Former BlackBerry CIO coming out of retirement to be Chief Innovation Technology Officer at Samsung USA

By Kevin Michaluk on 10 Feb 2014 03:32 pm EST

Take this one with a grain of salt as it hasn't been officially announced, but I received word via a reliable source today that BlackBerry's former CIO, Robin Bienfait, will be coming out of retirement soon and moving over to the competition. Specifically, she'll be taking up the roll of Chief Technology Innovations Officer at Samsung Telecommunications America.

Robin was BlackBerry's CIO from 2007 until December 2012, when her retirement was announced rather abruptly during RIM's Fiscal Q3 2013 earnings report. Her LinkedIn profile currently states that she's "In Transition".

John Sims, BlackBerry's newly-appointed President of Global Enterprise Services, recently knocked Samsung's KNOX offering on a BlackBerry blog post. His points were valid — Samsung still has a long road ahead of it in building out its mobile device service offerings for enterprise. 

I think it's fair for me to say that over the years I heard plenty of "mixed reviews" on Robin. Whether this is a big gain for Samsung's mobile enterprise efforts or not, I'm not actually sure. She's definitely well known in the space with lots of connections, so if Samsung's goal is to get word of KNOX out there it certainly can't hurt.

We'll keep you updated as we learn more.

Reader comments

Former BlackBerry CIO coming out of retirement to be Chief Innovation Technology Officer at Samsung USA


Reading between the lines of Kevin's tactfully-phrased critique of Ms. Bienfait, I would say BlackBerry probably doesn't have a great deal to worry about from Samsung's new hire.

Posted by the inimitable Z10 handheld system

She missed the entire BYOD revolution that had been several years brewing. Along with an absolute failure to ....uhm, I don't know the exact word.....oh, yeah.....Innovate.

December 2012 - that places her smack dab in the middle of the BYOD revolution (which actually began 4yrs ago in the USA on mass)!

Kevin shouldn't be making ANY comments of "mixed reviews" of ANY BB executive former nor otherwise. Regardless of his proficiency, tenacity of a fan here on CrackBerry (respectfully) - he does NOT have the skills nor in-depth knowledge of how a corporation works for managing mobile devices let alone how to use BES to manage them - even with recent new found skills. He's just too busy working with this site, his personal life and well most likely has other interests.

NOBODY here actually can make a jedgement call on her work ethic nor expertise: 2007 to 2012 is a LONG time for CIO of any technology business, any longer means their stagnant and NOT very good instead just resting on stock options laurels and enjoying the fat paycheck.

The "BlackBerry Bash Media" will be hyping this as a major couple and a new threat to BlackBerry's security dominance.

Mark this post...

CB10 from the Z30

Also, if BlackBerry only had a 1 year non disclosure agreement with her - yet another reason why Balsille, Lazaridis, Thor and the rest of the punk ass lot had to go.

If they had more than a 1 year NDA - someone go get Zipper Stein, or whatever BlackBerry's General Counsel out of bed.

Lastly, Kevin, you and your ilk have no idea about what is going on at BlackBerry corporate - low blow on your assessment of her standing in the company.

CB10 from the Z30

freddy and supa_fly -- I think we ought to give Michaluk some credit here for reporting what he's heard about Bienfait. To begin with, the biggest worries on everyone's mind about this move are, "If Bienfait is seen as a top talent by Samsung, then why did BB show her the door? Did Samsung hire her for skills or for insider knowledge of BB's operations? Is this a bad sign or a good sign?" All we usually get from newspapers is the bland stuff, and none of the hot rumours/theories tossed around on Bay/Wall Street. I'm glad that Michaluk put his very tentative and polite oar in on this issue.

Secondly, the guy probably has as many sources about the quality of different execs at BlackBerry as anyone out there. You're dissing him because he's not intimate with day to day corporate operations and has never been involved in BES admin? Michaluk is reporting what he's heard, and most likely from contacts who are actually familiar with BB corporate.

I guess what this shows is no matter how crap you may be at your job, but once you reach board level, you will always find employment with another company.

How many people at that level have we seen over the years only to drive a company downwards, then only to hear that that same person bagged a top spot with another firm.

This comment is not aimed at the person within this report, but just a general observations made.

I'm sure she will do great at Samsung.

Catapulted from my Z10.

"I'm sure she will do great at Samsung"

For herself perhaps.

The wonder is anyone actually hired her!

Like you said, it happens ALL the time! Just look at the U.S. auto industry as Exhibit A. They recycle the hell out of executives from all types of industries. You could have somebody who was a shoe company executive land a top decision making position within a car manufacturer! How stupid is that?!? All you need is a business degree, and you can wreck and ruin ANY company you want once you reach the executive level. Actual knowledge of the industry you're in is obviously not required.

Good news for BlackBerry. I expect Samsung to be buried under bureaucracy within a few short months.

If you have any shares, now would be a good time to sell!

No it's definately not good.

Whilst this person in particular may not be a problem, the overall push into enterprise by Samsung definately is.

With the release of 'Business Grade' tablets ( the bigger note pro's ) samsung is really gearing up to take on the business sector, and that can only be a bad thing for BBRY.

