On the job: A chat with HP’s new chief information officer, Ron Guerrier

Why the company’s commitment to racial, social, and environmental justice was key to him joining.

By Leigh-Ann Jackson — February 11, 2021

Over the past 20 years, Ron Guerrier has served as Chief Information Officer for multiple Fortune 500 firms, as well as the State of Illinois. No matter the post, he’s been driven by a desire to promote equality in the tech field and beyond. In September, the Chicago-based innovator stepped into the CIO role at HP, with the goal of building out its IT organization and overseeing company-wide digitization. But he’s also eager to further the company’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The HP Racial Equality and Social Justice Task Force, formed last summer and formalized this year, was what initially piqued Guerrier’s curiosity about HP. His interest grew stronger when he came across CEO Enrique Lores’ public statement about “leading with values” in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. 

“I was blown away,” Guerrier said, “because it resonated as something that was extremely authentic.” 

During last summer’s nationwide civil unrest, he recalled, “A lot of CEOs and boards were posting statements and then they just went quiet.” By contrast, he found that HP had a plan to make good on the company’s committments about social justice and racial equality. Its nascent task force and its expanding partnerships with HBCUs convinced Guerrier that the company intended to “use the power and influence of this phenomenal brand to change things.”

“I follow the basic rule [which is to] create awareness and advocacy,” Guerrier says. “But, I think a lot of companies end it there. They forget the third ‘A,’ which is action.”

For Guerrier, taking action is key. His dedication to uplifting underserved communities has led him to volunteer with the gang rehabilitation program Homeboy Industries and serves as a founding Advisory Board Member of STEM Advantage, a nonprofit organization promoting STEM opportunities for minorities enrolled in the California State University system. He also sits on the board of the disaster relief organization SBP, which he describes as “Habitat for Humanity plus”— the nonprofit helps underserved communities maneuver their way through the FEMA process after a disaster hits, and rebuilds homes, making them net zero and carbon neutral whenever possible.

Ron Guerrier, HP's new CIO, with Former President Barack Obama.


Guerrier with former president Barack Obama in 2019 during his tenure as the State of Illinois' Secretary of Innovation & Technology.

HP’s efforts to tackle climate change were yet another draw for Guerrier, who has been eco-minded since his college days at the University of Illinois. “My family originates from Haiti and I have cousins who work at HP recycling centers. How small of a world is this? Right now, I’m looking at an HP Elite Dragonfly made using recycled materials including ocean-bound plastic potentially from Haiti!” 

Looking ahead, Guerrier plans to use his platform to continue addressing the digital divide in education, to create pathways for advancement, and to encourage businesses to “see the art of the possible in Black and Brown communities.”

What’s your impression of the DEI work HP is doing?

As a founding member of OneTen, a coalition that aims to create one million family-sustaining jobs for Black Americans, we’re partnering with our global procurement group to make sure that we hire more Black-owned IT companies. We recently signed up for the Information Technology Senior Management Forum, an organization that helps Black employees understand the importance of networking and connects them with strong sponsors within the company. So when we do have an opportunity at the manager or director level, we can have a diverse palette of candidates. That is putting the action behind awareness and advocacy.

How have your personal experiences in the tech world shaped your perspective? 

About 12% of the US population is African American, but we represent 3%, at most, in IT. So there is a huge gap. I want to make sure that we create better opportunities. There were times in my career where I’ve been at CIO events and I’m the keynote speaker, but I’m mistaken for security or the coffee guy. Several times, they would ask for my credentials just to validate that I’m in the right place. That’s embarrassing, but I use it as a learning opportunity to stress that you have to view everyone with an equal lens.

Ron Guerrier, HP's new CIO, with students winning awards for entrepreneurship.

Ron Guerrier via Twitter

Guerrier lauds Black students on their entrepreneurship skills at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.

You’ve been vocal about increasing STEM education in Black and Latinx communities. Will you continue to advocate for those efforts in your new role?

What I want to do next, as I get more into the HP ecosystem, is see where there are opportunities to accelerate these passions. Where could we create equality and bring on more Black and Brown candidates who are more than qualified, but they just don’t know the network? At the end of the day, the network matters. The important thing is to connect the dots.

You’ve also supported efforts to fight climate change. HP has made this a priority with programs like the recycling center and wash line in Haiti that employs 1,100 Haitians and has kept more than 1.7 million pounds of plastic out of the ocean. What sparked your interest in doing that work?

I put myself through college. I worked at the computer store and as a janitor. My resume, if I’d left it on there, would say ‘custodial engineer.’ The amount of waste I saw as a janitor on a college campus was just arduous. That was the drive to start me thinking we could do better. 

Also, I made several trips to Haiti as a youth. I remember going to the beach and my cousins were all excited. The water was undulating with bottles, but they would just dive right in. They didn't have recycling, they didn't have disposal; it is what it is. And then, when the earthquake happened in 2010, a lot of people passed away, including some of my family members, because they did not have the infrastructure that we have today. It’s not that they didn't want to, they just couldn’t afford to. So, that’s always top of mind for me. I live in the most prosperous country in the world and we’re squandering the opportunity to do better.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re focusing attention on the past. What about the future? What steps would you recommend for Silicon Valley going forward?

The first thing I would recommend to the industry at large is intentionally investing in people of color at the younger ages. You really have to start early. I gave a commencement speech at Chicago Tech Academy several months ago and the one thing the kids talked about was the fact that they were given a laptop or another device and it just opened their eyes to the world. In the absence of that device, they’re blind, they’re falling behind. Silicon Valley has to invest in digital equity and create communities of learning.

In a way, creating this framework and making these changes is making Black history right now. 

I totally agree with that. I think it’s important for us to respect history, but also say ‘Thank you for trailblazing, but we’ve got it now. We’re going to take the baton forward.’


RELATED: HP’s Chief Diversity Officer Lesley Slaton Brown on why true inclusivity is more than a seat at the table.