneNote, paper notebook with a …read more

Source:: GeekWire

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