PLYMOUTH — It was something of a historic show of unity among tooth-and-nail competitors for the good of the Michigan IT scene.

The chief information officers of Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors sat together on the same discussion panel, and for a media Q&A afterward, at the Michigan Council of Women in Technology’s Executives in Technology Leadership Exchange. The event drew a packed crowd of more than 500 to the Inn at St. John’s Monday.

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The event addressed the challenges of Michigan companies in finding IT talent — and the challenges of women in particular in rising in IT departments.

GM CIO Randy Mott, Ford CIO Nick Smither and Chrysler CIO Scott Sandschafer said there are some IT skills in short supply, but said they had good relationships with Michigan universities for many of their recruiting needs.

Mott said the key to recruiting staffers with longer resumes and more skills is “getting the word out and getting people to come home” who grew up or were educated in Michigan.

Sandschafter said he’s been impressed with the quality of recruits in recent years who are “willing to move back to Michigan from warm-weather climates.” That said, he said some skills are in short supply, such as SharePoint expertise.

GM and Ford’s CIOs both said they were moving more into agile development.

The CIOs also said that “soft skills” that need to be worked on by IT staffers include communication and the willingness to take risk.

And they agree there should be more emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the K-12 level, with the media providing role models in science and technology.

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In a panel discussion on CIO leadership, Bridget van Kralingen, vice president of global business services at IBM, said she’s seen “too many women keep what they are good at rather than take a leap into the unknown. AT IBM we call it lilypadding, being willing to make a lateral move.”

Also, she said, when women “self-advocate, it can be negatively perceived in the organization.”

Other panelists said women often don’t want to tout their own achievements.

“There’s a strange dynamic of credit deflection with women,” said Kim Hammods, CIO of Boeing. Added Karenann Terrell, CIO of Wal-Mart: “Rather than talk about their own accomplishments they’ll talk about their team, and I’ll say, ‘Yeah, I get that, but tell me about you.’ There’s a feeling of dirtiness about taking credit that’s very different from their male counterparts.”

They also said IT is viewed less and less a cost center and more and more just another part of the business.

“I don’t think there should be any more IT projects,” said Sheila Jordan, senior vice president of communication and collaboration at Cisco. “I think there should be business projects enabled by IT.”

Agreed Michigan state CIO David Behen: “Everything we do now is on a network — it’s IT.”

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More about the event at