Linda Dillman wasn't angling for one of the highest-profile tech jobs in the world. Honest. Dillman turned down a job with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT ) in 1991 when it bought an employer of hers. Only after her new employer was sold to a rival did she join the rapidly growing retailer. "I was tired of being acquired," she says. Last year, after climbing through the ranks of the tech department, Dillman, 47, landed the powerful post of chief information officer.
Now, she's setting the technology agenda not just for Wal-Mart but for the whole $2.7 trillion U.S. retail industry. A top priority is to spread radio-frequency identification tags, or RFID, throughout Wal-Mart's vast supply chain. This will allow the company to use the Web to track inventory from factories in China to store shelves everywhere. She has ordered the company's top 100 suppliers to start putting the tags on each case of goods by 2005. The rest of the industry is sure to follow. Dillman also is pushing an industrywide initiative to have suppliers create a single, centralized database of products on the Net. The goal: fewer errors in restocking products and faster introductions of new items. She's on her way to turning the entire retailing industry into an e-business.