A Leader’s Journey to the CIO Chair
Dennis Keane Puts People First
When Irish teenager Dennis Keane worked the mussel boats off the Emerald Isle coast, he never guessed that one day he would become the CIO of one of the world’s most iconic footwear brands. Dennis’ journey from County Cork Ireland to Red Wing Shoes is a testament to his talent for identifying opportunities and putting people first. This is his story.
After working as a fisherman, Dennis planned to become a plumber. However, he wanted to see the world first, so he set off for England. It was there that he identified an opportunity to get paid to see the world by enlisting in the United States Air Force. During his years of travel and service, he met an American service member who would later become his loving wife. She hailed from Minnesota, so both agreed to plant roots there following their tenure in the service.
Dennis received his Engineering degree from the University of Central Florida and his mini-MBA from the University of St. Thomas. He identified computer engineering as an opportunistic discipline that resonated with his intellect. From there, his technology journey began. For nearly a decade, Dennis Keane wrote copious amounts of code. This provided him with a fluent understanding of technology from the inside out, as well as an appreciation of the power of human collaboration.
Always a people person, Dennis shifted his career trajectory to explore opportunities on the management side of tech. For the next decade, he focused on honing the people and processes necessary to execute intelligent solutions.
If the Shoe Fits
Eight years ago, Dennis had the opportunity to join Red Wing Shoes. The company’s culture was the perfect fit for his management style, so he stepped aboard and spent four years focused on enterprise architecture. According to Dennis, “I have always believed that opportunity exists where the pain points are in an organization.” He applied that philosophy to his work at Red Wing Shoes, resulting in continued career growth and colleague trust – ultimately earning Dennis the CIO leadership role for the global footwear brand.
Keane On Red Wing Shoes
“Red Wing is a 100-year-old company with 700 retail locations selling in 110 countries. From our tanneries to the store shelves, we are a vertically-integrated company where technology exists in every aspect of the operation – from design and manufacturing to eCommerce and everything in between. My mission is to inject technology deep into the DNA of the company to maximize automation and make life easier for our people, customers, and consumers.”
Dennis believes that when technology spreads into every area of a company, it allows a CIO to build relationships and become a true business enabler. He’s thrilled that CFOs, CHROs and other leaders now embrace technology to streamline processes and bring people together.
Pain Points = Professional Growth
Dennis Keane’s advice to new and existing IT professionals is simple: “Look for the pain points. That’s where the opportunities are.” He encourages in-house and consultant talent to find those points begging for improvement, then jump in and join forces with others to solve problems and flourish together. He believes that putting people first in a vibrant workplace culture lays a foundation for success.
Never Stop Fighting
Earning the CIO chair at Red Wing Shoes has been a huge achievement for someone whose journey began as a mussel fisherman. But for Dennis, giving back means more. That’s why he was part of a group that launched CIOs Against Cancer in 2021, an influential group of technology leaders (CXO’s) focused on funding early-stage cancer research projects through a partnership with the America Cancer Society. He has helped double their fundraising efforts for three consecutive years. In 2022, Dennis joined the board of directors and is currently the Vice Chair. He is as proud to work with the American Cancer Society as he is at Red Wing Shoes. Fighting cancer is a tribute to Dennis’ driving philosophy: Put People First.
Click here to watch the recording of Dennis’ chat with Kelli Schnieder about his career path to the CIO started and where he thinks the role is going.