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11th Annual CIO Roundtable E-mail
Written by Steve Wright   

11th Annual CIO Roundtable

AITP Atlanta's 11th Annual CIO Roundtable: An Amazing Evening!

AITP Atlanta's CIO Roundtable is always a "must attend" event, and last Thursday's was no exception! Becky Blalock, CIO Emeritus and author of Dare: Straight Talk on Confidence, Courage, and Career for Women in Charge, is always a compelling speaker and moderator......but what made this a stand out event was the diversity of industries represented. CIO's from large and mid-sized enterprise organizations, university, legal, healthcare and construction were represented. With the diversity on the panel, you'd think there would be widely varying responses, but as it turns out, the advice and issues were very similar, regardless of industry or company size.

The following are just a few questions and take-aways from the evening's discussion:

Becky Blalock (Moderator): With so much change happening in the IT world, what do you do to keep yourself current?

Marty Smith, CIO, GreenSky: Marty does a lot of scanning, taking advantage of Google Alerts which has learned his interests and feeds him pertinent stories. In addition to scanning stories, he stays close to his team, collaborating with them in their day to day tasks, internal reviews, etc. This helps him stay on top of what is going on his organization, but also has the added bonus of letting his team know that he's engaged in what their struggles are, and that he has their back. His people keep him up to date on the struggles and internal gaps they have, while keeping Marty up on the tech in his own environment.

Phil Ventimiglia, CIO, Georgia State University: When Phil joined the university, the first thing he did was talk to, and learn about the business – not the technology - to the surprise and delight of many. He too leveraged what his internal team was doing, learning how they were supporting the business' mission. He notes that when a new CIO comes into an organization, there is often a "rip and replace" situation that occurs. This was not his approach. He listened to his teams struggles and what they had to say, and this is how he's stayed on top of what was going on inside of GSU. From an external perspective, at least once a year, Phil goes to California to meet with a number of portfolio companies who help keep him abreast of new trends in a variety of areas. Spending as much time as he can outside of the office, meeting with external vendors and resources, is one of the core ways he keeps up with current and future technologies.

Edwina Payne, CIO, Halyard Health: "It starts with the business." For Edwina to keep up on what’s going on, it was imperative for her to look internally at the business to know what's pertinent to the organization. For example, IoT just isn’t a big opportunity for her. ERP rationalization and post integration challenges and data integration, while not as sexy, need to be done. So for her, it’s critical to understand the relevancy to the business. SAP is key for them. In order to keep up to speed in this space, she participates on their life sciences council and has for the last 10 years. It’s a fantastic way to understand what SAP is doing. Next week for example, they are talking about Block Chain. Just staying in front of what’s going on with her vendors is key. In fact for all vendors, she’s very transparent in what’s going on within Halyard. If you do that, you develop solid relationships and deep partnerships. In turn, your vendors will reach out when it makes sense to offer help. This way, they don’t waste their time or hers. Transparency with vendors is key.

Nicole Monroe, CIO, Parker, Hudson, Rainer & Dobbs LLP: Nicole stays very active with industry associations in the legal space. She’s been affiliated with the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA) and has been a member since she's been in the legal field, attending their monthly lunch and learns on relevant topics. When in Richmond, vendors would come in to talk at their meetings which greatly helped her stay current. Through these meetings, she was able to discuss these topics with her peers. Discussion boards via these associations is also a huge benefit. If there’s an issue that Nicole is having, chances are, someone else has already dealt with it. Being transparent, sharing these situations with her peers usually results in fantastic advice. Sometimes, she can just look up the topic, and someone will have already addressed it – great resource. As she’s new to Atlanta, she just joined the Atlanta chapter of the association of legal administrators – going to her first meeting yesterday – and also just joined WIT. These industry affiliations are key to keeping her up to date on what's going on in the market.

