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Michael Scarpelli acts as Director, IT, Technical Support Manager at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LIAI). He oversees LIAI’s team of support technicians and assists in managing the day-to-day flow of the Information Technology Department. With assistance from Senior Information Technology Manager John Stillwagen, Michael is an integral part of making sure that business, both administrative and research, runs smoothly at LIAI.

Michael joined LIAI in 2002 as a Tech Support Specialist. A Writing major from UCSD, Michael brings a broad skill-set to the Information Technology Department, and is continually looking to advance and expand the functions of the IT Department at La Jolla Institute for Immunology.

What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?

When I was a little kid I wanted to be a scientist. Then I hit high school chemistry and there was just some disconnect between my brain and what they were teaching me. Same thing with math. I was very good at math up until calculus level and then natural ability ran out and the subject matter sort of caught up with me. Then it was, "No buddy, this is not working anymore."

At that point I made a hard left into Bachelor of Arts, literature kind of stuff. I'm actually a writing major so I have nothing applicable to what I'm doing in any way. That’s how a lot of my friends are. They went for astronomy or their passions and then they end up doing something totally different.

Growing up I'd always been interested in computer stuff because they were cool toys to play with and I liked getting into them. I wasn't afraid to sort of poke around on them. I had a Mac computer growing up and then, at college, one of my friends, John Stillwagen, he's our Management Information Services director now, was working here at the institute and he said, "Do you want a job? Go apply." I showed up and essentially my interview was my boss shaking my hand and saying, "Do you know how to use a Mac computer?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Great, you're hired."  So initially what got me into it was not necessarily my saying, "Hey, I want to do IT." It was more that it was already something that I was doing on my own.

This is where the communication aspect comes into play finally, I like to try to translate and explain ideas to people and I like to answer questions. That's a lot of what support is like, especially in the early stages. You having to just sort of walk people through, not only is this how you do things, but let me explain to you how it works so that you maybe understand it the next time and we don't have this problem repeatedly forever. So that's sort of how I got into IT.

I like being able to fix problems, so being able to do that what's kept me in the position for as long as I've been here.

What super power do you want most?

Being able to stop time, slow down time, affect time. I think there's a lot of different applications for that. There's a lot of flexibility to it. I feel like you can get creative if you can stop time.

If you were on an island, what three things would you bring?

Well, I feel like I'd probably want some sort of board game. I'm not a chess player, but that's one of those games that I can think of where there are so many solutions. Checkers has been solved. A computer has figured out how to win any game of checkers, right? Chess, I think they haven't quite gotten there yet. I think I read something like there's supposed to be more combinations of chess games available than there are stars in the universe kind of a thing. The number of permutations you can have is so vast, that you could always be coming up with new ways to play a game. I feel like that would be good.  I'd have to pick a book, I just don't know what book it would be. Maybe some anthology book.

Maybe something like a soccer ball or something, something you can entertain yourself with, something that will keep yourself in shape and entertained, but also like you could draw a face on it, make it a new Wilson or whatever.

What’s the area of focus that you're concentrated on?

Generally, my focus is still sort of where I started out, which is end user support.  The primary goal is always how is what we're doing affecting the researchers and their ability to do the research, essentially. We try to really focus on that more than adherence to any particular sort of IT standard or methodology. I feel like it's really common that it's IT's job to enforce a specific set of restrictions or standards on the company. Whereas for us, unless there's a really compelling reason to say no, like it physically cannot be done or it's a really dangerous idea, we aim to say, yes, and here's how we'll help you get there.

We’re trying to bring the most minimal amount of friction to the way research gets done. As a result, we have a pretty good rapport with the general user population. I think users trust us to handle data and solve problems effectively, so I don't believe we have a lot of shadow IT issues, where people are buying things on their own because IT can't solve it, or they've tried to fix it through the official channels and it didn't work so they did their own thing, or went out and bought their own software or pulled in an external hard drive from home. I feel like people generally know that if they come to us, they'll get the help that they need. They don't have to go and look on their own to do something.

Are you a part of the executive conversation with growing the business forward?

