Navigating Cloud App Challenges: Insights for CIOs in 2024 - New Role in the Cloud

As cloud application usage continues to soar, CIOs face the daunting task of managing security, compliance, and cost concerns. Discover how CIOs can address these challenges and optimize cloud app usage in 2024.

The proliferation of cloud applications presents a host of challenges for CIOs, ranging from security vulnerabilities to compliance risks. With an average of 461 cloud apps running in companies, surpassing IT estimates, and the public cloud sector projected to reach $191 billion by 2030, CIOs must adapt their strategies to harness the benefits of cloud technology while mitigating associated risks.

Challenges of Unmanaged Cloud Apps:

  1. Security Vulnerabilities: Employees storing company data on personal cloud accounts pose significant security risks, potentially exposing sensitive information to unauthorized access.
  2. Compliance Risks: Mishandling of data within unapproved cloud apps can lead to compliance violations, resulting in regulatory fines and reputational damage for the organization.

Strategies for CIOs:

To effectively manage cloud application challenges, CIOs can implement the following strategies:

  1. Establish Clear Policies: Develop and communicate policies regarding the use of cloud applications within the organization, emphasizing data security and compliance requirements.
  2. Implement Security Measures: Implement robust security measures, such as encryption, access controls, and multi-factor authentication, to safeguard company data stored in cloud applications.
  3. Monitor and Audit Usage: Regularly monitor and audit cloud application usage to identify unauthorized or risky behavior, allowing for timely intervention and risk mitigation.
  4. Optimize Costs: Analyze cloud usage patterns to identify opportunities for cost optimization, vendor consolidation, and resource allocation, ensuring efficient use of cloud resources.

In the face of escalating cloud application usage, CIOs must proactively address security, compliance, and cost concerns to safeguard company data and drive business efficiency. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your organization optimize its cloud app usage and mitigate associated risks.

About Managed Solution

We're technology enthusiasts with a people-first approach. For over two decades, we've witnessed the profound impact that the right technology and support can have on businesses and individuals. Success, to us, is seeing our clients, partners, and team conquer challenges to achieve their greatest goals and build lasting connections. This relentless pursuit of inspiration drives us forward, pushing us to deliver innovative solutions that empower growth and lasting success.

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Press Release: Empowering Future Entrepreneurs, CEO Sean Ferrel tells all.

Managed Solution Goes to Clairmont Highschool

In an empowering session at Clairemont High School, CEO of Managed Solution, Sean Ferrel, recently addressed senior students enrolled in their internship program, delivering a stirring address on entrepreneurship. Sean's wealth of experience and success in the business world provided the students with invaluable insights into the dynamic realm of entrepreneurship.

His engaging talk focused on instilling a mindset that transcends traditional career paths, encouraging the seniors to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit within themselves. During his discussion, Sean emphasized the importance of seeking opportunities to connect people, highlighting how building meaningful relationships can be a driving force in business success.


Journey to CEO

He shared anecdotes from his own journey, illustrating the impact of fostering genuine connections and collaborative efforts. Furthermore, Sean underscored the significance of ethical business practices, urging students to prioritize doing the right thing in all their professional endeavors.

A central theme of Sean's motivational talk was the encouragement to embrace risk as an essential element of the entrepreneurial journey. He inspired the students to view challenges not as obstacles but as stepping stones to growth and innovation.


Insight for future entrepreneurs

By fostering a culture of calculated risk-taking, Sean aimed to empower these young minds to approach their future careers with resilience, adaptability, and an entrepreneurial mindset. The event left a lasting impression on the students, equipping them with the knowledge and inspiration to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of entrepreneurship.


Learn More

From high school and beyond--with the right resources and purpose, anyone can achieve success in leadership. Check out some of the resources below to learn more about embracing the world of business and entrepreneurship.


who is managed solution san diego msp Looking to dive deeper into Managed Solution's journey as a company? See where we've come from, and where we're going.

Managed Solution Turns 20 in 2022- Cheers to 20 years!

Culture - Managed Solution

Technology and Economy: Q & A with Sean Ferrel

Founded in 2002, Managed Solution was barely 6 years old when the 2008 financial crisis hit. Yet, even as a young company we managed (pun intended) to pull through and grow to become the organization you now know today. That is why, today, we're talking about technology and economy.

With that in mind, we sat down to interview our CEO, Sean Ferrel, to discuss the recent economic events and how they pertain to Information Technology and the Tech industry in general. Read on to explore a top-down examination of a post-covid financial climate and gather insight and advice for your business.


A Top-Down Look at the Economy

A lot has been a lot going on with the U.S. economy since the pandemic. Recently though, we’ve seen some real negative indicators with bank collapses on a level reminiscent of the 2008 financial crisis. As a business leader, could you share some insight with us about today’s current economic environment?

Sean: In the last 3+ years there’s been a lot thrown at businesses. From COVID-19 to hybrid workforces; all the way up to how the housing markets have been affected. When people started to work from home it changed the places where people wanted to live. This drove a lot of inflation in certain areas that didn’t previously have these high-salary workers in the market before.

However, the housing market is one aspect. At the core of it, we could argue that there’s been a supply problem across the board. We see it an automobile makers and shipping components. For example, we rely on other countries for things as simple as [computer] chips. Manufacturers couldn’t get the chips to put into cars so a lot of cars couldn’t be built, which then created low supply, and the big companies with low supply were able to charge more for the commodities and goods we needed.

Even with our food and beverage companies. There was a problem there as well due to the lack of potential employees. So, whether it was auto-parts or workers in factories: businesses couldn’t produce as fast as they [normally] would. The demand for goods was still high, the supply was low, and ultimately people charged, and are still charging, more for their product.

Now, the more supply that these companies create and market - the less demand they might get for the product if it becomes more saturated. Meaning they’d have to bring down their inflated costs.

They also have to pay more in taxes if they produce more of something. So, a lot of companies have kind of sat for a minute and said, “well, we're getting a lot of money for our product than we used to get, so why should we produce anymore just to get taxed more for it?”. Which is why many have continued to drive the same amount of supply out of their organization and the inflation has remained. Of course, there’s more nuance to it, but essentially that’s where we’re at.

