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Claire Rutkowski

Claire Rutkowski: A Visionary Tech Leader Driving Innovation and Business Strategy

With a keen eye on innovation and dedication to driving business success, Claire Rutkowski is the visionary C-Level Technology Executive who is transforming the IT industry with her innovative solutions and business strategy advancements.

With an impressive track record of delivering creative and cost-effective solutions, Claire is a true leader in the field of IT Leadership. Claire’s passion for technology and her unwavering commitment to improving processes to enhance productivity and save time emerged right after finishing school. Her successful career is a testament to her understanding of the importance of adding value, working hard, and never giving up.

The interview highlights how Claire’s exceptional proficiency in IT Leadership has established her as a trailblazer in the industry and how she is leading the way for the future of technology.

Brief our audience about your journey as a dynamic leader until your current position at your company. What challenges have you had to overcome to reach where you are today?

I wish I could recount a cleverly executed a well-thought-out plan from the start of my career. However, that is not the case. I got into technology and IT by accident. When I was in high school, I wanted to become a lawyer, so in college, I majored in political science. After college, I took a year or two off to start making a salary, working at a law firm before heading to law school. That was about the time that personal computers were becoming commonplace.

I quickly realized that by using Visual Basic and writing a few macros, I could save everyone loads of time when preparing legal documents. I fell in love with technology—not for technology’s sake, but because of how it could be leveraged to make everyone’s lives easier.

Technology can dramatically reduce time spent repetitively doing manual tasks such searching and replacing, for instance, and free that time up for deeper thinking and analytical decision-making. I decided that law school was not really for me and chose to pursue a career in technology full-time.

I spent my first few years consulting—building databases and other technology solutions for a variety of clients, and eventually settled in at a company in Chicago called Harza Engineering, which became MWH and then MWH, a Stantec company. Little did I know that I would stay there for 19 years, working my way up from an office productivity specialist to chief information officer (CIO).

I am passionate about helping people. As a CIO, I delivered IT strategy, services, and support to 7,000 engineering professionals globally. Looking back, it seems like a natural progression, but it was more about being lucky enough to have the ability to make suggestions, and have leadership that took me up on them, that helped me get ahead.

In 2016, I was approached by Bentley Systems about becoming their CIO. MWH had been a customer of Bentley Systems for years, and I loved what I saw about the culture of the organization. So, I jumped at the chance to see things from a different perspective. I served as CIO at Bentley Systems for six years, leading a team of 400 IT, logistics, procurement, vendor management, and financial operations colleagues.

Just last year, I was given a chance to focus less on internal matters and more on leveraging my extensive engineering industry experience by serving as the CIO Champion. This role allows me to be a bridge between engineering, architecture, and construction (AEC) firms and Bentley Systems. I advocate for Bentley’s AEC accounts and ensure that Bentley is providing the thought leadership the AEC industry needs.

I think one of the biggest challenges I have had to overcome is being a woman in what is still a male- dominated industry (engineering is even more male- dominated than technology). When I became the CIO at MWH, only 4% of CIOs at AEC firms were women.

Today, that number has risen to 16%. Being in the minority brings with it all the hurdles that you might expect; however, having self-confidence and making sure that I had the expertise to back it up overcame most of them.

Enlighten us on how you have been impacting the dynamic industry through your expertise in the market.

Serving as the CIO Champion has enabled me to put all my experience developed over the years in the AEC industry, as well as the expertise I have as a technology leader, to meaningful use. I have always been more interested in the business outcomes that technology can deliver.

I understand the pressures that AEC firms are under and what they can accomplish when they utilize the right technology for the task at hand. I also have a deep enough understanding of the technology itself to see the pivotal role that it will play in solving some of our biggest infrastructure challenges for the next generation.

Describe in detail the values and culture that drive your organization.

Bentley Systems was founded by the Bentley brothers and is now a publicly traded company with over 5,000 colleagues and over USD 1 billion in revenue annually. Throughout its almost 40-year history, Bentley has certainly seen a lot of change, but one value that has not changed is a focus on respect for one another. The collegial work environment is what drew me to Bentley in the first place.

