Alumni Spotlight

David Berry '82

When David Berry ‘82 began his studies at Pace, he was already well-prepared. Unlike most of his fellow students, Berry had already spent four years in the U.S. Navy. He worked full-time at Pepsi while attending Pace – from which he graduated magna cum laude - and parlayed his military experience in cryptography into studying Information Systems.

Throughout Berry’s career as an award-winning Chief Information Officer (CIO), there have been two main themes: embracing change and the value of networking. He has worked in more than 26 countries and lived in France, Spain, and the Netherlands for 15 years collectively. Whether working for Häagen-Dazs in the United States, Grand Metropolitan in Paris, or Coty in Amsterdam, Berry has continually been open to new challenges and to unconventional work situations - he commuted from New York to Los Angeles weekly for 11 months while Interim CIO for TOMS Shoes. His “burning desire” to learn about new industries has resulted in working for branded consumer products companies, retail, food, apparel, cosmetics, insurance, high-tech, and software companies on a global scale.

Along the way, he’s seen major transitions in his industry.

“The biggest large scale change is that a building used to house a computing system. Now it’s on your phone,” says Berry. “I’ve seen the transformation of the whole industry from IBM to Apple and Google. We’re just on the cusp of what’s coming – things like wireless electricity.” Berry is also proponent of networking. Many of his interim CIO assignments have been at the recommendation of former colleagues. He also works with veterans through eMentor to show them the value and power of networking.

“I see the struggles veterans go through when they re-enter the workforce. If you’re discharged as a regular Joe, the government doesn’t do much for you,” he notes. “I ask veterans, ‘What’s your skill set? What do you bring to the party?’ I had an obvious, well-defined skill set when I was discharged. My area was top secret with a very high security clearance.”

“A lot of veterans undersell themselves,” he continues, sharing a story about a female lieutenant colonel who had served in the Middle East and told him that she wanted to work as a project manager. “I told her that with her experience and management skills, she should be looking at executive level positions. Many veterans don’t realize how many skills they acquire in the military and how they’re applicable in the outside world.”

Berry recently extended his network to the Pace community, participating in a roundtable with Dean Neil Braun from the Lubin School of Business. He shared his expertise with 25 current students, many of whom count among Pace’s 350 student veterans enrolled this year. What advice does he have for this group? Berry says it’s never too early to network, noting, “It’s not really a matter of ‘if’ you’ll need a job, but a matter of ‘when” you’ll need a job.”

Berry also thinks that the risks are worth it.

“Students have the view that their first job is also their last job. They shoot for the moon immediately,” he says. “I tell them that their first job is their first job, and that they’ll probably have a dozen jobs over the course of their career. Don’t fall in love with your first job; you may miss out on great opportunities.”