Yes. The structure for our leadership is going to be a little different from the standard company. We have an executive vice president and chief operating officer. And then above him is the president and scientific director. When I started, the president was just a head of a lab and also a division, which is like a logical grouping of labs. I feel like he still primarily thinks of things like a scientist. So, for him, research is paramount and protecting the unique structure and feel of the institute is really important.

The COO, who is my direct boss, has been my direct boss since I got hired, used to be the IT manager and is now the COO of the company. He understands the IT side of things. He was also a researcher himself, has his PhD and had been an immunologist at some point. He understands both sides of the equation very well and can back initiatives that we are pushing forward, knowing that we're making the right choices. I'd say it's pretty easy to feel like we're part of that discussion and the driving goals of IT are aligning well with what the organization on the whole is looking to accomplish.

We've developed a level of mutual trust. The COO knows that we are going to try to do our best to assist the research, and we know that if we really need him to come to bat for us, that if it's something that really matters, we know what can happen.

What does this year look like for you?

I've been focused on security. We have a simple site, we have a simple network. So, it's pretty easy to protect the perimeter. Single firewall, single site. We're able to say, “Let's just not let all this stuff in unless it's through the VPN or is a service that we specifically allow.” The network security side of things is fairly straightforward. Obviously, I'm sure security experts anywhere wince when someone says that to them. Where it gets tricky is the end users. Especially where we're at because we have a lot of visiting scientists. We've got 400 people in a given year and you might have 100 people turn over in the course of a year. It’s because you have people who are grad students, who maybe graduate or get another job or go somewhere else. You'll have post-doctoral candidates, and they're there to be doing lab work, but their goal is to have their own lab, so they're going to leave one day. That's sort of the ideal scenario, that they're doing so well, they have projects of their own, they go off and start their own gig.

You’ll have visiting scientists, people from China, Japan, Spain, the Netherlands, anywhere, all over the world. And they're here for months and then they leave. Having very user-focused rules is important because we're not their home institution, we're not even their home country for many of them. So, it's difficult to instill the sense of corporate culture responsibility when they're just going to be leaving soon. You really want to have easy options available to them.

The labs are all sort of their own little companies, they all bring their own funding, I simply control what they're going to buy. We have some labs that are all PC, some labs are all Mac. Some labs, everybody gets their own stuff, some labs it's bring your own from home. That’s all based on their funding level, but also the comfort level of the PI, of the lab head, the principle investigator. Which is also why we have to be flexible in our department. I can't say to anyone, you have to be using this particular hardware and it can't be more than four years old and it has to be running all this stuff because if they don't have the money to pay for that. I can't be like, “Well then you can't do your research.”

The other issue that we have used to be storage. The storage in research nonprofits was a big deal for a while; it was the topic of a lot of conferences. But that's sort of been "solved" now. It's tricky because we generate a ton of data but we don't have Fortune 500 budgets. We just have nonprofit institute budgets. But, the data output is excessive. The question's not how do you store it, it's how do you find it again. We're now looking at solutions that will enable us to do a lot more metadata management and a lot more automated assistance with tagging and sorting and collecting that data.

Analytics is probably downstream of that. Data management is what's really critical, and it's something that most file systems don't really do well natively. Especially not at the volume we would need. We're dealing with 150-200 million files. Research data is frequently write once, read seldom if ever. You may have people that just collect data, and they should be, it's their job. But it may be data that they didn't really need to analyze at the time because it didn't quite get them the results that their research needed, but you still want to keep it. It also means that people aren't touching it very often, so it's really easy to lose track of it.

A lot of places cover this with data librarians, and we may move in that direction. Larger institutions, solve it just through raw manpower. They throw interns at it, they throw grad students at it, which is not a luxury we have.

The next initiative will be probably coming up in two years from now, which is then moving that data quickly. Especially as more collaborations are being done between institutions and those datasets are not small. You're going to be dealing with stacked TIF images. Maybe one image file you're working with is actually a stack of hundreds of other images compressed to give a 3D model of a cell structure. That's going to be a 50 gigabyte single file that you might need to send to somebody, and maybe they don't want to wait seven hours to get it. Having a network that's sort of hardened to do large transfers like that and systems that will help chaperone transfers across the land is going to be big for us.

What's the greatest mistake that you learned from?