I think the reason why we’ll run into the “recession”, however, is simply because the dollar goes less far. Things are more expensive and the only way to combat that is businesses paying their employees more. This is challenging and leads to businesses charging their customers more and it becomes a very vicious cycle. One that, unfortunately, will eventually come to a head when businesses can longer afford to pay their employees more and will likely automate their processes instead, or they’ll have to downsize. So, I do think there will be more layoffs coming.

What’s interesting though, we all read about the layoffs at Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. It wasn’t because the companies were doing poorly -- they have more cash in the bank than ever. It’s merely due to the fact that their demand is going to go down because of people’s dollar’s not going as far.


2008 v. 2023

How do you feel our current economic situation compares to that of 2008?

Sean: Compared to 2008, it’s a very different market. Back then it was the way banks were lending with negative amortization loans. Essentially, saying “we're going to loan you for this half a million-dollar house -- which you probably couldn't afford with your salary this much money -- and in three years we're going to increase your interest rate adjusted from an initial 5% or 4% interest rate up to 12%.

That increased the cost of the mortgage and people just got wiped out really fast. They couldn't afford it and hence we had a huge market where things were foreclosing, people didn't have the money and they borrowed against the home and their credit was tapped.

In today’s world though, people have been making a lot of money. It’s been a good economy for a long time, and I don’t think people are tapped credit-wise at this point, so we’re not going to see a big downturn where people are liquidating everything they have. But we definitely need to see some changes happen.


The Tech Industry

From your perspective, what are the main shifts the economy has had on the tech industry?

Sean: In the whole tech-sector; you have four things that happened in the workplace:

  1. Hybrid Workforce
  2. Heightened concern for cybersecurity
  3. Workplace culture shift
  4. Increased interest in the cloud

What I see there is a problem in general with “can technology solve it?” one, but two, “does the workforce for technologists -- like the people that we employ -- have the skill set”?

Technology has sprawled a ton, so it’s almost impossible to find enough talent out there to keep up. There's a huge lack of it from security talent to cloud talent, etc.

So, companies are struggling to find the right IT people who aren’t over-charging for the cost of their labor because, again, the employee-cost has inflated. That’s why now there’s this notion of Do More With Less. Technology and economy, obviously being closely interwoven in this concept. 


Doing More with Less (Technology and Economy)

Could you tell us what “doing more with less” looks like?

Sean: I think one question is; are companies ultimately building tools that are easier to manage by bolting them together? For example, Microsoft owns Microsoft Azure (the cloud).

They also own the operating system within the cloud, which is windows. Then they own the productivity software we all use, which is Office 365 -- and in that you have your communication tools like Microsoft Teams, collaboration hubs like Microsoft Viva -- all the way down to the computer with Windows operating system.

With that, they can control the market from a cost perspective and drive down costs for these suites of products. Not to mention, more Microsoft people in general are probably out there in the world studying and learning.

Making it a little bit easier to find people who do work in that area. And at the ultimate goal; it's easier to manage the process and the technology by consolidating into one or two platforms as opposed to having many, many vendors.

It’s similar to security too. Everybody's coming to market with amazing security tools that do detection at the endpoint or do secure app management to secure applications in the world. But now there's a lot of them and there's not enough resources out there to ultimately manage many different types inside of one business.

So, that's where the big picture of the project-based work consolidation is happening. You have more talent to manage better and more control & cost optimization by consolidating these infrastructures. Today's technology and economy are extremely closely related so business leaders need to emphasize having the right technology for their companies.


The Role of Managed Services

Could you speak about how this all ties into managed services and IT outsourcing? What benefit, if any, could customers gain from these types of services and solutions during this time?

Sean: As I mentioned before, you have the whole thing around hybrid and remote workforces. There are two things that happened:

  1.  Shifted working hours
  2. Changing workforce (great resignation)

Where previously companies had one IT person in the office. That’s not the same anymore. If people are working from home, they're working 24 hours a day. There's not really a regular 9 – 5 anymore.

That means the calls are coming in more than ever. The person who worked internal IT doesn't want to be the person hanging on the phone taking those calls all day every day and it’s not like they can run into anyone’s house to get everything set. That’s why we see technical call-based Help Desks becoming more and more popular. So, outsourcing will continue to grow in a bad economy. Outsourcing and centralizing the tools that are being managed by companies.

The second reason why outsourcing is becoming bigger, is due in part to the great resignation. With the inflation of salaries and expense of increased employee turnover, people are looking at companies, like Managed Solution, instead.

 Beyond that, when it comes to enhancing security, making their users more productive, or having collaboration tools move into the cloud -- many companies are finding that the traditional IT teams are not always tooled up for this. That's why we're seeing more companies outsourcing a lot of that strategy as well; to help them build a long-term footprint that looks at the total cost of ownership. They’re asking organizations like us, “How do we optimize costs and better productivity for my new hybrid workforce of users and make sure we’re secure?”.

For us, it's a nice place to play in the industry right now, being sort of the managed service provider who outsources all this stuff and the consulting arm to be able to go out and help build the future architecture.


Advice to Fellow Tech Companies

We’ve established that the economy today is different than it was in 2008, but one thing they have in common is their negative impact on people and businesses financially. As a business leader who came out of that, do you have any advice or words of comfort for fellow tech companies like Managed Solution?

Sean: For tech companies like ours, it’s always been a good thing to have multiple vendors on your website such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Dell, etc. A lot of the traditional sense has been that those are kind of like VARs, or ‘value added resellers’, who could resell all these products and services.

But my advice, is that you’ve got to pick a horse. Make sure you understand what suppliers (Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, VMware, Cisco), are building that understand the economic climate. If cost is a big factor and businesses are having to do more with less technology, who's building the technology in one stack of products to ultimately give you all the tools that you need to be successful?

