Jon Fortt, co-anchor of the CNBC program “Squawk Alley,” started the conversation by asking panelists about their path to becoming CEO. Su, who was previously the CTO at Freescale Semiconductor, explained that the real transition in shifting from being a CTO to a CEO is about decision making, which can set the stage for the next few years at an organization.
“It’s important to have a good feel for what the key drivers for innovation are going to be down the road,” she said. “Do you ever know you’re going to be CEO? Perhaps not, but you know you have a passion for the industry and a passion for changing things in the industry.”
By contrast, Hurst’s background is in the restaurant world. He had been the president of Papa John’s, and then went into business for himself, opening his own barbecue restaurant. Hurst joined Panera as a tech consultant in 2011 to help improve what the team realized was a poor guest experience, with excessive lines and a long wait “in a mosh pit” before customers got their food. “We found that the degree of friction the consumer had would overcome their desire to eat at Panera,” he said.
Hurst thought he was going to be a Panera franchisee, but Ron Shaich, Panera’s founder, had a different idea: He viewed this poor customer experience as an opportunity to use technology to enable a better guest solution and he wanted Hurst’s help, which resulted in what Hurst has called Panera 2.0. “My job was to figure out how to get it done, make it happen, and then continue to evolve it. I did not expect to end up in the role I’m in, by any stretch of the imagination,” said Hurst.