Robin Bienfait, chief information officer, Research In Motion

Bienfait retired from AT&T on a full pension after 22 years with the carrier. But a life of leisure offered little appeal and she joined Research in Motion, the Canadian firm behind the hugely successful Blackberry family of products in January 2007.

As chief information officer, Bienfait runs the Blackberry network, the infrastructure that she describes as “the oxygen that supports the device.” The firm’s fiscal 2010 results showed that there were more than 41 million users breathing that oxygen at the end of March 2010.

The subscriber base grew by 65 per cent in the year to end March, reflecting the firm’s push into the consumer space. The company said it was the number one selling smartphone brand in the US at the end of 2009 and it is active in more than 160 countries.

Bienfait certainly has experience of running large international networks. At AT&T she ran global network operations in 137 countries, at over 6,000 locations as well as managing business continuity and 36 data centres worldwide. She was also responsible for building the applications used by AT&T’s own corporate Blackberry users.

She caused a minor storm in March 2009 when she was quoted as saying that, under her instruction, all activity carried out by RIM employees on the Blackberry network was recorded to protect the fi rm’s intellectual property. After extensive coverage, the comments were swiftly smothered by Reseach In Motion’s PR team.

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