Consolidation is really where I think all businesses should try to head and are trying to head right now. So, ultimately, as it pertains to technology -- I think picking that horse that you think is going to be best in the race is key. Technology and economy is a huge conversation right now. Technology and economy are both make or break aspects for businesses today.


If you’re interested in speaking to one of our team members for more tech-guidance? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

Want more resources or interested in more tech content? Head over to our blog page! Technology and economy is a huge conversation right now. Be sure to keep up with us to stay in the know!

In this video interview, you'll hear from Managed Solution CEO Sean Ferrel as he discusses how and why he got started with IT, his passion for people and how he's created a great culture, and what technology and other facets of business leaders should be focused on, especially with the current remote workforce.

How have you managed to get through and grow from tough times like the one we're experiencing now with COVID?

believe in the concept of taking the opportunity during these times. There's a restaurateur that is talking about taking his business to the next level right now, and during a pandemic when restaurants are barely open that might seem really hard to do, but he makes an analogy of comparing it to a forest and all the trees burn down and there are a few seedlings left and if you just give them water they can grow. So there becomes these sprouting companies. My advice is to ignore the negativity and the doubters and just seize the moment and opportunity. It's important to adapt to the environment and that's what we've done well during these times is just reacting to what our customers need.

What must leaders be paying attention to right now to ensure they're keeping the culture and the company alive?

I do think tech is and should be front and center now. Leaders are trying to figure out how to drive culture from afar and what does that mean - happy hour, activities. A lot of us are finding new ways to connect through the tools we have and be more transparent with employees through video. There are challenges though- there's nothing better than sitting face to face with some in a room and understanding each other and feeling their warmth, their trust, and I don’t think tech will solve that because we need that. It's a challenge but to combat that, I think it's important to stay curious, understand what's going on, not overreacting and doing things with humility. Don’t just worry about what you're feeling but what everyone in your organization is feeling. In regards to tech, I think leaders need to look at all the data they're collecting, and how they can automate processes within their business with the data that they have.

How can they take the great data and get business intelligence out of it so you can make data-driven decisions?

If you don't have the data, you need to figure out how to aggregate that data somehow. It's important to make sure your systems are integrating and putting the data together. It allows you to make decisions around investments and hiring. Collaborative tools are obviously huge now and we're getting hung up on conferencing tool - but how can businesses take it further and integrate communication tools with their data such as documents and files. Microsoft does a great job with this and Google is continuing to do more with this. Lastly, security is more prevalent than ever. A lot of companies are becoming more regulated and being forced to comply with security measures, but we're seeing more hackers out there coming in and grabbing information and credentials. It's not a topic talked about enough because it doesn’t contribute to productivity but if you're breached, your company goes into a standstill and productivity doesn’t exist so it's important to think of these things ahead of time. We've seen businesses lose $250,000 because of one click.

How can people ensure their data input is true and accurate?

We operate a services company. When it was the beginning of COVID, we started looking at our call logs, we saw an uptick in off-hour calls, but the type of calls that come in is what's important. Our help desk puts a ticket in to categorize it and add details. This data's accuracy is really important because it helps us determine what kind of issues our customers are having, do we need to hire, and what kind of technical skillset we need to hire for. Another example, on the revenue side, we tried to figure out what our sales pipeline looked like as businesses were evolving to COVID. It helped us look at the opportunities coming in, and the data needs to be accurate as far as what project or service we're going to provide, then we need to make sure we're staffing correctly for that, whether it's existing or new resources.

With so many options available, how do people choose the right tech for them?

People have gotten hung up on products that they're fans of, but I think we need to look at integrations and how we do things holistically. Each piece of tech can have a role, just as humans do, and the best businesses are operationally excellent with spot-on processes. Fast forward to now, it's become a challenge to sometimes get the information and data connected. We need to be more agnostic with our technology. Think beyond the hardware and tools, and think about the solution and process. I think if we can change our thinking that way, then they'll be successful. And the cloud is really what enables us to integrate things so well.

Any parting thoughts?

There's a consumption gap in technology right now. We have end users that can’t keep up with all the features and functionalities of their applications.  There's just so much that can be done. What I think is happening with the tech industry, is it should become about driving the end-user experience. Even if there's a great product in the market, unless your users are willing to adopt the technology, it's an uphill battle. If employees don't utilize the expensive new platform you bought, then what good is it? We have to make sure the technology we're implementing has a positive end-user experience and high adoption.

Doug Winter started his career as an engineer. Eventually, he made the switch to the executive side of business when he started his company, Seismic. Seismic provides a sales enablement tool that helps businesses with optimizing the way that they market and sell to prospective customers. Further than that, Doug and his company pride themselves in a company culture that goes above and beyond.

How was Seismic born?

If you think about what had happened in enterprise software, a company like Salesforce comes along and they took an established base like CRM (customer relationship management) that was a well-solved problem. But then they ‘consumerized’ it, they made it easier to use, they put it onto the cloud, made it a SaaS offering, started selling it as a subscription, so a different business model.

We also had been involved heavily in sales cycle as executives. We felt that the existing solutions that were out there were really the worst fit for sales and marketing teams in terms of aligning them around commons goals and ensuring that they could work together on the important assets of a sales cycle. We had the vision of: let's build a solution like that for sales and marketing, and from there, we can expand into all kinds of different areas. That was really the vision of Seismic.

When we started, honestly, I hadn't heard the term sales enablement. It wasn't until a little ways into the journey that we realized that it’s a great description for what we're doing. We were going to jump aboard that bus and lead the way.

When was that? When did you start?

We were officially founded in 2010. We started building the product in 2011 and started selling it in the 2012 time frame. We didn't raise any money, actually, until the very end of 2013. We decided we had a great product and should start to tell the story a little bit more loudly to get some sales and marketing efforts going, and then raise funds.

In simple words, what do you do? How do you help people, sales people in particular?

At Seismic, we enable marketing teams to support sellers throughout the sales cycle. We provide marketers a way to understand what content is working and how it's being used, and then allow them to turn the dials and the knobs to deliver the perfect message for a seller to use as they sit down to have that conversation with a prospective customer.