Coming up through the ranks as a part-time, hourly help desk guy I think was very helpful because you make a lot of mistakes doing that stuff. I can think of a time where I lost somebody's data. I can think of times where I didn't give someone a good answer or I didn't follow up with them. It helps me understand the help desk that I'm managing and the work that they're doing, because it's work that I did for a long time. I can tell what flies and what doesn't. Somebody tells me, “ I didn't have time to do this,” I can be like, “Well, you did. You just didn't do it.” Or I can be like, “Yeah, I can tell it's been crazy, I've seen the tickets. I know what's been going on.”

I would say more specifically for me on that, I learned a long time ago to sort of separate my ego from the process. In IT, you don't often have great conversations with people. It's usually like why is my stuff broken? What happened, what did you do wrong? People don't generally come to you to say everything is great today. If nothing is broken, people wonder why we have so much IT staff. But the answer is the reason it's not broken is because you have so much IT. You need to learn to be not defensive about that or to realize that it has no bearing on you as a person necessarily, as long as you are doing your best in the job. Being able to just have someone unload on me and let them know we'll fix it for you and we'll make it better, I think goes a long way.

You always hear horror stories about people's bosses and the way they handle conflict, and I feel like a lot of that is tied with their sense of ownership and power in the organization. I think not having that is crucial for this kind of service-oriented role. I still think of it as a service. It doesn't matter that I've been doing it as long as I have, it doesn't matter that I have a director title, I still consider myself to be a service employee. I solve tickets regularly in the system. I'm still one of the guys that goes out to a microscope to install new software.

There are things where the help desk has surpassed my knowledge set at this point because they're doing it every day. There are times I don't know the method they're using anymore. Also realizing that it's sort of like working in retail. You're going to see some ugly stuff out of people, and sometimes realizing that they're not mad at you, they're mad at a situation. Being able to grasp that is important.

What are the hiring challenges, and how do you hire?

I’m actually usually not super focused on an applicant’s resume. I look for certain key words, but for the help desk especially, I actually prefer a resume that is not a six pager or super dense. I am willing to hire people who are pretty green as long as it seems like they have the willingness to pick stuff up and run with it. We tend to hire for who's going to fit best for both the group and the personality and structure of the organization. So, if we get a sense that someone's a self-starter, that they are a good communicator, that they are going to be able to be relaxed in a stressful situation, those are things we tend to hire for more than this person has three pages of certifications and has worked at a hundred tech companies and has probably seen it all before.

Now obviously, sometimes those candidates are great because if they can come in and know everything and hit the ground running, then awesome. Perfect. But I also feel like sometimes you come in with a lot of preconceived methods about ways of handling situations. I hire based on fit for the team more than I do for the resume. You could have a pretty low amount of actual resume experience, but as long as it seems like you'll catch on quick, that'll work out pretty well for you. We want someone who can communicate well to our end users rather than someone who just knows it all already.

I’d say the biggest challenge there is that people, since it's sort of like an entry level-ish kind of job, depending on the tier of tech, you tend to have people who shotgun resumes out. So, we'll get people who are fresh out of school, and you'll also get people who are clearly looking for high end level six figure salary sort of jobs. And they'll say that specifically, in our recruiting system. It appears they didn't apply for this job, a robot applied for this job, or they just applied to anything that had a keyword. We get a lot of that.

If you could give guidance to any IT manager about how they position their careers, what would you tell them?

I think it's really important to be part of the greater organization and to work a lot with other groups where possible. When another department has a technology problem they need to solve or a problem you can solve with software, really work with them on it. Be involved in that process because it helps you both understand the business. It will help you immerse faster, but it also makes you more valuable. You'll be involved in more discussions because people will have learned that they can bring something to you and you'll be willing to sit down with them and solve the problem.

I find that the more up front you are about stuff, the less things can come back and bite you in the ass later on, and the more people believe in you and depend on you.

Final Question:

Top concern - Choose from: security, mobility, IoT, analytics, DevOps, advanced systems architecture, cloud, automation. Pick top 3 and rank order

  1. Security
  2. Mobility
  3. Cloud

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Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space height="20px"][vc_column_text]To download the full magazine and read the full interviews, click here.

