Karenann "Kat" Terrell

Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
MSEE '88

For her significant professional leadership roles, excellence in engineering, and her dedication to the advancement of women in technology

As executive vice president and chief information officer for Walmart, Karenann Terrell is responsible for technology systems that serve 245 million customers in 27 countries every week. She oversees e-commerce websites in 10 countries and technology for 11,000 stores and clubs globally. She also oversees Walmart's supply chain, merchandising and enterprise platforms.

Her professional journey has included similar IT and e-business positions with Chrysler Group and Mercedes Benz North America and Baxter International. However, she says that her professional journey has been more than a vertical climb.

"A huge component to my success is that I wasn't climbing a ladder; I was traversing a lattice," she says. "When I stopped clinging to the ladder, my horizons widened and I found tremendous opportunities in unexpected areas. I realized I could translate my technology background across different industries, and, as a result, I learned far more than I otherwise would have."

Growing up, her ultimate pursuit of electrical engineering was foreshadowed by her love for solving math problems. Her father suggested that she pursue medicine or engineering.

"I couldn't stand blood, so medicine was not going to be for me," she says. "I'm a bit of a math junky. Numbers are easy for me, and electrical engineering was the most 'mathy.'"

She credits her husband with giving her exactly the support and encouragement she needed — encouragement to take risks with confidence, both as a student and as a professional.

"I got married when I was 19," she says. "He was graduating; I was a freshman. I can see retrospectively how my husband and that early marriage allowed me to act in ways in my career that were very, very success-oriented. My ability to take risks without having any second thought was pivotal to my success. When opportunities walked in front of me, I thought, 'sounds good!'"

When evaluating opportunities, however, Terrell says she has learned to choose the ones that put her best skills to use.

"I don't try to do things I'm not good at. I find the areas where I really am strong and I pour steam at them."

Among endeavors getting that steam is Terrell's work to support women in leadership and in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities. She serves on Walmart's President's Global Council of Women Leaders and is the executive sponsor of its STEM initiatives.

That work, and the rest of her pursuits, must meet a primary criterion she has set for herself: "To matter. I want to work on something that will outlast me. That also describes how I spend my time philanthropically. When we increase the numbers of women in STEM, we are going to change the world."

Career Highlights

2012-present Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
2010–2012 Executive Vice President, Information Systems, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
2006–2010 Corporate Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Baxter International, Inc.
2004–2006 Chief Information Officer, Chrysler Group and Mercedes-Benz North America
2000–2004 Director, e-Business, Chrysler
1984–2000 Various engineering positions, General Motors
1988 MSEE, Purdue University
1986 BSEE, Kettering University, Formerly General Motors Institute