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CIO Spotlight: Bill Serva, VP of IT at Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona

Bill Serva
VP of IT
Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona

Walk us through your CIO path. How did you decide to pursue a career in technology, and how did you progress to your current organization?

I have been fascinated by technology from a young age.  I can vividly remember playing Pac-Man for the first time before I was ten years old and I was hooked.  I got my first computer when I was twelve and developed a passion for science and technology.   When I went to college at the University of Arizona, I started studying Chemical Engineering but found that I also had a strong desire to do social work and make the world a better place.  I switched my major to Psychology, got my Bachelor’s degree, and spent the next five years working for the Division of Developmental Disabilities in Tucson, Arizona.  I had the opportunity to work with individuals and families to connect them with the services and support that they needed in order to make their lives better.

I had the opportunity to work with individuals and families to connect them with the services and support that they needed in order to make their lives better.


During that same time, I got married and started a family.  I quickly realized that the career path that I had chosen was not going to enable me to adequately support my family.  As a result, I changed careers a few times, spending a year working for a clinical research facility, then finding a job in the finance department for a software development company.  It was there I was able to make the transition to technology and begin the career path that ultimately led me to where I am today.


After a layoff, leaving a job to avoid a layoff, and another layoff during the global financial crisis of 2007-2008, I was out of work for four months.  In February of 2010, I was able to get hired at Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona as the Senior Manager of IT Operations.  I began to grow the technology department and create operational efficiencies to improve the organization.  Goodwill continued to invest in me personally over the years, helping me to grow as a leader and giving me the skills I needed to run the IT department as the Vice President of Information Technology.  In that time, I have also had the opportunity to see people learn and grow in their careers in IT.  Many on my team that are in senior technology roles such as Network or System Administrator started as entry-level Helpdesk Technicians, eventually moving into self-sustaining careers.

I began to grow the technology department and create operational efficiencies to improve the organization. Goodwill continued to invest in me personally over the years, helping me to grow as a leader and giving me the skills I needed to run the IT department as the Vice President of Information Technology.

Tell us about your company.  Speak to the industry, size of the company, and the services provided to your customers.

Goodwill of Central and Northern Arizona is part of the Goodwill Industries International network of 156 community-based autonomous organizations in in the world.   Our organization of 4,300 employees has over 100 stores and a dozen Career Centers where jobseekers can receive no-cost career readiness services.  Our vision is “Ending poverty through the power of work.”  Donations we collect from the community are sold in our stores and the revenue we generate is used to provide services like help with resume writing, developing interviewing skills, and training for industry recognized certifications.  In addition to our in-person services, we have an online platform at www.mycareeradvisor.com where job seekers can receive these services virtually.  This year we are projected to generate over $200 million in revenue and provide over 180,000 services to jobseekers.

What are your top 3 – 5 (ongoing) main priorities as a CIO in your organization?

Our vision as an IT department is to be an innovative leader and trusted advisor.  Our current three main strategies are:

  1. Innovative solutions – This includes the development of an innovation and advisory team as well as standardizing and consolidating applications.
  2. Service excellence – This includes user-facing improvements as well as security enhancements, process optimization, and automation.
  3. Empowering people – This includes talent and resource management of team members in the IT department.

How do you decompress from your role as a technology executive?  What do you do for fun?

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my wife Karen, my four adult-age children, and my granddaughter Paisley who was born in October of 2019.  I also still play classic and current video games and have built several multiple arcade machine systems that can play over 100 classic arcade games.

Can you list your top 1 – 3 books that you would recommend for a technology leader to have on their bookshelf/Kindle?

  1. High Performance Habits by Brendon Burshard –  In the book, he shares personal and social habits that have proven success in making people better leaders.  I strongly believe that if you can’t lead yourself, you can’t successfully lead others and this book really focuses on self-management.
  2. The Performance Pipeline by Stephen Drotter –  This book is all about how to ensure that people at all levels of an organization are performing at their level and how that sustains a successful organization.
  3. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown – In the author’s words, this is a “practical, no-BS, actionable book about what it takes to be a daring leader.”

Can you share a specific quote that is a source of inspiration for you as a leader?

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself Is mightier still.”

Lao-Tzu

Please share a recommendation or testimonial on the benefit that you see as a member of this CIO Professional Network.

The CIO Professional Network has been a great resource to find out what other CIOs are thinking about by connecting to other CIOs.  I have also been able to reach out to people about their personal experiences managing projects or implementing technology so that I can learn from their successes and failures.  Also, the research briefs have been very helpful in learning about what others are doing and how to approach things that you may not have any personal experience with.

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