The Accidental CIO Sheleen Quish

Sheleen Quish wasn't a powerful elected official. She wasn't carrying ultrasensitive materials in some silver briefcase.

But for three months during her stint as CIO of Illinois Blue Cross, Sheleen Quish walked between her car and her office with a security detail.

She had received a death threat. And it came from inside her company.

After being recruited by the $4 billion company's CEO, Ray McCaskey, Quish faced an uphill battle as she worked to reshape and reenergize an IT organization that was getting low marks from all over the company. Quish entered the role with significant experience not only in the health care world but also in leading—and overhauling—IT, marketing, and operations departments.

She found in Chicago an organization hostile to change. She found a company hostile to newcomers like her. Perhaps worst of all, she found an executive team that was not 100 percent behind the very person who hired her. He was still proving himself in the CEO role.

She also found a level of political sophistication in Chicago that was vastly different from the easygoing world of Louisville, Kentucky, where she had lived before moving to Chicago. She also found that scaling up to a company four times the size was a more formidable challenge than she had really thought about.

About two years into her tenure, McCaskey summoned Quish to his office. Sitting next to him was the company's chief legal officer, who handed Quish her termination papers. ...

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