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An inside look of how a local tech leader found her dream job

By Thomas Rauch - Technical Sales Director, CSI Companies November 24, 2022, 12:00am EST

We often meet C-level executives within different organizations and hear about industry trends, how their company is navigating the economy, or some cutting-edge technology projects they are implementing. But one topic we don’t hear about often is how did they get that job? Melissa Fulmore-Hardwick is the chief information officer of CSI Companies, a leading workforce solutions firm based in Jacksonville, Florida. But becoming a CIO was never something she dreamed about early in her career. In fact, if she didn’t take a call from an executive recruiter out of the blue, she probably wouldn’t have known about the opportunity in the first place.

Fulmore-Hardwick’s career did not begin in technology. The youngest of 12 siblings, she started her career as an accountant for a financial services company after serving in the U.S. Army and completing a degree in accounting. It wasn’t until her company started implementing a new ERP system called Oracle that her career switched over to the technical side. She later became an Oracle consultant where she helped other companies with their digital transformation projects.

After spending a few years as a consultant at a Big 4, she decided it was time to make a switch and shifted gears to join JEA where she helped bring in new ERP technology and infrastructure to the Utility. She quickly rose through the ranks during her nine-year career at JEA, eventually becoming their director of business applications and transformation. She thought she would retire at JEA, as the benefits were great and there wasn’t a lack of projects within the IT department. But a call from a technical recruiter made her question if she should remain there for the rest of her career.

A friend of Fulmore-Hardwick’s thought she’d be perfect for an open position and gave her name to the recruiter. They ended up connecting, and after discussing the details of the opportunity, she realized this new role would provide global initiatives that were well beyond the size and scope of her current environment. She was ready to take on the challenge.

Fast forward a couple of months, and Fulmore-Hardwick was now the newest VP of enterprise applications for a large, multi-billion-dollar company based in Jacksonville. Although she was directing larger endeavors and sizeable teams, the thought of becoming a CIO was still not probable. It would need to be the right fit – a unique opportunity within a special company for her to consider leaving her current role.

After several years of exponential growth, CSI Companies was ready to add their first-ever CIO to the leadership team. It would be a tall order to fill. CSI was looking for someone who not only had the technical knowledge, but someone who was open to exploring new ideas and technologies, and above all, had a passion for innovation and diversity. Once again, Fulmore-Hardwick received a chance call from an executive recruiter at CSI after they noticed her background on LinkedIn. As it turns out, the timing was right, and the company had all the things that she would want in a new company – growth, stability, innovation and their own nonprofit, CSI Gives Back, which was very compelling as she was involved in various charities.

Although not quite two years into her new role as chief information officer, Fulmore-Hardwick has already made a huge impact in several areas of the business. These include completing the implementation of a new ERP system, providing additional in-house development for greater operational efficiencies, as well as her favorite accomplishment, spearheading a new diversity program known as CSI Connect. The program enables under-represented high school and college students in the Jacksonville area to learn what is possible in technology. It provides meaningful experiences through investment in new computer labs and internships to help college students land their first IT job.

Fulmore-Hardwick is a strong people leader and says that her greatest professional accomplishments come from being able to bring together dynamic tech teams. Her motto has always been “people before things” and her primary responsibility is to help provide those around her with an opportunity to succeed. Who knew that such major career milestones could stem from a simple phone call? When a life-changing opportunity rings, answer. You never know where it might lead you.

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