Paul Singer, senior vice president and CIO of Target Corp. since 2000, is leaving the discount retailer, reportedly to pursue a longstanding interest in raising public awareness about international adoption.
Singer joined Target in 1984 as a business analyst and went on to hold several positions in the company's merchandising and merchandise planning departments before moving to technology services in 1994. He became president of information services in 1999 and was named CIO in April 2000. Prior to his career at Target, Singer worked at Kmart and the May Co.
Singer could not be reached for comment for this story. Target spokeswoman Lena Michaud confirmed Singer's retirement, effective August 26. The company has not announced his replacement, she said, and could not say when it will.
Recently, Singer has figured prominently in news stories as a proponent of radio frequency identification technology (RFID) standards, following Wal-Mart's lead in making the electronic tagging system mandatory for its top suppliers.
Attached to pallets and cases of products, RFID tags can store more data than bar codes and change that data as goods are processed A costly requirement for suppliers, the technology is expected to boost sales because retailers will be able to better match supply with customer demand and minimize times when products are out of stock.
Singer's route to one of the top jobs in IT was apparently as unconventional as his post-retirement ambitions. A "non-technical" person, he earned degrees in theology and music.
"Paul's greatest contribution to Target has been his commitment to what he calls servant leadership. His philosophy is that leaders must listen to the subject matter experts, find out what they need and make sure they have the tools they need," said retail consultant Cathy Hotka, a longtime friend and colleague.
Singer's listening skills helped him align business interests with IT well before the phrase became a buzzword in the industry, Hotka said. "We all use the alignment word, but the bottom line is, you have to have a desire to find out what the business needs."
According to Michael Peterson, a retail consultant and former Target vice president, who worked with Singer in the company's merchandise planning group, Singer focused on the "big picture" and ran IT from a "people perspective."
"His job was getting the right technical people, No. 1, and getting the business folks to spend the money on the right things. He was always about improving the process of how systems were built, and he was always thinking five years ahead," Peterson said.
Peterson and Hotka said Singer was leaving to devote more time to his work on adoption issues.
At an industry conference in May, where Singer was awarded a career achievement award by Boston-based Retail Systems Alert Group, Singer was described as becoming involved in adoption causes in 2001, after he and wife Teri adopted their daughter Angela. Singer founded the Target Adoption Network in 2003, a networking group for Target employees interested in adoption, and is a board member for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI).
Last year, Singer led a delegation to Rwanda, East Africa, with then-CCAI executive director Kerry Hasenbalg, as part of a fact-finding mission to explore ways that CCAI might partner with African nations on behalf of their orphaned children, according to the organization's Web site.