It takes a lot of different forms. For one, obviously, data comes into play. It's about collecting everything that happens with content throughout sales cycles. All that data then comes pouring back to marketing to help them have a better understanding of what's working. If buyers received content in the sales cycle, was that sales cycle ultimately successful or not? If it was successful, maybe the content was a part of the reason why it was successful. If it wasn't successful, maybe we need to try to improve it.

We also allow the content to be customized. If you know that you're talking to someone in a certain industry, and you know that you're talking to someone with a certain role, we can allow the content to actually be customized so that it matches that point in the selling conversation where the other party is.

What was the biggest technological breakthrough that has enabled you?

Analytics is a great example. The data that flows into our system is an incredibly valuable part of what we're doing. We're not building our own technology to present that data in fancy dashboards. We leverage other companies' technologies to help us build that.

Second, we’ve made great breakthroughs in the management of content itself--the ability to handle large volumes of content and keep them organized. We're really good at helping marketers to that by giving them insight into where content currently resides and how it's being used, while also keeping track of when content should be expired or refreshed.

The third major technological innovation that we have which is really unique and powerful is our personalization engine. The ability to assemble content dynamically in real time, pulling in data, and automatically build charts and have them show up in a PowerPoint presentation or PDF that's being shared with buyers.

The fourth piece would be our predictive capabilities. As our platform monitors what's happening with all the content and data, it also feeds that back into an engine that says what content would be best for each unique seller’s situation and place in the sales cycle in order to beat your competitor.

That predictive engine and capability, it's something that will never be finished. It's something we continue to work on and invest in. I would say that's one of the areas that we view ourselves as differentiated in.

Talking about data analysis, do you want to add anything about how you're doing it and how it's servicing B2B marketing?

First, you have to have as much data as possible. You can't train the machines if you don't have data to train them with.

We've built a big infrastructure around collecting that data. We're now collecting millions, literally millions, of data events every single day. It has to be a very big and scalable warehouse, so we architected a capability that can handle that type of volume.

Then, you start to look at correlating content data with data about the sales cycles. Sales cycle data is generally kept in CRM like Salesforce, and everybody customizes their CRM. What a sales cycle looks like for your firm is different than what it looks for someone else's firm. So you have to put some work into how you wire this thing up so that it can understand your particular CRM instance.

Then you start to put the pieces together. That's where our system comes into play.

I would say that ourselves and everyone in the industry is chasing that. It’s still in a fairly early stage, but it's a very rapidly evolving field and one that's pretty exciting to be right in the middle of.

Can you describe a bit about your career? How did you grow from engineering to building this sales enablement tool? Was it intentional?

I would say it has been little bit intentional and a bit serendipitous. Out of school, I started out taking a job for a very old-school, traditional company: Westinghouse. It was a good experience. I was very proud of being an engineer. I had great leadership experience. I was helping train nuclear engineers and was part of a team that, at the age of 23, I was leading. Ultimately I was in charge of a nuclear power plant.

I realized, however, that it wasn’t a space that offered a lot of growth, so I settled on business school to make a little bit of a change in direction in my career. When I graduated, it was the very beginning of the dot-com days, and I really wanted to start a company. Unfortunately, I didn't have the courage to jump and do it on my own, and I wasn't effective at recruiting anyone else to jump with me. So I ended up taking a job out here in San Diego at CalCon, which was great because it wasn't quite a startup anymore, but it was still in very early days and a high growth, high excitement environment.

From there I joined a true startup in the services business. Part of that jump included moving from being an engineer and operations person to being an executive and a leader, and trying to learn those things on the fly. That was 2000 and I've never really looked back.

The last time I interviewed for a job was 1996. I don't have a resume anymore. Entrepreneurship is not for everybody, but I certainly encourage people to have confidence in themselves and go for it if they really feel like they have an idea and an opportunity.

One characteristic of being an entrepreneur is you can't be too smart, because if you're smart, you'll see all the reasons why it's not going to work. I qualify for not being too smart.

What were some of the important skills that you had to develop in order to be successful as a leader?

To be a leader, it's really much more about how you can get the best out of a team.

One thing I've found is that listening skills are so important. The way I think of it is if you've got a team, some of them have lots of experience and big job titles, some of them don't. But you don't really know where the good idea is going to come from. As a leader, if you're not encouraging conversation, you're not encouraging the ideas to flow, and everyone is going to miss out on a great idea.

That also leads to something else, which is building lasting relationships. It’s so important to treat people with respect and having an understanding of what they bring to the table. That kind of loyalty and working relationship, it goes past individual companies.

You explained that, in the beginning, you weren't so great at recruiting people. Now, you're in a place where around you, people are empowered and enabled to really share what's on their mind. How did that happen?

Like most things in life, there's an amount of your early upbringing that sets the stage for who you are as a person, but then, just like every other skill, it’s recognizing that it's important and trying to actively work on it.

I observed early in my career when I was working for Westinghouse that one of the leaders there was very much despised by his team. However, it was a military environment, so your power comes from the stripes on your shoulder. He was in charge and he told everyone what to do, and they did. What I realized, though, was that his whole team was rooting for him—and in turn themselves--to fail. I saw another leader who was the complete opposite. His team would have run through a wall for him. They were rooting for him to succeed. That made a huge impression on me.

It’s about being aware of little experiences like that, where you see things that work and you see things that don't work. I’ve made millions of mistakes along the way, but being self-aware, and being willing to change and work on things that you think are important, that's the long-term success.

In what way are you incorporating innovation and new IT tools in your environment?

I was in a meeting with our finance team, and we've added a lot to our finance team recently with an eye towards potentially being a public company somewhere down the road. They came in with all the tools that they currently use and all the tools that they want to use. I thought, "Wow, there's like eight tools that we're using just in our finance team alone."

We're constantly evaluating and upgrading in different areas. We’ll explore any way we can use technology to free people up to do more interesting things and be more efficient at their jobs. It frees the dollars for us to go do something else as a company. That's an important part of being successful.

You are known to have a great work culture. How did you establish that? How do you achieve that?

