Technology and innovation are crucial tools to achieve meaningful development. Whether it’s using drones to deliver supplies to remote areas of the world or implementing new finance systems in each of our offices, technology is far-reaching and increasingly impacts all of our lives. Anne Kottmeier, Chemonics’ new CIO, explains what development professionals can learn from other industries to enhance the impact of our work.
1. What attracted you to international development and what are you most excited about in your new role regarding technology at Chemonics?
Our planet needs more fairness and equality. Personally, I think about what kind of planet we are going to leave our children, particularly when it comes to the environment and climate change, education, and health. At Chemonics and in international development in general, employees have a great perspective about what really matters. We have people to feed and to educate, and a planet to save. We don’t just look out for ourselves, and that perspective is so important not only in our work, but in our lives.
Although I work in technology, I am people-oriented above all. I am excited about bringing my skills, knowledge, and experience to an amazing cause and to participate even in a small way in changing the world and impacting people’s lives. People at Chemonics are so dedicated to our mission of helping people live healthier, more productive, and more independent lives. I think technology can really help us achieve our mission by bringing greater efficiency to our work.
2. How can technology support and advance Chemonics’ mission and value of innovation?
Technology gives us ways to reduce overhead costs and keep people more focused on our mission than doing basic tasks that technology can handle. It’s all about automation and simplifying our way of working so we can spend that time focusing on having a greater development impact. Especially in the age of COVID-19, it helps us make virtual connections with people in places you can’t always get to in a car or a train. It helps us get things done faster, better, and more efficiently so we can focus on our mission and values.
In my role, I also hope to explore new technologies that have proven useful for other industries. We can learn a lot from other industries to find technologies that help us advance our priorities, such as security measures. For example, security firms and government agencies have created special technologies that can help people during and after an earthquake. So, if people need to escape an earthquake in one of the areas where we work, how might we leverage such technology to help people while also supporting the essential workers and rescuers on the ground continue their vital efforts. Technology can help us search for people in the rubble and bring food to those on the ground. It’s the same with healthcare – we send drones to our projects to bring medical supplies to rural areas. That is amazing, and we want to continue to scale that technology and others like it. Technology can continue to help Chemonics through innovation because to solve the most complex problems around the world, we need tested solutions. Learning about these solutions from others will help us all.
3. You have many years of experience in business transformation and information technology management across multiple industries. What have you learned in other industries that you hope to apply at Chemonics?
In the renewable energy industry, people tend to be very process-oriented and structured. I think that I can use my experience to enhance not just our systems, but people’s adoption of the systems by ensuring that our processes are strong and that users have the knowledge, tools, and abilities to use them. I also look forward to enhancing our organizational support so that our solutions are controlled, cost effective, and optimized.
In addition to my experience in other industries, I hope to bring lessons from my time working in the telecommunications industry in France to this role. During my time with France Telecom, I worked to deliver services to people all over the world, and I refined the skill of looking at the big picture— taking a holistic view — to solve complex problems. Sometimes, we may create solutions that are just temporary fixes because we’re not looking at the big picture, and that can create even bigger problems. For example, we are currently looking to create a new tool at Chemonics to help us budget more efficiently. Different teams have different needs for this tool, and it’s my job to put all of those needs together and come up with one solution that meets all of their needs, as those needs are all equally important. How do we all work together toward the same goal? It’s a great problem to solve.
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