Dr. Claire Weston is an accomplished and dedicated scientific leader with a track record of success in cancer research.  She was awarded a PhD in from Cambridge University in the UK and has lead teams and projects focused on cancer biomarkers in both large pharma and start-up environments.  Claire founded Reveal Biosciences in 2012 and has since demonstrated strong year-on-year growth.  She has authored numerous peer-reviewed publications in leading journals including Science, and is a respected member of multiple professional organizations including the Digital Pathology Association. 

Reveal Biosciences is a computational pathology company focused on tissue-based research. 

Why did you decide to explore biotechnology?

When I was a child I went to a local science day and watched a scientist pour liquid nitrogen onto the floor. The liquid nitrogen changed from liquid to gas, something I’d never seen before, and I thought it was amazing!  It really initiated my interest in science. I love biotechnology because it's at the interface of science and technology, and solves real world problems.

How was the idea of Reveal Biosciences born?

Several years ago I was working at a different company developing a biomarker-based test for breast cancer. As part of that test, we sent a set of 150 patient slides to three different pathologists to review and provide a diagnosis. We then compared those results to our quantitative biomarker test. What really struck me at the time was the variation in the results that we got back from the pathologists. These are all very qualified, experienced pathologists, yet they didn't agree on the results for all the different patients. This is important because the way the patients are treated is often dependent on the way that the pathologist reviews the slide. It became clear that taking a quantitative, computational approach could help provide more accurate and reproducible data to benefit patients. This became one of the driving missions of our company.

In simple words, how do you help people?

We provide data from microscope slides or pathology samples that can benefit research, clinical trials, and patients.  For example, we generate quantitative pathology data to help pharmaceutical companies develop therapeutic drugs, we use it for clinical trials to increase precision and stratify patient groups, and we're also in the process of building pathology data applications to help pathologists diagnose disease in a way that will ultimately benefit patients.

Click here to watch more videos.

How are your services different from other similar companies in the market?

We are fairly unique in that we have a scientific team in the lab doing pathology and a computational team of data scientists and software engineers who are developing our AI-based platform. Our ImageDx platform includes models to generate very quantitative data and diagnostic outputs that can be applied to many different diseases. The products that we are working on are unique and differentiate us, but the main driver is the quantitative pathology data that we generate.

How did you marry artificial intelligence with pathology?

We've been using traditional machine learning to identify and quantify cells from images for a while, but in the last few years AI has advanced significantly. It's impressive to see how well it works in pathology images. We've made the natural evolution from more traditional machine learning into AI. Compute power is now more readily available which means that we can generate data from one patient slide in minutes rather than the days or weeks it used to take.  This sea change in computational speed means that the data we generate is more meaningful and relevant to routine pathology workflows.[/vc_column_text][grve_video video_link="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apAy6ZRi11w"][vc_column_text]Click here to watch more videos.

You are planning to use cloud-based technology to deliver accurate diagnosis and to address medical needs worldwide. How does that work?

There's a huge shortage of pathologists worldwide. Even in the US where we have very highly qualified pathologists we’re heading for a retirement cliff, and less pathologists are coming through residency to maintain their numbers. This is particularly evident in rural areas where there's a real shortage of expertise. Having a cloud-based approach will help address some of those problems.

I'm excited by the potential for AI in a cloud-based platform to bring advanced pathology expertise to anywhere with internet access. Hospitals or pathology labs throughout the world could upload an image from a microscope slide into the cloud, and that image can be analyzed to generate advanced diagnostics. Countries with limited resources often have the ability to generate the most basic kind of microscope slide, but they sometimes lack the ability to do the more advanced diagnostics. The possibility to do so is going to revolutionize pathology and be impactful for healthcare globally.  This should also benefit patients in the US by helping to lower the cost of healthcare.

How is AI impacting pathology?

The application of AI in pathology is a very new thing. We've been developing this for a while and we're launching the first products in the clinic for patients in 2019. We are also building more enhanced pathology models by integrating other data sources. We’re finding that we can use AI to detect aspects of cancer that are not obvious just by looking down a microscope. For example, we're detecting small changes in the texture of the nucleus of cells or small cellular changes that you wouldn't necessarily notice by eye but can be predictive or prognostic of disease. I think this is going to be really impactful for personalized medicine.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column heading_color="primary-1"][vc_empty_space][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interviews" button_text="Learn more" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration||target:%20_blank|"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Denise Bevers, Co-Founder, President, and Chief Operating Officer of Kindred Biosciences is an experienced pharmaceutical executive with a distinguished career in clinical operations, medical affairs, and scientific communications. With over 20 years of pharmaceutical and research experience, she has successfully managed dozens of product launches and development programs from Phase I through Phase IV. Bevers previously held leadership positions at Elan Pharmaceuticals, Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, Quintiles, and SkyePharma. Prior to co-founding KindredBio, she was President and Founding Partner of SD Scientific, a full-service medical affairs and communications company.