Alan Fralick II, CIO, Oldcastle Materials: Alan went last with this question, and agreed with what everyone had shared, adding not so much what you do to keep up, but how you do it. One of the most important things to get value out of organizations like TAG, TechBridge, or Georgia CIO, is to get involved.....serve and be a part of the organization. Just showing up to the events and leaving, you lose 90% of the value. However, if you have a role and responsibility in those communities, you instantly have something to engage around and you find that you’re connecting with people in really meaningful ways. You'll end up discussing things that you can either help them with, or they can help you with. When looking internally within Oldcastle, he learned the most by going out into the field with the folks who are in the middle of the organization. The people in the middle are the ones who are trying to make things more productive. They know what the problems are with the current technologies and know where the gaps are. The middle layer is trying to figure out the work-arounds to these gaps. When you talk to this group, you find out what the solutions are, and then you try to figure out how to institutionalize them.

Becky Blalock (Moderator): What are the 3 characteristics you are looking for in the future leaders of your organization?

Edwina Payne: Someone with a “Can do” attitude, who's attitude is always, "I’ll make it happen." Secondly – you have to be a problem solver. People need to be able to take a step back and look at the big picture. Finally, someone that’s passionate about the business. If you're passionate about the type of work the company is doing, you’ll connect with stakeholders in a more meaningful way and work with them in a better way, as you'll be heading towards the same goals.  Edwina finishes, "If you have those 3 attributes, nothing will stop you from getting done what you want to achieve."

Alan Fralick: The things that he looks for if he’s going to consider anyone for leadership or to grow into leadership is perseverance. He believes that perseverance is one of the most lacking things in the organizations he’s struggled with…….finding people who are just going to work through things is tough to find. He wants people who understand that there is an answer, and they just need to continue looking for it. Secondly, he wants to pair perseverance with agility. These leadership candidates need to know that you’re not just working in a straight line. You need to step back and move in different directions, as complex problems rarely, if ever, have a single solution. When you combine perseverance and agility with the 3rd - the ability and desire to work with other people to find the answer, you can help but excel.

Nicole Monroe: First and foremost, she looks for candidates that are active listeners and good communicators. Many folks in technology have a tendency to talk to the business in "geek talk." This just makes peoples head hurt! Being able to communicate technical concepts in a non-technical way is key. Second would be ambition – Nicole loves "go-getters." People with this trait tend to be actively engaged in what they are doing – caring about the business. 3rd, and not least - a collaborative mindset. She wants people to bring ideas to her and take risks. Fostering an environment like that is huge.

Marty Smith: Marty agrees that caring about the business is number one. In the fall of 2013 to Jan of 2105, Marty interviewed 1000 people to hire 150, which was exhausting. Many of those interviewee's were just looking for a job - he doesn’t want to hire those people.......he hires people who love what they do. "It’s like a musician – you play music because you love what you do - you get a high off of it, and that is the person you’re looking for." You're not looking for someone who's there to collect a paycheck. Those candidates tend to draw the company down. With this philosophy in mind, he has over a dozen people in his organization who started at the support desk level, and who are now directors because they took the initiative, they learned on their own, they wanted to grow and they want to keep growing. When you recognize those people on your team, it motivates others to do the same. 

Phil Ventimiglia: He first shared that no one joins a University for a pay check! Phil re-enforced his agreement with everyone else's comments. For him though, passion is the key factor in what he looks for. Without passion for what you do, one cannot expect to succeed nor move up to lead an organization. In addition to that, he added that he looks for folks who are adept at dealing with ambiguity. The world of technology is complex and things move fast. You have to be able to pivot quickly, and move forward.

There was so much quality information exchanged, that is too much to cover in an already lengthy LinkedIn post. In order to get the full impact of these meetings, please consider becoming a member. The knowledge sharing and comradary just can not be beat!

Thank you again to our panel and moderator for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your stories and educate our membership!! I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our event sponsors, eHire, Altavi, Philotek and Miracle Software. Without these organization's contributions, these events would not be possible!
We hope you'll join us for our October 19th dinner meeting, where Dave Beck, founder and managing partner at Foundry 45, will lead the discussion on, "What's the business case for VR and AR?" You can register now at http://www.aitpatlanta.org.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Best - Steve


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