I know KNOX may not be the best enteprise platform yet, but Samsung has the dollars and marketing power to make it so, and the fact they have a full range of phones, tablets and now 'B'ablets ( business tablets :) ) will only reinforce this enteprise integration.

I know people think it's a 'waste of resource' but BBRY need a tablet offering, a point i think Mr Chen has realised as there has been a bridge update recently, something that 'didn't need doing' according to some as it is a 'clear waste of resource'.

Compete or go home. If you think anyone is going to let BB sail on in enterprise you are dreaming. The company I work for just took away everyones BB and gave them a Samsung Odessy (Ithink it's a cheap android touch screen that VZW gave us for .01each) Some of the Managers got Galaxay s4. 90% of the 5000 employees that got new phones were thrilled they hated BB. It is time for BB to do a 180 and get up to 2014. All of our regional people that travel got Samsung Tab 2 10.1's and a wireless keyboard.

They hired her because at that level she would have many corporate contacts, which I'm sure she will bring over from BlackBerry to Samsung.

So I'm sure it's more business generation than technology know how, if I'm right?

Catapulted from my Z10.

She's ex-AT&T and from what I hear left in a bit of a cloud.

Before she arrived at BlackBerry, the company was a go-ahead market leader.

By the time she left it was on its knees.

Not entirely her fault of course, but a significant part of the problem.

Was thinking the same thing. Probably had to wait out a 1 year non-compete before starting at Samsung


Hope BBRY has set permissions correctly. Can't do much about the address book, but hope that there is a non-disclosure agreement of some kind for the other stuff.

CITO? A new title? Separate position for innovation?

iPhone for me? Scr... ahem Q that! (posted from the latter)

"helps with their Knox objective"

I doubt she'll have anything to do with Knox. She's a CIO.

1magine has it right.

Is this the place where we post as much bad stuff as we can about former Blackberry management just so that we can make ourselves feel better?

Yeah. It never fails. If someone from management leaves then it's always: "Good riddance", "They must have been doing a terrible job.", "Apparently, they didn't need her", "[whatever] sucks so it's a good move.", "Now they can fix ...".

""They must have been doing a terrible job"

But they HAVE been doing a terrible job.

If they left with a surging stock price we'd say it was a shame they left. Bienfait was a mistake when they hired her, and she was part of the problem that took them down (rapidly increased costs). No doubt she was paid off handsomely.

Frankly I have so little regard for Bienfait I wouldn't be surprised if she had been working on this option for some time before she left BlackBerry.

You really are into this article, I've seen your comments all the way from the top down.

Just an observation, nothing personal with you ;)

Posted via CB10

That's the problem with a news item like this. There's not much to say because there's no way that anyone here can provide any more insight into this story. So people just pull stuff out of thin air - typically something negative about the person who left and, therefore, slightly positive for Blackberry.

And I have to say it's a good thing (all your active comments here) cause ultimately it's us the users who make this website what it is and keep it going and going. Just like BlackBerry, we keep it moving ;)


Posted via CB10

I've noticed the same thing around here. While Thorsten was in, it was all praise for him. The minute he left, it was "good riddance! He was a weak CEO. blah blah blah" And I'm left wondering what article(s) I missed, considering it was Thor-fest 2013 the day prior. LOL Just goes to show just how fickle people are and why BlackBerry can't seem to regain any footing in the consumer market; people always chasing the next big thing and what's cool with the masses.

Let's just set the record straight. Robin took BlackBerry's most valuable asset (enterprise) and drove it into the ground. Then, she couldn't bring BES10 in on time as its launch was delayed by 4 months. She simply did not inspire confidence and had the ability of grasping defeat from the jaws of victory. She was the living example of poor management. Sorry but this is the truth.

I can think of people in blackberry that did a whole lot more with far fewer assets. I mean really, would you have liked Alex's or Marty's job selling a fictitious platform to developers who thought the company that was dying. Well, they did OK under difficult conditions and they were promoted. Robin squander her chances left, right and center.

I guess the question is what this means. Has Samsung got Knox working? Maybe but I doubt it. My bet is that Samsung has some sort of mediocre enterprise system that they will advertise the crap out of. Robin's job will be to apply the perfume and try to make it smell good.

Posted via CB10

She'll have nothing to do with Knox. That will be developed in Korea.

She's part of Samsung Telecommunications America.

Otherwise you're right on the money.

Very strange......i would question her motivation.

'Did I really do the very best for BlackBerry? '

If not why not? Was she just waiting for something more?

Posted via CB10

Hope the non-disclosure agreement holds, if there was any! Also hope we won't see Samdroids flicking and swiping all over the show soon!

(they wouldn't dare that, I guess, things need to be "simple" and confusing in their UI)

iPhone for me? Scr... ahem Q that! (posted from the latter)

I don't think they needed her for flicking and swiping, sure someone in house development team would have already come up with that.

More, I'm sure to do with that little black book she carries in her hand bag.

Catapulted from my Z10.

Did she create anything?
From my understanding, she was the chief information officer at BlackBerry, so I'm not sure how much actual technology led input she had.

Catapulted from my Z10.

