Meet Tech Exec Matt Webb, IT Director, Mirati Therapeutics
MEET THE TECH EXEC
What’s your main focus area for technology today and as you build your roadmap for the future?
My niche is IT leadership of a small company, so you can’t focus on one main thing, might be nice to do that but really my main focal point is enabling the business. The big picture of using technology is to maintain, grow and innovate the business. Finding the right solutions and implementing them, as well as finding the right people and training them. Staying up to date on security and keeping intellectual property and patient data protected – really it takes all forms to ensure you are keeping the core assets of the businesses data protected.
It’s impossible to predict what technology will be like in the future. Focusing day to day will help you stay up to date on what’s on the horizon and understand what challenges employees are having. By understanding daily business challenges, you don’t have to re-invent the solution when something new might be coming out. You could prepare for future technologies by being present and understanding the business day to day.
What do you do to stay up to date on technology in your personal life?
It’s hard to quantify staying up to date on technology. I spend a few hours a day reading about new technology and educating myself. Whether it be on recent security exploits or productivity tools, yes you need to do your research and read but its more than that. One of the main things to remember is to not always get lost in the technology. It’s more about the people and finding solutions to problems. When I’m not in the office, I like to make beer. Crafting delicious beer requires troubleshooting as well. “What’s wrong with this recipe, what ingredient do I need to change, or how do I alter the temperature?” You can even compare it to working on cars, you need to make sure the motor is running so you could get where you need to be. It comes down to keeping your brain active and tackling new challenges with the right approach every day, because that is IT; IT can be a new challenge every day.
What’s your take on Public Cloud?
Three years ago, I would have just said “no.” I like my servers, I like my server room so I know where my data is and I have control. Now, I’m the opposite, I love the public cloud. As long as I understand, they provide the cards to provide the control and security you need, as long as you configure everything correctly it’s no less secure than your on-premise solutions. You need to take the necessary steps to ensure you are doing what is needed, have the correct processes in place and review vendor assessments so everything is under control and you could focus on running the business.
What is the greatest mistake you have learned from?
Not necessarily the greatest mistake as I’m sure I made lots of those but one really big mistake that I learned a lot from is when I got in a car accident when I was eighteen years old. I had just started driving on the freeway and wasn’t paying full attention during my drive from San Diego to Bishop. I was driving over a hill pretty fast and didn’t have enough time to slow down when I realized traffic was at a dead stop. I ended up spinning out of control and smashing into another car. Luckily everyone was fine, and damage was minimal. I tie that experience into both personal and professional life because you can’t just assume that the cars are still going to be driving smoothly on the freeway, you need to pay attention and be ready when things don’t happen the way you expect them to. It’s a reminder that not everything is always going to go as planned. You need to be able to adjust to changes.
What are you doing to support innovation in the organization to deliver better solutions?
Keeping one eye in the present and one eye in the future. By listening to all the business units, IT and non-IT related, and absorbing as much information as you can, you are really understanding the business and challenges. Look at all the tools available to us to manage and control your environment.
Are there any hiring challenges? Or how to you approach hiring/ what do you look for?
Our industry talent pool is a mix of the people who grew up WITH the digital age, IN the digital age, and everything in between. The result is there are some with more experience with yesterday’s computing, some better at today’s, and some who are always looking for tomorrow’s. For me, it’s about finding the combo of those skills that works for me but more importantly, looking at problem solving skills and root cause analysis, hiring the folks that need to figure it out. Many of my candidate interview questions focus on real experience that has required curiosity and critical thinking. These core behaviors are something that you can’t always train someone to develop.
What superpower do you want most?
Immortality because I feel like there is so much to learn, so many people to meet and so many to do and see that cramming it into one lifetime can be difficult. The only caveat is if living forever meant it wouldn’t be as worthwhile or as meaningful then I would choose something like flying or laser beam eyes.
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
At first, I wanted to be a marine biologist, then as a teenager I decided I wanted to help people and become a doctor, but didn’t really like the idea of how much school was involved so decided on a music therapist path and went to school for that. I lost interest and eventually changed majors to focus on technology, which had always been a passion of mine. I would take apart TVs and VCRs, phones, and the early PC computers to find out what made them tick. It just took some time to also figure out technology was always what I wanted to do- career wise.
What kind of messaging is coming down from the CEO/Key Executives about their partnership with IT? What are they expecting you to look at?
Working in the SMB space there won’t often be a spot at the table for a CIO or CTO so you’ll likely report in through Operations or Finance. As a result the messaging from the Executives could be very different. A CFO might be more concerned with prudent decisions, managing the budget well, and ensuring compliance with various regulatory requirements. A COO however might be more concerned with productivity, “moving the needle”, delivering value internally or externally. Ultimately, they all want IT to help enable the business, so they expect you to look at everything really. Pay close attention to the business, reach out to the other leaders and ask what’s coming up so you can be prepared with a solution. There is a certain amount of trust that you need to build so executives know you are making the right business decisions.
If you could give guidance to any VP, IT Manager Director about how they position their careers what would you tell them?
Well everyone has a different idea of where they want to be. I had this conversation with someone recently about advancing your career. The missing piece for many keeping them from being a leader is the soft-skills. Many of us in tech were already at a soft-skills deficit. Work to improve those and seek to understand the business more. It’s our job to enable, not just apply random systems, so we have to know what we’re enabling. It’s also important to remember IT is a service industry. We are no different than a hotel or restaurant in that we must focus on the customer, whether that customer is the company, its employees, or an actual customer. Another important quality is confidence, which helps instill trust that you’re making the right decisions. As long as you focus on that and listen to the business, you will probably be able to do your job really well.
What are your top 3 concerns? Choose from: security, mobility, IoT, analytics, DevOps, advanced systems architecture, cloud, automation. Pick top 3 and rank order