It goes back to the earlier conversation about treating people with respect and acknowledging the fact that they're here because they choose to be. I tell new hires in our orientation program, Seismic Acceleration, "You could work anywhere. I know you could work anywhere. Thank you for working here. We want to provide an environment that you want to work at, and by the way, it's now part of your responsibility to make that environment happen."

People have to feel good about what they're doing. We have a great product and we want to have the best product. People feel pride in that. They feel pride of helping create it and being associated with it.

Upward mobility is another thing. One of the great things about a company that's growing really fast is there's lots of opportunities. I look at our sales team, for example, where two of the three top reps started life with Seismic making cold calls. We’ve been able to consistently provide upward mobility for folks and that is something that's really exciting for them, too.

Also, people celebrate each other's success in a way that is pretty unique and really cool. It started happening organically, and now we actively encourage it. For example, we have something we call pushpin. Every time we win a deal, the sales rep sends out an email explaining who the new customer is and why they chose Seismic.

The best part about it, is that they include all the other people that made the deal happen. It's not about the sales rep or any single person, it's about all the people that helped and all the people who went out of their way to assist a teammate. Even further than that initial email, people will reply to them throughout the company saying “that-a-boy” or “way to go”, that kind of stuff. I love that. I think this whole process and mindset is a huge piece of our culture and it’s something that we try to encourage.

If your employees are happy and encouraged, they're also going to do well with customers, right?

Customer-first focus is another huge part of our success. I think you just have to be that way. Customers, especially in the SaaS model, can pick up and move across the street very easily. We’re asking you as a customer to put your faith in us again and again during each renewal. In order for that to happen, we’ve got to give you a better product. We’ve got to give you a good experience. We’ve got to do all of these things to show the value we provide so that you're going to choose to stay with us, and hopefully grow with us.

One of my favorite sayings is, "Happy customers buy more stuff." It’s just true and we put a lot of effort into that. I'm very proud of our customer success team, but also the way our product team listens to customers and incorporates their feedback into the product. Even in the selling situation, we're trying to sell a solution that's a perfect fit for each customer, not just to get a deal done. We work hard at that, and I think that it pays off.

What is next after Seismic?

It’s kind of hard to think about. I'm having so much fun right now, and I firmly believe this is a huge space. It's a huge opportunity. We have a big company with the resources to continue to build. I love the fact that we're building it with headquarters in San Diego, which hasn't historically been a big software destination. That’s changing, and I like the fact that we're being a part of it.

I love the way that we're helping our customers be more effective sellers and more efficient at how they market. You always keep an eye on the horizon, but try not to trip over the step that's in front of you. We have eyes on building something much bigger over the next few years. Then, I don't know after that. I'll hop on a rocket ship and fly to Mars, maybe.

Is this road also challenging? Does anything scare you about how fast you're growing?

I'm no math whiz but, 100% growth at the size we are now is a lot different than 100% growth a few years ago. The bets that we make, and the number of people that we need to onboard, and the number of initiatives that we're doing, they all just get bigger and more risky in a lot of ways.

I wouldn't say anything scares me, and I would also say everything scares me. It's, where in the organization is the place that's going to break if we don't make some changes? Try to be aware of that and get in front of it instead of waiting until after the fact. That's the game, and that's how I see my role in order to stay ahead.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Steven has over 20 years of nanotechnology experience beginning with his graduate work at Rice University where he discovered a method of fabricating gold nanoshells. This discovery led to the formation of Nanospectra Biosciences where the gold nanoshells are in clinical trials as a cancer therapy. In 2004 he founded nanoComposix to accelerate the commercialization of products based on precisely engineered and highly characterized nanoparticles. Steven has 10 issued patents and over 40 papers in the area of nanotechnology.

What is nanotechnology? 

Nanotechnology is the study and the application of really small things. What's exciting about nanotechnology is that it's not just about making things smaller, it’s that at the nanoscale materials are different, allowing for the production of products with amazing new properties.

How did nanotechnology become your passion?

When I graduated from university in Canada, Rice University had one of the first nanotechnology degree programs, so it was an opportunity to explore something that was new and different. I spent five years in an exciting and innovative lab that used lasers and surface science tools to explore the fundamental properties of nanomaterials and their applications. The materials we were studying had novel and unusual properties and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to create useful products. After graduating from Rice, I went to a small company here in San Diego, learned how to leverage government grants and different small business programs to fund commercialization projects and then started nanoComposix 15 years ago.

What is nanoComposix’ primary mission?

The primary mission of nanoComposix is to help people leverage the unique and important properties of nanomaterials into commercial products. We've had many successes and failures so that we can help our customers determine if they have a good idea. If so, we can help guide them through the process of completing the research and development, make the materials in a consistent and reliable way, and importantly, scale up production to make the particles at a cost point that's going to be commercially viable. Once these tasks are complete, the materials can be integrated into a final product that will have a high probability of commercial success.

Who are your main customers?

Our customers are from both the R&D community (universities, government labs, corporate research) and companies that want to bring a nano-enabled material to market. By using our particles as building blocks they don’t have to make all of the different component nanoparticles themselves; we can provide precisely engineered particles in terms of size, shape and surface and, most importantly, we extensively characterize them. Once they have that combination of particles and information, they can create something new with their ideas.

What kind of innovation are your products bringing to the market? 

A lot of our products take advantage of the unusual properties of gold and silver at the nanoscale.  Very small particles of gold and silver act as nanoscale antennas – they strongly interact with light.  The color of these particles is a function of their size and shape.  Small gold spheres will be ruby red in color like a glass of wine.  Small silver spheres will be bright yellow.

One example where these particles are used is in lateral flow assays. The most common example of this is a drug store based pregnancy test.  In this test, you will typically see one or two red lines.  If you see two lines you’re pregnant.  If you just see one line then you’re not.  The red color comes from 40 nm diameter gold nanoparticles with an antibody attached to the particle surface.  It’s probably the most common nanotechnology application that nobody knew was nano. We’re developing a wide range of lateral flow tests for applications that range from early cancer detection to diagnosis of neglected tropical diseases.  For example, we're making a test for military use to see if a soldier has been exposed to a dangerous chemical in the field.  This test looks at heart, liver and kidney biomarkers to see if the solider needs medical attention. Other nanoparticle applications that we’re currently helping with include topical therapeutics for the treatment of acne, photothermal treatments of cancer, and cures for common allergies.