She knows too much!!!! Stop her!!!!! Lol :)

 We have apks cuz we need 'em not cuz we want 'em 

If she knew too much, I'm sure they would not have let her go so easily
How much the in house re positioning of management is down to politics, I don't know.

Catapulted from my Z10.

well coming from the Medical sales and marketing side myself, if your enterprise business was not growing well your time was near to leave so Samsung gets a CIO to throw some cash too and bring forward a marketing PITCH like this " As a Former Blackberry CIO I believe KNOX is a great solution "" ya da yad a something like that ! .......The end result is RESULTS !

Wow ... who didn't see THIS coming ;)

- I know I sure did. KNOX will get a HUGE update ... the "retirement" phase was planned perfectly to timing to avoid ANY litigation by BlackBerry to her or to Samsung!

Glad to see her HOLDING her Bold in this video ... I'm VERY curious if Samsung KNOX gets an overhaul to manage BB soon, if so how GOOD it'll be, and if they'll introduce a powerful, big screened dual touch-keyboard smartphone this year. Add to that other former executives or staff joining Samsung, with Mr. Chen's record of Sybase being sold under his watch - him being THE instrument of getting that done in 12mths ... you have a PERFECT recipe for BB sale as a whole or done & done.

Most of the times, the problem lies with the management i.e. that no matter how skillful their employee is, if they are not, or don't know how to utilize him/her, he/she will end up useless... no matter how good he/she is...

But their are managements that knows how to utilize human resources to its potential usefulness... they can even transform an average employee to become one of their best through performance monitoring, evaluation and providing development trainings...

Posted via CB10

Samsung knox program needs more than former blackberry exes to be a player in the enterprise space.

Posted via CB10

To be honest, I'm not really sure how much play there is in the enterprise niche, anyway. Those enterprise customers who care deeply about security and bought large BlackBerry 7/10 devices in the past will be a fairly easy sell on BES10. But, Chen misunderstands the United States if he thinks that most of these enterprises must buy BlackBerry because of security regulations. That's a small, small, small subset of the market and, even then, regulations can change quickly when people want them to.

The company that is making big sales to enterprise right now is Apple. And, while each new iOS version brings security improvements and new features that might matter to enterprise, catering to "enterprise" hasn't been at the forefront of their strategic vision. They do what Mike L. foresaw BlackBerry needed to do in order to compete in enterprise in the future: they make devices *people* want to use. And American business has been buying iPads like crazy for a couple of years now. Frankly, I'm pretty skeptical that BlackBerry will be able to huddle up with IT people and sell them on phones their CEO and employees throughout their organization don't want to use... and without BlackBerry devices, well, enterprises aren't going to upgrade to BES 10. They should, of course! But, I think you'll find only a handful of shops without a meaningful deployment of BB devices.

I guess what I'm saying is for the US law firms and many others that aren't actually "regulated" on mobile device useage like Chen seems to think, Sammy just needs to convince them that they know enterprise and care about security. Robin can help them with that.

Apple has been trying to get into enterprise for a while but in the end security is poor. They have had some success but it is because they are willing to sell old iPhones at 60 to 100 dollars. They are willing to lose money to gain market share. It might work or business people just might start viewing the iPhone as a crappy little device not all that different from the old BlackBerrys. There is a double edge to this sword.

Posted via CB10

I believe you, and that's a good point. But, I think the trend that's remarkable for Apple is the number of employees who are bringing Apple devices to work as part of the BYOD trend and the surprising procurement of iPad devices by businesses. It's not just market share, it's that top people in top companies are running around with iPads in their hands. And, thus, they are part of that closed garden. IT people will start to get questions like, "I use this GTD or webconferencing app on my iPad. Why can't we replace the old BlackBerry devices with iPhones, so that we can use the app on our phones, too?" For some companies, a security policy will prevent that, but for most, they'll be buying iPhones when the price is right and... well... at some point they may not need BES, at all.

I think this is why Chen wants to emphasize sales to enterprise -- or maybe its just because he's never had any success outside of enterprise b2b or b2g and he wants to operate within his comfort zone. But, in the end, BlackBerry still needs to make devices that people want to use because people more than IT departments will be the driving force behind these purchases in the future.

Just my two cents...

Yep. I went from a developer's edition, red Z10 LE to a Z30. I really liked the Z10. I LOVE the Z30. It's a terrific device with a ton of little things that distinguish it like terrific speakers and great, intuitive Bluetooth Smart support. Frankly, I have a decent Android phone and a Nokia Windows Phone, but the Z30 is the only device that I actually use...

She probably milked her severance pay and unemployment benefits.. lol. Kidding or am I.. hey. It would be great if she could do what she did for BlackBerry over at Samsung =)

Posted from a Blackberry Z10

Well, one thing for sure, if those ex-BlackBerry guys and gals doing great on their new company, there is really problem with BlackBerry management system...

Posted via CB10

Great read, although I think Robin deserves credit as CIO of BlackBerry.

C0038297E Quote of the Day (BBM Channel)

She was the cio of blackberry in 2007? I recall them not doing so well then, so maybe its a good thing she moved to samsung

Posted via CB10