CIO Mike McNamara Talks Retirement Plans and Target’s Tech Momentum

  • Sep 1, 2021
a man smiling for the camera

Ask the Target team to describe Chief Information Officer (CIO) Mike McNamara and you’ll hear words like visionary, advocate and ruthless prioritizer (more on that one below). When Mike joined Target in 2015, he brought a vision for how technology can help transform our business and how to develop in-house capabilities that would deliver incredible guest experiences. His team has rebuilt and modernized the technology platform that’s been critical to the launch and growth of numerous Target experiences — including the digital and same-day services that our guests love and rely on.

Today, CEO Brian Cornell shared with the Target team that Mike plans to retire next year. As we celebrate his career and significant impact on Target, A Bullseye View caught up with Mike to hear his favorite moments, wise words — and how Target’s tech team will continue shaping the future of retail.

Congrats, Mike! How did you decide to retire now, and what’s next for you?

Well, I’ve always been planning for Target to be my last job. I’ve loved every minute of my time here, but professionally and personally, the timing is great to begin the process of retiring and transitioning to a new CIO. The technology team and platform are in brilliant shape and our business is already taking on its next growth chapter.

Personally, I’m looking forward to next summer in Minnesota with fewer distractions, and then I hope to catch up on leisure travel — first up is Dublin to play golf with my 84-year-old mum. And I have big plans to learn even more about wine and resume being an Arsenal season ticketholder. 

When you joined Target, what was your guiding vision for the tech team?

Technology was and is too important to outsource — it plays an enormous role in determining the winners of any industry. We focused on developing phenomenal in-house expertise and capabilities and have custom-built a tech platform that’s scalable, stable and secure. I pushed for ruthless prioritization and greatly reduced the number of tech projects underway so we could focus on doing fewer but bigger things to help grow and modernize our business. 

Fast forward to now and I’m surrounded by over 4,500 of the brightest technologists and data scientists in the U.S. and India that help make Target one of the best omnichannel retailers out there. I didn’t come to Minnesota for a participation trophy and I’m so proud of technology’s role in making Target a retail winner.

This momentum will only keep going. As a company, we see tons more opportunity ahead for technology to continue setting Target apart as an incredible place to work and shop.

Tell us about a favorite memory from your time here.

There are way too many to choose from, which is a wonderful feeling in and of itself. But our Demo Day program stands out as one of my favorite days each quarter. We have team members from across the company present new ideas and technologies they’re working on. There’s so much ingenuity and ideas on display and you leave so energized about the innovation in our pipeline and on our team.

We know your team also values continuous learning. What does that mean to you?

I think curiosity is a superpower, for individuals and businesses alike. You’ve got to learn in order to grow and you’ve got to be comfortable learning from failure. So much on-the-job learning and experimentation happen at Target, whether through everyday brainstorms or programs like Demo Day and 50 Days of Learning.

After more than three decades in technology, what are your hopes for improving diversity and inclusion across the tech industry? 

We talk often of a talent pipeline issue, but the truth is great tech talent is everywhere. We need to meet more people where they’re at in their professional journeys and create inclusive cultures that help them stick around.

I’m proud of Target’s intentionality to recalibrate our tech hiring mindset and launch new partnerships and onboarding programs to find and cultivate talent with different backgrounds. Over the last year, we’ve had former baristas, teachers, line cooks, and a sculptor start their engineering careers with us. The way to build great technology for Target's guests is to build it with engineers who represent Target's guests. We’re making progress but we know there’s a lot more work to do here and across the industry to create a long-term equitable tech workforce.  

What have you enjoyed most about being a CIO? 

As simple as this may sound, it’s the technology and the people. I’ve experienced such a wonderful evolution of technology throughout my career. New software and open-source tooling have reduced drudgery and created more room for creativity. Technologists now spend more time solving for problems rather than configuring servers — and at Target we solve at such a fun and impactful scale.

And then, the people. Team is everything. I learn so much from the people I work with and the caring culture of Target. It’s a truly special place and I’ll miss it a lot after I wind down next year.   

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