KindredBio is a leading veterinary biotech company in the world that develops breakthrough medicines for our best friends: cats, dogs, and horses.

Watch more videos here.

How was the idea of KindredBio born?

KindredBio was born from the understanding that our pets need access to the same caliber of medicines to which we have access as humans.  When my partner, Dr. Richard Chin, and I were working in human drug development, we decided we wanted to develop cutting-edge products for cats, dogs, and horses.  We formed KindredBio to develop these drugs, specific for each species, and have them approved for use by the FDA and/or other relevant regulatory agencies, for veterinary use.

How do you help pets?

At KindredBio, we identify drugs and biologics that work in humans, and we develop veterinary versions for cats, dogs, and horses. We lovingly say that we will not test any products on animals that have not been tested in humans first! By adapting the research and development from existing human products, we both increase the chance of success and decrease costs and timelines. We can develop these product candidates for an average of $5 to $8 million in 3-6 years.  This is a phenomenal feat if you consider that human drugs may cost over $1 billion and take over a decade to develop. At KindredBio, we have approximately 20 product candidates in our pipeline and hope to make a tremendous difference in the lives of pets and pet owners by providing products to veterinarians.

What has been you biggest professional challenge so far and how did you overcome it?

After nearly 25 years working in human drug development, it was a big leap to start a company focused in veterinary medicine.  As I have done throughout my career, the number one step was to surround myself with the most talented people in the industry.  We hired the top veterinarians, protein engineers, and drug developers in the business.  As a result, we developed an incredible pipeline and ended up taking the company public (Nasdaq: KIN) in just 14 months after founding.  It was one of the fastest IPOs in biotech history.  We are proof that, with the most talented and motivated team members, anything is possible!

What is the most important role of technology in biotechnology?

As a virtual company with remote employees across the US, we need to collaborate at all levels of the business daily.  Our IT team believes the technology should be transparent so whether we’re in virtual conferences, sharing information or collaborating on documents, or crunching data for research – our teams should be working as seamlessly as if we were all working in the same physical location.  The good news for companies like us is that the tools we have today, which were unattainable 5 or 10 years ago, are cost-effective and work quite well.

Watch more videos here.

What has been the biggest technological breakthrough for your company?

Our real technological breakthrough has been the development of specific monoclonal antibodies and recombinant proteins for cats, dogs, and horses. We are walking in lock-step with biotech innovation, such as immunotherapy, on the human side.  We have hired world-renown protein engineers and have the some of the most sophisticated manufacturing in all of biotech. We are developing first-in-class, cutting-edge product candidates for cats, dogs, and horses.  We can manufacture very sophisticated products at a much lower cost, which for us was the key to starting the company. Before we start to develop any product, we need to know that we can manufacture it at a cost that the pet owner can afford. And that really was what drove us to be able to start the company, the incredible advancement in biotechnology and manufacturing technology. Our goal is to truly revolutionize veterinary medicine.

You have held leadership positions at numerous professional organizations, what advice could you offer other professionals in STEM fields to help them become good leaders?

One of the important messages that I like to communicate to young women (and men) is that you can have a career in STEM without being a bench scientist, engineer, or mathematician.  I am a great example of that.  While I have a BS in biology, I am not a scientist, yet I have managed to surround myself, throughout my career, with the best scientists in the world.  I get so much gratification from a career in STEM.  For leaders, I particularly encourage them to work on their communication skills.  For technical talent, it is critical to be able to discuss the technology to many stakeholders, from non-technical employees, to management, and likely even to investors. The ability to tailor communication is a cornerstone to great leadership.

Innovation is the essence of KindredBio. Can you give us an example how you innovate with medicine for pets?

