Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing my good friend Tom Peck at the in-person 2021 HMG Live! Houston CIO Executive Leadership Summit. Tom is Executive Vice President and Chief Information and Digital Officer at Sysco, where he leads the company’s strategic efforts to accelerate its business transformation through customer-facing technology solutions and will lead the company efforts to modernize its technology infrastructure.
Tom has over 20 years of experience leading enterprise information technology strategy, services, operations, risk and cybersecurity for large global enterprises. Prior to joining Sysco, he served as Chief Information and Digital Officer of Ingram Micro Inc., an approximately $50 billion global leader in technology distribution, supply chain services and cloud solutions. In this role, he led the development of a long-term systems architecture and effectiveness plan to modernize and digitize core systems and processes designed to deliver additional speed, agility and scalability
Here are edited and condensed excerpts from our conversation:
Hunter Muller: I can’t think of a better person to welcome up on stage right now than my good friend, Tom Peck. Tom, you’ve had an amazing career. Tell us more on how it got started.
Tom Peck: I was in the Marine Corp for nine years, as some of you know. I was going to be a fighter pilot and an astronaut. Came out of college an Economics major and financial management officer in the Marine Corps. I joined GE in their Six Sigma program supporting their technology department.
One of the technology leaders left the company and my boss at the time says, “Hey, Tom, can you fill in?” (That was) my lucky break. When you get those opportunities, those hard jobs where you’re out of your comfort zone, you’ve got to take those and you’ve got to trust your instincts. You’ve got to trust your training. You’ve got to surround yourself with great people to help you. So, of course, I said yes.
HM: You’ve been at MGM Resorts, Levi Strauss, AECOM, Ingram Micro and now Sysco. All amazing companies. What attracted you to them? Or, them to you?
TP: Every one of those were just amazing opportunities. All of these roles had a common theme – help us grow and help us fix some things. My reputation in the market, if you will, is exactly that … fix things and/or grow things. From growing eCommerce to stabilizing ERP solutions to growing markets, each role was fascinating. Additionally, I was not just the CIO, but also part of the C-suite and senior executive team where you could actually reinvent, transform, or help grow those companies.
HM: Let’s click down there a little bit more. You said something - specifically “fix things or grow things.” It takes time to grow your brand. Your brand is strong. How do you grow your personal brand?
TP: Personal brand is important. It is what people and organizations think of you. Hunter and I go way back. I love HMG Strategy and what you do. My brand is associated with Hunter’s brand. Who you associate with helps build your brand. How we market ourselves, how our associates and employees look at us, how our vendors and partners look at us - it’s important. Most importantly, what you do and the relationships you build are critical to your brand. And that personal brand is what has given me some of those opportunities.
I realize in a leadership position … we’re being watched and observed, and that brand can be gone in a second as we know. We’ve seen it in the news and you’ve just got to keep working at it. My brand is “fix things and/or grow things” at Fortune 500 companies where there’s amazing opportunities to leverage some of my background. And my brand has been built upon the loyalty and hard work of an amazing team and some great mentors throughout my career.
HM: What was it about the opportunity at Sysco that really excited you?
TP: Great question. As a quick refresher: We’re a food distribution, food service company. We’re about $53 billion in revenue. We have about 400 warehouses around the globe supporting650,000customers around the world. We cater to the food-away-from-home market. Everything other than retail grocery. Think restaurants, airports, cafeterias and more.
A couple of things brought me here. One is, if you think about COVID and the pandemic economy, who was impacted most? Airlines, leisure, retail, hospitality, restaurants. What an amazing time to be a technology leader, but what a time to be a technology leader in one of those impacted industries. Talk about the need to accelerate digital transformation!
I joined in the middle of it, so I don’t take credit for everything. But the importance of technology in a market that’s recovering from the pandemic and when you’re working for a CEO who’s amazing and talks about digital and leads with technology on earnings calls and talking to shareholders, and things like that. And oh, by the way, my personal passion – supply chain, merchandising, consumer products, pricing, things like that at scale -- we have 14,000 trucks. Those trucks are all high-technology. Managing perishable foods in the supply chain.
It’s just an amazing opportunity, amazing people, amazing customers, amazing business leaders, and an amazing team I have. We have a purpose. It’s about connecting the world to share food and care for one another. One of the things that we believe in is getting people together at the table. Whether it’s a breakfast table, a lunch table, or dinner table, it helps make a better world. It brings people together to communicate, to share and talk with each other. Getting to see our product being delivered to help people is a unique proposition.
HM: Great stuff, Tom. Great to have you here. Please welcome Tom to Houston with open arms. We could go for hours, I know. We’re just scratching the surface.