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Walmart Asia CIO on finding your 'unique value'

A fundamental piece of advice that CIO Fumbi Chima gives to anyone who asks for professional help: Learn how to take risks. “You have to come out of your comfort zone,” she said during the recent Gartner Symposium CIO panel. She speaks from experience. The CIO at Walmart Asia, Chima didn’t start her career in IT — or retail, or Asia, for that matter.

Chima was first an accountant before wading into management consulting and then IT, working for companies like TXU Energy and American Express. The leap from accounting to IT meant she “had to teach myself how to be a business architect, to understand the physical and logical architecture — what it is and how do I map my business skills back to technology,” she said.

Five years ago, she took another leap of faith and changed industries, leaving financial services for retail. Of course, she was not just learning the retail business at any company, but at Walmart, one of the world’s largest retailers.

When considering a leap of faith — or when looking for a general change in career, Chima said to answer this question: What is the unique value you’ll bring to the position? Understanding that she had only a sliver of retail experience compared to some of her Walmart colleagues with 20-plus years in the industry, she thought strategically about what value she could add to the group and company, as well as what best practices from previous roles she could borrow “to help move the business further.”

It’s a kind of intellectual curiosity, what Chima called “being a student of innovation,” that continues to push her today. Earlier this year, she took another leap of faith when she accepted a position and moved her family to Hong Kong. No doubt, she’ll soon find a way to lend her unique value to that new community.