In 2018, we received FDA approval for our first product which is a transdermal ointment for cats. Until recently, a human drug was used off label. The owner was dispensed a little white pill and he or she had to cut it, typically into eights, and then pill that cat. Which, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of doing so, is really not fun. We worked very closely with our scientists to make a product that penetrates the skin of the ear. So, you rub some in the ear, and the transdermal ointment penetrates the skin and works as well as if you were taking a pill. And that’s how we use innovation to create value for the pet owner and veterinarian.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column heading_color="primary-1"][vc_empty_space][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interviews" button_text="Learn more" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration||target:%20_blank|"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]


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Patrick Tinklenberg is the Vice President of Information Technology with Sycuan Casino where, for the last 4 years, he has been responsible for technology and strategy for the casino, hotel, and golf resort. Previously to this position, Patrick was the IT Director for the Barona Band of Mission Indians for 7 years where he ran the IT operations at all tribal government service facilities, government-supported enterprises, and the Barona Gaming Commission. A veteran of the IT industry for over 20 years, he has worked with companies in Transportation, Medicine, Real Estate, Government, Manufacturing, and Retail to align business objectives with technology.
Since joining the Tribal IT industry in 2005 he has facilitated projects across all areas of government and casino operations. As a gaming operations executive, he has been instrumental in the implementation of innovative loyalty programs, digital content managements systems, CRM, and a number of strategic infrastructure initiatives. Highlights of government initiatives include: reservation-wide wireless broadband, GIS mapping, electronic document management, implementation of citizen service platforms, and unified communications.
What are three top areas of focus for IT executives? 
The key areas we are focusing on this year revolve around the business. The first one is security, there have been a number of high profile incidents in financial services, casinos and with Technology providers. With that in mind we have been spending time on security awareness, security training, processes and procedures- all the human elements and IT security. The second one is analytics, business decision making, giving our organization a better ability to make good decisions with good information, faster. The third area of focus is on customer service - going along with analytics, providing technologies that give our hosts and team members, the ability to provide guests the best customer service with what they need at the moment they need it.
What's your take on Public Cloud? 
Historically, Native American Tribes have been very reluctant to going into the cloud because of concerns about sovereignty. From my perspective, I would like to move as many services that would make sense, into the cloud, keeping in mind that a lot of sensitive information needs to be protected and kept in our datacenter. Cloud services provide us with much greater flexibility, security, gives us much faster time to execute, spin up services and extend services into the cloud. I am trying to push toward moving to the cloud as much as possible within some limits. We are not hybrid cloud focused, maybe in the future. Right now we are about 90% in our own data center. We've got our CRM in the Cloud. We are deploying SharePoint and taking advantage of Azure where we can.
What superpower do you want most? 
I would like super speed. It seems like I'm always running late for something.
How is IT helping to drive revenue throught the company? 
There are a couple of ways. A lot of people think of IT as being a cost center. We really tie every initiative we do in IT to some business initiative. Sometimes those initiatives are not specifically a revenue target. We don't always look at return on investment, sometimes the focus is return on objective. What are we doing to meet a goal or objective? When it comes to truly revenue focused goals we do a lot of projects for marketing and for finance that drive revenue back into the Casino. We will focus on opportunities to increase revenue, and then measure before and after. We also take some of the things we do really well that other casinos don't do and commercialize them. As an example, we are commercializing a process we developed in house for transferring data in real time to analytics providers. We are the only casino that does that for this provider and now they want to commercialize the product and offer it to other casinos.
How is IT supporting innovation? 
Innovation is one of my favorite things to talk about. There can be a process to innovation. You need to schedule time for it and create an environment where people are given the tools and ability to fail. People don't always feel like they are given permission to fail.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? 
I wanted to be a stunt man, desperately. I would run around the basement of my house, with a helmet and run into padded walls. This may explain a lot about me now, I don’t know.
We are hearing so much about the internet of things - what could that look like for your business? 
A lot of different things. We are expanding, so we’re taking the opportunity and looking at smart building technologies. The IOT is a critical component of that. You're talking about hundreds and hundreds of thousands of end points, from lighting, to fans, to temperature sensors, to valves for sprinkler systems, all can be tied together and integrated to a system that controls everything. We have a little over 2000 slot machines on our floor. Each of them sends us all kinds of data, being able to mine all of that data, being able to grab all of that useful data, and process it with streaming analytics is going to be very important for us.
Have you experienced any hiring challenges? 
San Diego is a strong technology marketplace, so when you are competing against other industries like biotech industries it is very hard to convince people that working in a basement in a casino is a really good idea. It's a 24/7 environment, and IT needs to be here every hour every day all year long even on holidays. It’s a hard sell and you have to find the right person. Typically I will try to explain all the interesting things we do, give them the ability to set their own career path and give them all the resources and tools they need to do that. Pay scale is also sometimes tough in this market. Providing an environment that is challenging and fun and keeps people involved is key. Especially with a younger generation where attention span is down to 8 seconds, keeping them engaged and committed is difficult.
What kind of message is coming down from the CEO/Key Executives about their partnership with IT? What are the key areas of focus? 
The great part about my role here is that I get to be a part of the executive team, I report directly to the GM. As part of that group, I can help set the agenda and the messaging is built with IT as a participant. IT gets to develop with the rest of the organization common goals and initiatives.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column heading_color="primary-1"][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interviews" button_text="Learn more" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration||target:%20_blank|"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]To download the full magazine and read the full interviews, click here.