Where do we use nanotechnology in our everyday lives, and are not even aware of it? 

Many televisions incorporate nanoparticles into their screens to produce more vibrant colors.  The increased color depth of reds, blues and greens is made possible by quantum dot nanoparticles. Computer chips and electronics include various nanotechnologies that range from the processors themselves to the adhesives and other components used to build electronics.  In the medical space, nanomedicine allows for the precision delivery of drugs to certain organs and the controlled release of drugs over time to reduce the frequency of doctor’s visits.

How could nanotechnology serve us even better? What are some future uses? 

Personal, immediate, inexpensive home based diagnostic tests are rapidly being developed.  For example, if you have chest pain it could be a muscle cramp or a precursor to something more serious, perhaps a heart attack. Typically, you would have to find a clinic, get a blood test and wait a couple of days to hear an answer,  but if you have a test in your bathroom that costs just a couple dollars, you can take a saliva sample, apply it to the test, and, in a few minutes, get a result that can be analyzed and interpreted by your cell phone.  Bringing inexpensive, quantitative, quick and easy to perform tests into the home is going to revolutionize how we diagnose and treat disease.

Another example is our work with Drugs and Diagnostics for Tropical Diseases ( on coendemic diseases that can be treated with an inexpensive drug. The problem is that if you're infected with multiple diseases at the same time and you take the drug, you can have severe consequences. If there was a simple test that determined which diseases you were infected with and what drug to safely take, then there is an $1 solution to solving an array of horrific diseases.  DDTD has delivered tens of thousands of tests to Africa, and they're being evaluated in clinical trials to understand how to use these diagnostics to finally address loiasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), lymphatic  filariasis, buruli ulcer and other diseases that don't belong in this century and should be eradicated.

We’re also working with a company that has developed a novel acne treatment.  They apply nanoparticles that strongly absorb light to the skin and use a massager to send the particles into the acne lesion.  When you shine a laser on the skin, the laser penetrates through the skin, gets absorbed by the particles, and heats the particles. This local heating is a non-chemical way of damaging or ablating cells.  For the acne treatment, if the number of cells in the sebaceous gland (which is responsible for oil production) can be reduced, your acne lesion will clear.

There's a compliment to the acne technology in the cancer space. Instead using radiation and chemotherapy that have harmful side effects, nanoparticles can be injected to the tumor sites and irradiated with a laser.  Just heat (no chemicals) ablate the cancer cells and prostate cancer patients are walking out of the clinic the same day with no side effects. Nanoparticles are also useful for delivering drugs.  Chemotherapy is a sledgehammer approach to cancer. Let's poison ourselves just to the limit that we can stand, and then hopefully it gets the tumor. It would be so much better if we could send the chemical that we want right to the tumor location, reduce the dose by a factor of 10, have all the side effects go away, and still have effective treatment. That's the promise, and while it takes a long time to safely bring it to market, many nano enabled therapies will soon be available.

If lateral flow tests are simple and not costly, how come their use is not more common?

Lateral flow tests aren't new. They've been around for 20 years.  Our innovation was to develop more sensitive reporter particles that allow for lateral flow tests to be more widely used.  We went back and re-engineered the particle, so instead of gold spheres, we made a nanoshell which is like a golden eggshell; a glass core that is coated with a very thin shell of gold.  By controlling the size of the core and the thickness of the shell, we can create different colors and increase the sensitivity of diagnostic tests.  Combining mobile cell phone technology with these new, high sensitivity tests offers the promise of a quantitative diagnostic laboratory in your home.

What was your biggest breakthrough in commercializing nanotechnology?

Our breakthrough is the ability to produce nanoparticles with exquisite control over their size, shape, and surface at a commercially viable price.  Rods, shells, cubes, plate, and wire shaped nanoparticles with different surfaces are provided to innovators and inventors so that they can modify, combine, and augment the materials for use in commercial applications.  We are also focused on reducing cost.  Gold and silver nanoparticles have special properties but these materials are expensive.  Our challenge is to find a balance between function, price, performance and scalability in order to get to commercial markets.  We’ve had a lot of success achieving this balance in medical device and nanomedicine markets.

What is your next challenge?

It's been 15 years since we started the company, but a lot of that work has been foundational to build a library of nanomaterials, develop relationships and scale manufacturing.  Our next step is to leverage these capabilities to bring more high impact nano-enabled products to market.[/vc_column_text][vc_empty_space height="20px"][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interviews" heading_tag="h4" button_text="Learn More" button_link="|||"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Randa Coniglio formerly served as Executive Vice President, Operations. She has been with the Port since April 2000, starting out in the Port’s Real Estate Operations Department. Prior to the Port, she spent eight years handling a local portfolio of commercial investment properties for a Japanese firm, and five years in retail leasing and development. Coniglio holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of California, San Diego.

The Port of San Diego serves the people of California as a specially created district, balancing multiple uses on 34 miles along San Diego Bay spanning five cities. Collecting no tax dollars, the Port manages a diverse portfolio to generate revenues that support vital public services and amenities.


How did you go from chemistry to the port of San Diego?

A long and winding road. I studied chemistry in college because I wanted to be a dentist. And then I went to work for a dentist one summer near the end and I decided that that was not what I wanted to do. I don't have nearly the craftsmanship or artistic talents that it takes to be a dentist and I don't think I really realized until I actually put myself in that environment, how necessary that would be.

I did the natural thing and went from chemistry into real estate and spent the first 15 years of my career in commercial real estate. I worked for a retail developer and my job was to go find good stores to try to lease space to, and I would tell all my friends, "You would never believe the job I have. I spend all day long going to the best shopping malls, looking for great stores." Only problem was I spent more money than I made on most days. And then I got a job at the Port of San Diego in the real estate department as an asset manager. So that's how I ended up at the Port.

