Building Relationships Across the C-Suite: Jeff McKibben, CIO of Ultra Clean Technology

I had a very thoughtful and illuminating conversation recently with Jeff McKibben, the CIO of Ultra Clean Technology, a leading developer and supplier of critical subsystems, components and parts, and ultra-high purity cleaning and analytical services that are primarily created for the semiconductor industry. Jeff has more than three decades of experience managing IT in global high-tech manufacturing companies and he has extensive experience with international M&A, product development, supply chain complexity, sales and marketing innovation, program management and building organizational competency.

Prior to joining UCT, Jeff was CIO at ON Semiconductor, an $8.3 billion global manufacturer driving innovation in energy efficient electronics. Jeff previously held a range of leadership roles at Hewlett Packard in global IT management, consulting, and enterprise program management. Jeff is a recipient of our 2023 HMG Strategy Global Leadership Institute Awards and it was a pleasure speaking with him.

Here’s an edited and condensed transcript of my conversation with Jeff:

Hunter Muller: Jeff, congratulations on your 2023 HMG Strategy Global Leadership Institute Recognition Program Award!

Jeff McKibben: Thank you, Hunter. I’m delighted to be here and thanks for the opportunity.

HM: Tell us about what drew you to Ultra Clean and why you’re excited to be part of the team there.

JM: Ultra Clean is a manufacturer of wafer fab equipment, which means that we make the manufacturing equipment that companies use to make chips. As you know, chips are in everything from your toothbrush to your credit card to communications satellites in orbit around the Earth. We’re not just leading – we’re exceeding growth rates in the industry because we provide a holistic solution to our customers. We’re very focused on the breadth of our solutions and the value we deliver to our customers. So that’s what’s exciting about the industry.

From a company perspective, this is an opportunity for me to step in and help take the organization to the next level, delivering more sophisticated solutions with a real focus on enabling business value. Another aspect of my role is that I report directly to the CEO, so I’ve got a seat at the table with the other C-suite players. UTC really has a culture of collaboration and cooperation that has helped me feel welcome – I feel like I can make a real difference.

HM:Wow, I love hearing success stories like that! Jeff, tell us more about the company culture and how it supports your leadership style.

JM: The cultural fit is really important. When I interviewed here and spoke with the leadership team, the culture seemed very familiar. It was friendly and open, and that was very attractive. I like to call myself a `consensus leader’ in terms of decision making. I don’t want to be a command-and-control leader. I don’t have all the answers. My approach is to hire smart people and then bring the team together with a clear focus. My role is removing barriers for my staff so that they can go out and achieve our corporate objectives. The culture here genuinely supports that kind of leadership.

HM: The first year inany new role can be challenging. How do you build contextually rich relationships with the other executives on the leadership team?

JM:You’ve got to reach out and lean into building those relationships. As a CIO, I have to understand the needs of each of my peers, whether they’re in a product division, finance, operations or whatever. I need to understand what’s driving them, what they need and where I can help. And of course, you don’t build trust simply with words. You have to follow through on the actions that are going to matter to your peers. And the trust that you generate becomes the foundation of any productive relationship.

HM:In my experience, I’ve seen that great CIOsalsohaveexcellent partnerships with the vendors they work with. Tell us a little bit about that.

JM: Well, it’s true. There’s a whole range of relationships you can have with a vendor. Sometimes it’s quite transactional — but a lot of times it comes down to the culture of the company that you’re working with.

Generally, the best relationships are with vendors who understand your business, understand where you are in your journey and look for ways to partner effectively. They’re delivering value and they’re trying to build a positive long-term relationship.

HM:Jeff, when you think about pivotal moments in your career, what advice do you have for the executives and technology leaders of tomorrow?

JM: My advice isdon’t get comfortable and don’t get complacent. Ask yourself what you need to do to grow as a leader. Look at opportunities. Sit back and reflect, take some time off, do something fun with the family. But think about where you want to be and where you could be if you are more proactive and less passive.

HM:Excellent advice, Jeff. And congratulations again for winning a 2023 HMG Strategy Global Leadership Institute Recognition Program Award.

JM:Thank you, Hunter. It’s an honor.

Key Takeaways: 

  • While there are different types of CIO roles such as those who are brought in to modernize existing infrastructure, all CIOs are expected to bring additional business value and take the company to the next level
  • The cultural fit for CIOs with the CEO and the senior leadership team is vital towards having a productive working relationship and for the company to achieve its goals
  • The best partnerships with vendors are those where the vendor understands your business goals and is looking to cultivate a valuable long-term relationship