Sujeet Gandhe, vice president of CGI, and Mike Conley, CISO, Industrial Scientific and Intelex. Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

In normal times, heads of information technology have challenging jobs. During the past few years of abnormal times, these CIOs, or Chief Information Officers, have faced even greater challenges than usual. 

That led the Pittsburgh Technology Council to nickname 2023’s CIO of the Year Awards “Mission Possible,” to show the backdrop against which they have operated recently and how well they have succeeded.

After Covid hit, some companies faced wrenching changes in their markets. Retailers, including VSP Vision, needed to find new ways to serve their customers — and that meant relying on IT for new techniques. 

Kathleen Lovett, VSP’s CIO, proudly points out how her team created a geographic routing solution to deliver orders expeditiously. They also worked on how to serve “healthcare deserts” where customers have difficulty acquiring any type of healthcare services.

Video compiled by David Radin.

Universities act like cities

For those in higher education, where, according to Paul Allison, CIO of Pennsylvania Western University (PennWest), serving a campus is like serving a small city — the challenges can be daunting. 

He and Tony Krance, chief information security officer (CISO) of Seton Hill University, describe the environment as serving both business needs and serving customers who bring other aspects of their lives into the IT environment in a broader way than if they were in private sector companies.

“We have IT stuff that just comes out of the walls,” Krance says.

Most people will recognize typical devices including smart phones and tablets, Amazon Fire Sticks and smart plugs; he also points out more unusual devices that are part of the organization-wide IT infrastructure that he needs to protect. 

“There’s a lamp that students bring that connects to the Internet where they can touch it to let their parents know that they’re thinking about them,” says Krance.

At PennWest, Allison had the additional challenge of merging three universities (California University of PA, Clarion University and Edinboro University) into one entity as part of the consolidation of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Most CIOs would consider that a career defining achievement without the additional challenges of the past few years.

Separating the finalists from the field

While the finalists for CIO of the Year are all tenured — requiring at least 12 months in their positions to be nominated — and all work on technology, they are in organizations of all sizes spanning a range of industries including manufacturing, financial, services and nonprofits. And they all say they are resource constrained — even those at the largest companies.

The 2023 CIO of the Year Awards were presented on April 12 at the Westin Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. According to Allison Kaharick, who has run the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s CIO of the Year Awards for the past four years, the finalists are judged by peers — chosen by members of CIO, CISO and IT manager groups. 

That, according to Jonathan Kersting, vice president of communications and media for the Pittsburgh Technology Council, means “they understand the actual work the nominees have done and the complications of the projects they have solved.”  

Both point out that this year’s finalists include more women than in past years, perhaps indicating that more women are reaching the top of the IT corporate structure.

IT challenges will continue

The most recent tech trend on which the CIOs are keeping an eye is the emergence and widespread use of artificial intelligence.

It offers a tool that CIOs can use to identify threats more easily, and can also become a threat itself, as AI is used more widely by hackers. Several CIOs describe AI as something that they need to keep one step ahead of, because malicious actors can use it for “social engineering,” a tech term for fooling somebody else into doing something they may not ordinarily do.

Dusan Stefanovic, senior manager at U.S. Steel who is in the Rising Star category for CIO of the Year, puts the level of change of technology in perspective.  

“It’s not enough to be an iconic corporation in order to win,” he says, adding that you need to leverage the technology that made you successful with the latest technologies that are emerging at a rapid pace. 

2023 CIO of the Year Winners and Finalists

CIO Choice Award Recipient
Ruth DeLost-Wylie, Senior Vice President & CAO, Hope Gas

Heidi Norman, left, the City of Pittsburgh’s CIO and director of the Department of Innovation & Performance, with Lisa Frank, the city’s chief operating and administrative officer. Photo by David Radin.

CIO: Government/Education/Nonprofit

Heidi Norman, CIO & Director, Dept. of Innovation & Performance, City of Pittsburgh


Paul Allison, CIO, PennWest University

Chuck Bartel, VP, IT & CIO, Duquesne University

Kyle Fulton, AVP Technology, GBU Financial Life

Dan Hoffer, CIO, The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

Matt Hoffman, CIO, Pennsylvania Highlands Community College 

CIO Megabyte

Brad Ryba, CTO, Rimsys


Binesh Dobhal, CIO, Creatotech

Mike Duddy, VP Technology, Apex Health Solutions

CIO Gigabyte

Karl Herleman, Sr. VP of  IT, American Textile Co.


Mario Cafaro, SVP, Management Science Associates (MSA)

Adam Gunnett, Director, IT & Marketing, Busy Beaver Building Centers

Scott Phelps, VP, Technology, Pittsburgh Steelers

CIO Terabyte

Mike Keslar, Divisional CIO & President of BNY Mellon Pennsylvania


Chris Carmody, SVP, Enterprise IT Infrastructure, UPMC Information Technology

Kathleen Lovett, VP & CIO, Supply Chain, VSP Vision

Bhaskar Ramachandran, VP & CIO, PPG

Tracci Schultz, SVP, IT, FedEx Ground and Operations Core Technologies, FedEx Services

CISO Megabyte

Mike Conley, CISO, Industrial Scientific & Intelex


Brian Abercrombie, Information Security Privacy Officer, TeleTracking Technologies

Tony Krance, Executive Director, IT/ISO, Seton Hill University

Phil Woods, Sr. Director, Technology Operations & Solutions, CISO, FHLBank Pittsburgh

CISO Gigabyte

Erika Carrara, VP & CISO, Wabtec Corporation


Jason Rhykerd, CISO, Sheetz

Eris Symms, CISO, Arconic

CISO Terabyte

Susan Koski, CISO, Head of Enterprise Information Security, PNC Financial Services


Mike Noble, CISO, Alcoa

Dusan Stefanovic, senior IT manager at U.S. Steel (right). Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

Rising Star

Dusan Stefanovic, Senior IT Manager, U.S. Steel


Karen Fay, VP, Information Security Governance, Dollar Bank

Kallie Winkler, Client Systems Manager, Schneider Downs

Read more about the winners and finalists.

David RadinCEO of Confirmed

David Radin is CEO of Confirmed ( For decades, he has been leveraging technology and techniques to transform the way his audiences and clients succeed.