In this predominantly male industry, how did you rise to the top? Why did you succeed in your opinion? 

First of all, I don't think it has anything to do with my gender. I don't feel like I was advantaged because of being a female, nor do I feel like I was disadvantaged because of being a female. I always volunteered for projects that no one else wanted. Complicated or controversial projects. And got a lot of exposure by working on those projects to local politicians, project proponents, my board of port commissioners.

The other thing I believe is that I have always focused on relationships and making sure I cultivate relationships of mutual trust with all kinds of stakeholders, and after several years I was able to leverage those relationships to get things done.

You are very active in the business community; how did that help your career? 

By developing a level of trust with people in different industries or on different sides of the political divide, if you will, people environmental advocates, and people that are real estate developers, and people that work for elected officials. Once you have developed a relationship of mutual trust with someone, then they'll help you solve problems.  Or help you understand an issue from a different perspective. I think that that has been a really important factor in my career.

How has port’s business changed in recent years with technological development and greater environmental consciousness? 

We have a lot of focus on the environment. We're stewards of the environment. The Port was created by the California state legislature in 1962 to promote commerce, trade, navigation, and recreation. And then later the Port Act, which created the Port, was amended to include protecting the environment. So that's really our reason for existing. We have a lot of interest in what we can do to clean up the water quality in the bay, to do what we can toward cleaning up the air quality around the bay and in the adjacent neighborhoods. And it's really at the forefront of all of our decision-making.

Technology is something that we're always trying to keep up with and it's really difficult, especially as a government agency. We have a really robust geographic information system (GIS) to map and monitor, used by our harbor police department. We provide all the police services at the airport. And also, firefighting on the water, policing on the water and policing around the tidelands.

Our harbor police uses our GIS system in what our police chief calls "intelligence-based policing." They map out where incidents occur, where crime occurs and can see patterns by looking at these maps. And then allocate resources accordingly. So rather than send one police officer out to patrol to location A, B and C, if all the action's happening in location A, then maybe send two police officers there and one to stretch out over the remainder. They are able to test theories about how certain crimes are occurring and note geographic changes. I think that's one of the more interesting and innovative ways that we're using technology.

We are also using that same GIS system to monitor the movement of vessels on the bay so we can at any time and what vessels are where and what direction they're going at what speed on the water.

With such a big organization as the Port is, how do you make sure that innovation is at the forefront?

We try to foster an atmosphere where our employees feel really comfortable to suggest new and different innovative ways to do things. But one of the most exciting things we have done is, in 2016 we established a Blue Tech incubator where we're entering into innovation partnerships with start-up companies who have water-based or marine-based technology. In some cases, we're investing up to a million dollars a year in these technologies. And allowing the use of certain areas in the bay that we have access to, to try out their technology under the water.

As an example, we partnered in a shellfish nursery that is a floating barge where we're growing oysters and clams and abalone. One of the partners is growing culinary seaweed in the bay. It grows on long strings like ropes that hang down under a pier. We’re testing technology to clean copper out of the water, which is a pollutant and harmful to certain species.  And marine debris removal boat. That almost seems very elementary to me that no one thought of it before, but it's a boat with a scooper on the front that just goes skims along the water and picks up trash.  I think that constant evaluation of these applications from very innovative companies keeps fresh thinking in the forefront.

What does Port of San Diego do besides the obvious cargo and cruise operations? 

The Port of San Diego is very unique relative to the ports industry in general. We have our two cargo terminals, two cruise ship terminals and those are both robust and growing businesses. But our maritime operations contribute 40 percent of our revenues. The rest comes from our real estate portfolio, which is really diverse and high-value. We manage all the property. My cocktail party speech is that if it's on the shore of San Diego Bay, it's either managed in trust for the people of California by the Port of San Diego, or it's the U.S. Navy's property. All the way around the bay, the Port and the Navy are partners and neighbors on both sides. We partner in a number of planning areas, but our real estate portfolio consists of everything from high rise hotels to shipyards, boatyards, restaurants, attractions, harbor excursions, to sport fishing.

The Port invests in a lot of public infrastructure for the benefit of the community. We operate 22 parks, that's another thing that most ports don't build and maintain - public amenities. So we have public parks, public fishing piers, boat launch facilities, we're almost like our own little municipality. But we don't have the benefit of tax dollars. We're a self-sustaining agency, so we support ourselves and all public benefits we provide from the revenues we earn from rent from our real estate tenants and charges from our cruise operations and cargo operations and also the airport pays us for the police services that we provide at the airport. Those are our three primary sources of revenue.

How many people or cargo goes through the port daily? Do you have any interesting numbers to share? 

Our two biggest cargoes are fresh fruit (bananas) and automobiles. Bananas come from Latin America to our 10th Avenue marine terminal in refrigerated containers and they are distributed all throughout the western United States and all the way up into Canada, 185 million bananas a month. You'll see that big yellow ship come in about every Saturday and then it leaves on Tuesday. The Hilton Hotel right next to the 10th Avenue marine terminal created a banana cocktail and when the ship leaves and toots its horn, you can order a banana cocktail and watch it sail away. In addition, this year we will import through our National City Marine terminal over 400,000 cars.

Especially because of our geographic location, we're the southern most western port, we have a good deal of trade between Latin America and the Port and we just recently established a new regular monthly liner service from Europe. So we're bringing in all kinds of project cargo. It's things that won't fit in a container, so if you really think about maritime trade, ports like Port of L.A. and Port of Long Beach bring in the huge vessels with thousands of containers and they have the ability to stack and move those containers around and get them onto trucks or onto trains. We don't really have the lay-down area to offload one of those big ships. So a lot of what we focus on are what we call project cargo or break bulk cargo. And it essentially means anything that doesn't fit in a container.

What is your next challenge?

