Pohlad Companies’ Chief Information Officer Rachel Lockett on leading in IT and unlocking the power of people with technology

A pillar of the community in Minneapolis, Pohlad Companies is well known to Minnesotans for its influence, its charity work, and the opportunities it has created for people since the 1950s.

Alongside significant commercial real estate investments, Pohlad Companies owns a custom engineering and robotics company, a group of automotive dealerships specialising in luxury vehicles, a film production studio, and many more businesses. Famously, the Pohlad family also owns the Minnesota Twins, a Major League Baseball team.

This variety is part of what makes Rachel Lockett’s job so exciting. She’s Pohlad Companies’ CIO and has spent a decade in her current role. Lockett began her career as a programmer over 25 years ago and quickly moved into IT leadership management.

In a past IT Director role, she found herself with the opportunity to get involved in other areas of a business. She led a company through ISO 9000 certification while still being in charge of IT. She then got involved in training and due diligence of acquisitions. Lockett also relocated to Oregon to head up HR and Accounting – while still in charge of IT. While all of this certainly involved working unbelievably hard, the experiences she gained have been invaluable for her career. 

The power to lead

For Lockett, there was no specific turning point at which she knew she was destined to be a leader – it was simply always the case. She took on a leadership role within her first year as a programmer. However, she didn’t necessarily see the potential in herself until others pointed it out.

“As the eldest child in my family, I’ve just always been the person who takes charge,” Lockett explains. She knew she wanted to be someone who makes a difference to other people and guide them to success.

“When I was in an early management role, a group of executives went away on a corporate meeting retreat. Part of the program included giving awards to people who had made the greatest improvements to things like revenue or business growth,” she explains. “My company president came home with an award for leadership development. I knew I was one of those leaders that he was being credited with developing. I thought, ‘that’s what I want to do. If I win an award one day, I want it to be for that’. I guess that’s when I decided I wanted my career and legacy to be about leading people.”

‘The Technology Doesn’t Matter’

This mindset led Lockett to write a recently-released book, entitled The Technology Doesn’t Matter: Prioritizing the People in IT Business Alignment. For most of her decade as CIO at Pohlad Companies, the idea of writing a book had been on the horizon. As she led more and more successful projects, it became a certainty.

“You hear that 75% of technology projects fail – well, they don’t fail because the technology is broken, it’s because of process and people issues,” says Lockett. “I wanted to tell the story of the successes I’ve seen by prioritising people. Plus, I’ve always loved writing and I believe storytelling is an underestimated leadership tool.”

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