From UWF to CIO of Fortune 500 company
The University of West Florida has thousands of successful alumni. Tom Keiser is no exception.
Keiser graduated in 1988 with a bachelor’s in systems science – Business (equivalent to the current management information systems degree program). Today, he is the executive vice president and chief information officer for Gap Inc. responsible for the technology organization and operations for the Fortune 500 company, both within the U.S. and abroad. Keiser credits UWF for helping prepare him for his career.
“At the time I attended UWF, there were few MIS programs in the U.S.,” said Keiser. “The mix of programming, project management and business classes drew many employers to aggressively recruit at UWF. Classes were small and professors could really work with students to make sure the concepts were discussed and understood. My time at UWF gave me the building blocks for problem solving, logic and work ethic. I worked part-time while attending school, so I also learned how to juggle priorities and get work done.”
At GAP Inc., Keiser continues to juggle multiple priorities to get the job done. His primary responsibilities include: building IT strategies to support current business and new operating models globally, transforming existing legacy systems with new architecture, building leadership bench strength across the organization and improving efficiency and effectiveness of the IT operating model.
Getting from UWF to CIO was not one giant leap for Keiser, though. He started off as a programmer analyst for BellSouth Services in Birmingham where he supported local telephone billing systems for nine states. After a few years, he moved into management consulting for Ernst & Young and worked his way up from senior consultant to vice president. For six of his 12 years with the company, he consulted within the Coca-Cola Company and the Coca-Cola Bottling system implementing systems in more than 15 countries. His last two-and-a-half years of consulting were spent at Limited Brands (owner of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works) implementing a Human Resource Management System (HRMS) and helping put together a future state technology strategy. In 2004, he joined Limited Brands, and in 2010, he joined Gap Inc.
This past November, Keiser took time out of his busy schedule to share his success story with UWF MIS majors and MBA students. Keiser’s job skills weren’t the only things that impressed the students. For Shaun Gunter, a senior majoring in management information systems, it was Keiser’s volunteer work that had the greatest impact.
“At the end of Tom’s speech during our Business Systems Design (ISM4113) class, he talked about his volunteer work with Big Brothers/Big Sisters,” said Gunter. “He stressed that giving back to the community is the most important thing that he has done. I was personally impressed by the fact that he has a busy schedule and still manages to make time for others.”
Arup Mukherjee, chairman and professor for the UWF Management and MIS program within the College of Business, said students were particularly happy to know that there are many information systems jobs available throughout the country for those who are willing to go where the jobs are and do what it takes to solve real problems.
“We all were highly impressed with Keiser’s ability to communicate to the students about what it takes to rise to the top in the corporate sector,” said Mukherjee.
To learn more about the UWF Management/MIS program, visit uwf.edu/management.
By Lauren Smith, University Marketing Communications