The Realist: Don Imholz

In the fall of 2007, Don Imholz made a big decision: after more than 30 years in the defense and aerospace business with McDonnell Douglas and Boeing, he was ready to try something new.

Consulting opportunities abound, and after decades of constant travel, Imholz looked forward to more time at home with his wife and family. He still traveled, though, and one night in early 2008, after flying to California to visit a client, he got a curious voice mail.

Carol Goldman, the chief administrative officer at Centene, asked him to call back. Centene, a health care services company, launched in 1984 in St. Louis, where Imholz spent his entire professional career. But he'd hardly heard of it.

When he called back, Goldman cut to the chase: Would he be interested in interviewing to become the company's new CIO? The company was growing rapidly, facing new and exciting challenges. Imholz was easing into retirement, staring at speaking and advisory gigs. Still, he agreed to meet with her.

Centene was looking for an experienced IT executive to join its leadership ranks. The company had seen an almost 25 percent increase in revenue in 2007 over the previous year, and they knew there was more to come. When company executives and board members asked around for recommendations, they kept hearing the name Don Imholz.

But he said he wasn't ready to go back to work. He'd consult, though, Imholz told them.

A few months went by, and Imholz got another call. It was Centene's ...

Get Confessions of a Successful CIO: How the Best CIOs Tackle Their Toughest Business Challenges now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.