Up Close

Nancy Wolk, CIO.

Getting technical with Nancy Wolk, CIO of Alcoa Inc.

Being successful in the IT industry is no walk in the park. Luckily, there are trailblazers like Nancy Wolk who are guiding and ushering in the next generation of IT professionals. Wolk advises young women looking to excel in IT to constantly refresh their skills and be open to overseas opportunities. “We work in a global world, and understanding other markets through direct international experience can be key to success,” Wolk says. “IT offers a fantastic launching pad into business—use the platform to learn, collaborate, and network.”

Wolk is one to practice what she preaches. Since joining Alcoa in 1990, she’s held roles of increasing importance in the IT organization, including CIO of Alcoa Europe and of global rolled products, where she led IT expansions in Europe, Russia, and China. Appointed Alcoa’s CIO officer in December 2011, Wolk now oversees global IT policy, strategy, and execution, and heads the CIO lead team.

First industry job

Westinghouse Electric Corporation, in Pittsburgh, deploying manufacturing and customer solutions.

Two characteristics of a successful leader

Share a clear vision; knock down barriers for your team to pave the way for their success.

Describe your leadership style

Find the best people, align to clear expectations, and give them enough rope so that they can deliver. Then communicate, communicate, communicate to maintain connectivity in a dynamic environment.

best advice you’ve received 

Focus on your priorities; don’t let the noise around you interfere with delivering results.

Hidden Talent

Strong affinity for connecting and networking with people—not just technology!

most rewarding part of your current job

Delivering innovative IT solutions that are instrumental to Alcoa’s success.

Proudest accomplishment

Raising two happy, successful children while pursuing a challenging and Rewarding career

Education

Double major at Carnegie Mellon University

most challenging part of your job

Constantly pivoting in an ever-changing environment.

Secret to succeeding as a female CIO in a male-dominated industry

Living by the rule, “Do what you say you are going to do.”

Name one piece of technology you can’t live without

My phone—for talking! The more virtual our world becomes, and the more technology we have, the more important it is to connect one-on-one—there is no proxy for human relationships!

Advice for other women seeking to enter the IT industry

Stay relevant by constantly refreshing your skills; IT offers a fantastic launching pad into business—use the platform to learn, collaborate, and network. Be open to overseas opportunities—we work in a global world and understanding other markets through direct international experience can be key to success.