In terms of my aspirations for the Port of San Diego, I'm really focused on making sure the Port has an executive team that's in place that can take them great places when I'm ready to retire and go take care of my grandchildren. Not planning on leaving any time in the immediate future, but I really want to make sure that the Port is set up for success so I can feel good about leaving what really has become my family whenever I decide to do that.

Port of San Diego has a very large billion-dollar hotel and convention center project on the Chula Vista Bay front that we expect to break ground within a year and that will be a hotel operated by Gaylord Hotels. This will be their only west coast facility and it'll really change the whole south bay economy forever.

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Lillian Maestas has more than twenty-five years hands-on experience in software engineering, project development, management and business development. She has led large software projects in integrated product team environments and has managed design and development of advanced commercial and military information systems.

Knowledge Made Solutions Inc was founded in 2008 in San Diego, CA. It is a Veteran Owned Small Business (VOSB) providing high quality Engineering Services to the US Government and Commercial Contractors. They specialize in Software and System Engineering Services and related disciplines including Software Application Development, Hardware Software Integration, Technical Project Management, Test Engineering, Quality Assurance, Configuration Management, Information Assurance and Technical Writing.

Your interest in computer science goes back into your college days. What sparked the interest?

I was a typical student in high school, I didn't know what I wanted to do for a career. I sought the advice of my student counselor and she said, “Well, you're good at math, what about computer science?” I said, “What's that?” She said, “Well, it's a new field that's just starting,” and “Since you're good at math, I think it can be a good fit for you.” So, I said, “Okay.”

It was challenging in several ways. One, my computer science classes had only two or three females to start, and then after four, five weeks they would drop out, and I'd be the only female. Where in high school I predominately studied with females, I had the challenge to ask the males if I could join their study group. As well the professors were all male. Two, the subject itself was a challenge, but I just kept at it, because I found it interesting. This is when the computers, they call them the mainframes, were large and you would write your program on punch cards. Each statement of your program would be on a card so you ended up with a stack of cards for the entire program. I remember I put the card deck in my car and while driving home I braked too fast, and the cards went flying. I had to retype the program to get the cards in the right order. This meant I had to find a time slot opening in the lab to retype the program. I learned quickly to put a rubber band around my cards.

What made you stay in computer science?

Directly out of college I worked for General Dynamics in a field service position in Nevada developing software, again I was the only female on this project. We were tracking military exercises and we'd replay the results of their exercises of who killed who in a debrief center. I did the software development for that. We also tracked the first launch of the Tomahawk cruise missile. They launched it off the coast in the Pacific and it made its way all the way to Tonopah Test Range where we were working, and hit its target right on. I found doing the software development for this exciting and fun.

How you support women in STEM?

Since I do business development and also look for the resources to fill positions for Knowledge Made Solutions I definitely look for and support hiring women that are qualified.

I'm also a volunteer and STEM Chair with NDIA, National Defense Industrial Association. About 10 years ago, we recognized the shortage in the STEM educated workforce, both male and female and got involved doing outreach to students to get them interested in STEM and IT. In the beginning I noticed only males showing up to our outreach events, that's when one of my goals became to get girls to attend and for the Cyber cup event to get an all girls team. And we made it happen in one year.

What opportunities are there for women in cyber security?

There are many opportunities for women, many are technical but there's many other aspects to the cybersecurity field, so you don't necessarily have to be an engineer designing hardware, circuits or software. For example, behavioral analyst who determine why and what drives hackers are needed to provide this information to others who can put technical controls in place to monitor for suspicious behaviors based on patterns. Or lawyers, who are knowledgeable in cybersecurity policies. I'm definitely seeing more women entering this field, I see them at Cybersecurity meetings, and I love the encouragement from our male colleagues in supporting women. I see a lot of that, which is awesome.

What is the mission of Knowledge Made Solutions? 

We're a veteran owned small business that provides engineering and high-tech services to the Department of Defense. Our mission is to provide excellent engineering in software, systems engineering, and cybersecurity.

How do you contribute to that mission? 

I look for opportunities that are good fit for the company, meaning IT and engineering tasks where our experience and expertise can provide best of breed solutions and services. I also look at teaming relationships with other companies where we can complement their team with our expertise or they complement us.

How have cyber-attacks changed over time?

Going back to the 80s and the 90s, the cyber incidences were not very frequent. Now we're hearing about significant attacks every month, actually cyber security incidences are happening every minute. That's the big difference that I've seen. Also, hackers now want a ransom for return of your information. It’s not so much that they want that information, but knowing you do they hold it up for ransom. Where early on hackers actually wanted the secret or proprietary information they stole, such as designs, algorithms, etc.

How will cyber-attacks evolve in the future?

Medical devices are an interesting area. What's the purpose to hack into somebody's medical device? Probably not to get secrets, but to do harm if you don't pay them.

What are 3 steps every company should take to protect themselves against cyber-attacks? 

The first one is to do an assessment of your IT and your data. Know what you have. Step two, determine what controls are needed. You need to start setting your priorities, putting more controls in place is good, but you might not be able to do it all at once. So you prioritize. Third step is the awareness. A lot of breaches happen because employees are not aware that their actions open up ways for hackers to get in.

What is SoCal Cyber Cup?

SoCal Cyber Cup is a Cybersecurity challenge for middle school and high school students. They get paired with a mentor from DOD industry and government to work on different cybersecurity challenges for 6 months. The kids are exposed to threats and vulnerabilities and work with the latest technologies to find, remove and recover within what we call a cyber range. A safe place that won’t create real problems while they learn. This year we had the Cyber Range in the cloud. This also allows us to reach a larger group of kids. We've had kids return for all four of their high school years to participate in the cyber cup challenge and after they come back as mentors and sponsors. We’ve also seen several kids get very good positions at local companies based on the experience and knowledge they gained through the cyber cup challenge.


What is your next challenge?

I want to see more kids from underserved areas get involved in STEM and the SoCal Cyber Cup to show them the opportunity this filed offers for their future. Recently NDIA is participating in a program called “STEM in your backyard", we go out to schools in underserved areas and talk to kids about STEM. Our goal is to have 50% of teams from these areas at our next SoCal Cyber Cup.


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