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FedEx CIO Offers Insight into Future of Technology

Tampa, FL (January 3, 2013) — FedEx Chief Information Officer Rob Carter said the technology boom of this century is only beginning.

Rob Carter speaking

Before Abraham Lincoln's election, Carter said, there were eight different gauge widths of railroad track used by railroads across the country, making it impossible to take one train cross-country. When Lincoln was elected, he unified the railroads, and, by extension, the country.

Carter said that despite the leaps and bounds of technology in the past few decades, we are still in the technological equivalent of the eight-gauge railroad era.

"We have not yet reached the core dominant design technology that will allow us to connect in the long-term," Carter said.

Carter, who holds an MBA from USF, made that analogy at the College of Business' first "Breakfast with a CIO" event December 1. The talk, which was sponsored by Tech Data drew 140 attendees and gave Tampa's IT community and USF students a chance to hear from a leader in information technology. Proceeds from the event will support the Information Systems Decision Sciences Department in the College of Business.

"Partnerships and engagement with businesses is absolutely one of our top priorities," said Moez Limayem, College of Business dean, in his introduction of Carter. "We will certainly have more of these wonderful events."

At the breakfast, Carter spoke extensively about the history of FedEx and its commitment to technology and data, also answering audience questions during a Q&A session.

He said FedEx's commitment to technology stemmed from wanting to improve the efficiency of the shipping process, and the experience for customers.

"You couldn't try to constantly improve the process if you didn't have data about how the process worked," Carter said. "It all started with a notion that information is something we can connect with our customers to share."

He noted the importance of being a step ahead of the industry as a whole, as FedEx was when it built radio towers in the early 1980s across the country to gather data about packages each step of the way. Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, believed that "the information about the package is just as important as the package itself," Carter said.

Kaushal Chair, Dean Moez Limayem, & Rob Carter

Carter emphasized that FedEx continues to "seek the edge of technology." That's an objective the company partners with researchers to achieve. Those researchers include USF ISDS faculty Balaji Padmanabhan and Alan Hevner, who have used predictive data mining models to identify issues that customers care about most.

Carter also spoke about his own career path, crediting USF's MBA program with giving him the knowledge to advance to a career as an executive. He said he wouldn't have been able to achieve his current status simply with a background in information technology. The business acumen that he gained during his MBA studies was also critical.

"The most important thing that happened to me was to get a solid business perspective that let me have a seat at the executive table," he said. "It's a really important part of me being able to do the job that I do today."

Also at the event, Kaushal Chari, chair of the Information Systems Decision Sciences department, welcomed Carter and announced a gift from Ultramatics. The largest single scholarship gift to the ISDS program, Ultramatics' contribution will establish a scholarship for ISDS students participating in study abroad programs.

Chari said the gift, and the high percentage of students with job offers before graduation, are only a few examples of how the ISDS department is preparing students to take top jobs in their fields.

"We emphasize student success," he said.