I was a Bentley customer before joining the firm, and I noticed that no matter whom I was speaking with from Bentley, they always referred to their co-workers and team members as colleagues, never employees. That consistency of respect said a lot to me when I chose Bentley. It shows up in individual autonomy, the ability to voice one’s opinion and make decisions, and the opportunity to function on and lead empowered teams. Another value is putting our users first.

We demonstrate this in a variety of ways—from our products to our colleagues’ domain expertise in infrastructure engineering to our quantitative and qualitative surveys to ensure that we are consistently exceeding expectations. We feel accountable to our users and accounts on every level.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you advancing towards technological innovations to make your solutions resourceful?

It has never been a more exciting time to be in both the technology and infrastructure spaces. There are so many pressures on the infrastructure sector to do more with less that technology adoption and change have accelerated dramatically. During design, companies are using drones and LiDAR to quickly capture the existing world, which is much more efficient and accurate than traditional surveying techniques.

Subsurface ground penetrating radar is regularly used to locate pipes and other existing utilities, even through concrete. Pedestrian and vehicular traffic can be simulated. Storms, flooding, and other weather conditions can be modelled to ensure that an asset can stand up to local conditions.

Companies are also leveraging digital twins to create visual representations of their designs, which engage owners, operators, and citizen stakeholders alike to save rework and accelerate procurement and construction. New tools—such as 3D printing (in concrete) and robotics—are being used to make construction more efficient, and wearable devices are helping people stay safe on the job site. Operating and maintaining a piece of infrastructure has also been made safer and easier through the application of technology.

New infrastructure is being built with embedded sensors, using edge computing to alert owners to changes in conditions, such as an increase in heat or a rise in water levels. Drones and photogrammetry can help conduct asset condition inspections for rust on steel girders, cracks in bridges and dams, and obstacles on railroad tracks, which is safer than manual inspections. Bentley Systems is leveraging all this technology in its solutions, creating a data-centric, data-rich environment for digital twin representations of critical infrastructure.

What, according to you, could be the next significant change in your sector? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?

The infrastructure sector is already undergoing a digital transformation and is changing the way assets are designed, built, and operated. We are already using digital twins not only as visual representations of the as-designed and as- built worlds but also as a mechanism for knitting together disparate data sets.

We see data-rich models being used to construct and operate assets, leveraging sensors and other remote tools to facilitate their maintenance. However, design is still a time- consuming process. I believe that because the demand for infrastructure is higher than we can keep up with, our next big shift will be the more widespread adoption of truly generative design, not just of individual components but of systems.

Traditional design is a very manual and labor-intensive process generative design leverages AI and cloud computing to enable engineers and designers to input all the constraints and desired outcomes and then generate multiple options that meet those requirements. It is already being used in architecture to create concept designs, in manufacturing on individual components as well as at the component level for individual parts of the infrastructure.

However, as AI develops further, I believe we will explore the ability to handle more constraints, more outcomes, and more complex scenarios—creating greater efficiencies for design firms and delivering better outcomes to society.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run, and what are your future goals for the organization?

Figuring out ways to apply technology to improve efficiency and deliver better outcomes has always been a key driver at work for me, and I expect that to continue. I hope to be helping AEC firms advance their digital strategies so that they can deliver infrastructure services faster and more effectively while producing better designs that increase sustainability and lower our carbon footprint.

I am also interested in helping our users conceive of and deliver more transformational solutions and new revenue streams so that together, we can continue advancing infrastructure and meeting the needs of the world’s population.

What would be your advice to budding entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the dynamic industry?

The infrastructure sector is a dynamic space and is changing rapidly, so come and join us! You will find a sector that is hungry for technology solutions that drive efficiency without sacrificing quality.

You will find an ecosystem of consultants, providers, owners, and operators who are increasingly joining forces and working together to help deliver projects more quickly, safely, and with higher quality than ever before.

We like the idea of being responsible for providing clean drinking water, energy, shelter, and transportation. We are highly collaborative and are always looking for ways to make a difference.