The Women to Watch: No. 17, BB&T's Barbara Duck

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Chief Information Officer, BB&T

In February 2017, during the same week she was celebrating the birth of her first grandchild, BB&T’s Barbara Duck was told she had an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Duck had only been in her role as BB&T’s chief information officer for seven months when she received the diagnosis, and at the time her team was in the midst of radically transforming the bank’s client-facing and back-office technology.

Over the next few months, Duck endured surgery, 19 rounds of radiation and 15 rounds of chemotherapy, yet she managed to remain actively engaged in her work. It was not uncommon for her to lead conference calls while sitting in a hospital room receiving treatment.

“I was new in my CIO role and we had lots of aggressive plans for the year,” Duck said. “I also knew that if I just sat home it might not be good for my mental health.”

By the time 2017 came to a close, BB&T, under Duck’s direction, had opened a $300 million data center, rebuilt its cybersecurity backroom and, most notably, rolled out a new digital banking platform for customers with tools for budgeting and tracking savings.

The platform, U by BB&T, was completed on schedule and under budget and attracted 1.5 million users in its first year. It was named by S&P Global Market Intelligence a 2017 Top 5 mobile app among BB&T’s peers.

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It’s a testament to Duck’s leadership skills that BB&T was able to revamp much of its tech infrastructure in the span of a year. It’s even more impressive that the bank hit its tech targets while its CIO was fighting the battle of her life.

Duck decided early on in her treatment that she needed to be open with colleagues about her diagnosis so that if she missed a meeting or didn’t quickly respond to an email they would understand why.

Though she views herself as an introvert, Duck also believed it was important to share her story more broadly in hopes of encouraging more women to be screened for breast cancer. She ended up producing a powerful and moving awareness video that went live on BB&T’s website in October 2017; it has been viewed more than 150,000 times on social media and was shared with the bank’s 37,000 employees as part of a “Think Pink” campaign.

“I wanted to use my experience to encourage women everywhere to do self-examinations and get mammograms,” Duck said. “Finding cancer early gives you more options and makes the journey a little less harrowing.”

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