By Amanda Coulson
“A good leader is a 360-degree leader” are the words of an experienced business woman
and Penn State alumna, Amy Doherty. She received a Bachelor of Science and a Master in Business Administration both from Penn State and has a great deal of pride for the school. She explored several different disciplines such as an environmental science, medical school, and doing database design in information technology (IT), which all lead her to her current position at AARP as the Chief Information Officer. She could not be more grateful for her Penn State experience.
Amy appreciated the close faculty to student ratio as well as the professors who left a strong impact on her, especially Neil Mercando, Leah Devlin and Peter Capelotti. Her professors took a personal interest in their students’ success and made themselves available for personal attention throughout their academic career. For Amy, it was this attentiveness to each individual’s success that made the experience worthwhile.
Amy is exceptionally proud of the many accomplishments she has had throughout her career. She excels at public speaking and often speaks at conferences, and has received awards at most of the companies she has worked for. One of her most recent accomplishments was being interviewed by Forbes and published in a recent article by Peter High, Amy Doherty’s Path from Interim to Permanent CIO of AARP. In the article she explains the process of taking over a position and creating an empowering and innovative atmosphere. Her focus was on establishing a culture of engagement, accountability, and fun in the department. Amy responded to a question from High regarding culture and people development stating:
“For me, that translates into having everybody receive a personal birthday card that I sign, except for those who do not celebrate birthdays. If somebody is sick, or if somebody has a close family member pass, they get a note from me. If they do something, or have some sort of big achievement, I send a note to their home so they open it in front of their family and see that AARP appreciates me and appreciates the family for supporting me at work, because sometimes that means that you are not doing something with your family because you are trying to meet a deadline. We try to be personal, and that is part of the culture.”
Amy also spoke heavily on her feelings towards women in IT. She encourages women in college to pursue IT; No matter what their major is, a tech spin can be put on it. Amy is a prime example of a woman who is passionate, motivating, and influential within her field and serves as a role model, particularly to women.
On a typical day at work, Amy meets with her team to discuss projects and how they help the organization move forward. Her unique and admirable way of management has led her to be the CIO of AARP, but also a mentor to much of the IT staff. Her biggest challenge in the organization is managing many different tasks and keeping the team focused. She loves working at AARP and finds it rewarding to make a difference every day.
Amy’s advice for students is to take full advantage of all the opportunities that surround them, to challenge themselves, and to not be afraid to do something different. She states, “take the hardest classes you can, this is the last safe place you have to fail, in the scheme of things, GPA is not that important, it’s more important that you distinguish yourself with a tough degree program. Really think hard about yourself and how you’re marketing yourself, be fearless in your networking, pick up the phone, send an email; you will be surprised how accepting alumni are to networking with you” Amy also recognizes that IT is an everlasting field and for students to not to be scared of coding or think something is too hard. Challenging yourself will always pay off.
Amy Doherty is an overall ambitious leader to the AARP organization and excels in making her employees and customers happy. Amy is proud to be the Chief Information Officer at AARP, and a woman in IT who leads her organization into success every day. Penn State Abington is proud to have such an inspirational alumna.