Taking Tech to New Heights

Maya Leibman, MBA 94
Chief Information Officer,
American Airlines, Dallas

Maya Leibman “Technology’s reason for being is to solve business problems,” says Maya Leibman, senior vice president–technology and chief information officer of American Airlines. As the job of CIO morphs from tech geek terrain into a more strategic leadership arena, successful CIOs like Leibman have found they need acute business skills.

Since joining AA after graduating from Haas, Leibman has held 12 roles in 18 years, navigating such challenges as Y2K, 9/11, and the bankruptcy of parent company AMR. Her experience includes revenue management, marketing, and technology.

CIO since 2011, Leibman wants to bring consumer technology into the enterprise to solve problems and improve service. “People go home and interact with technology that in many cases is way better than what they are getting when they come to work,” says Leibman. She’s working on that.

A new app provides flight attendants up-to-the-minute information on passengers, including their connections. Mechanics now carry tablets to track parts so that repairs happen faster. Pilots used to lug 35-pound manuals and had to update them by hand each time there was a change. Now every pilot carries an iPad with an electronic, easy-to-update manual.

Technology can also create connection, Leibman notes. As president of the AAdvantage loyalty program before becoming CIO, Leibman noticed that customers felt passionate about the program but the company wasn’t harnessing that emotion. So she led a new campaign that included gathering stories of the crazy things people did to earn miles and making a funny, tongue-in-cheek video of herself talking about elite members’ benefits.

“The video definitely wasn’t something that we would traditionally do,” Leibman says. “But for the Advantage program, everyone recognized that we needed to be a little more,” she pauses, looking for the right word, “connecting.”

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