Holly Smithson is Chief Executive Officer of Athena. She is responsible for creating, communicating and implementing the organization's vision, mission, and overall direction and serves at the discretion of the Board of Directors. 

Smithson previously served as Vice President, Business Strategy at the California Life Sciences Association, the nation’s largest statewide advocacy organization for the life sciences sector. Prior to that, she served as President and Chief Operating Officer at Cleantech San Diego, one of the first cleantech industry associations launched to establish the region as a global hub. Smithson worked in public policy as a Presidential Appointee in several federal agencies and as a registered lobbyist for industry in Washington, D.C. 


Athena is a professional development organization dedicated to empowering women in the STEM workforce. Will you share with us some of the challenges that women working in STEM companies are experiencing? 

Athena has been providing leadership development, mentoring and research for women in STEM for 20 years. In 2018, we’re at an exciting intersection in our journey towards gender equity. Some call it the year of the woman, I submit it’s the decade of the woman. We have an enormous responsibility to mobilize and execute around this seismic shift in society on what the new norms are for gender diversity in the workforce. Biased recruiting, interviewing and hiring techniques, pay disparity and inflexible work policies are among the many elements that work against a diverse and inclusive corporate culture.

How does Athena support women in STEM?

For our 20th Anniversary, Athena launched its premier thought leadership piece indexing the percentage of women in STEM in San Diego and nationally. We are driving the national dialogue around gender diversity with a data-driven approach to not only discover the root cause of the gaps but how best to close them. Athena’s 5000 supporter community views Athena as a safe harbor to learn how to navigate the inherent biases, to gain greater awareness of the power of the network and how to invest in their career versus the job.

Do you see any challenges specific to the San Diego region?

As a global STEM hub, we assumed San Diego would be ahead of its competitors. As the data reveals however, women represent 23% of San Diego’s STEM workforce compared to 25%, nationally. Although the gap is nominal, we have higher expectations of this region and Athena is positioned to now empower STEM companies with data and strategic capital.

How will Athena change these statistics?

Athena is honored to form its newest alliance with the United Nations and the UN Global Compact. We will be announcing our formal collaboration on December 6 in San Francisco.  Launched in 2000, the UN Global Compact is the world’s largest multi-stakeholder initiative dedicated to driving business awareness and implementation of its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, also known as Agenda 2030: www.unglobalcompact.org/sdgs. Sustainable Development Goal # 5 is focused on "Gender Diversity" and that’s where Athena steps in. Through this UN partnership, Athena will leverage its 20-year convening power and market access and facilitate implementation efforts on SDG # 5.

What is the state of women working in the tech sector?

We know the biggest creation of wealth is unarguably the tech sector and yet women are leaving the tech workforce at a 50% exit rate. This calls for a dramatic course correction. Women influence 80% of consumer purchasing. Women hold 60 % of the US personal wealth. Women comprise 51% of the world population. When we look at the statistics, we need to get to the root cause of this huge disconnect inside the tech sector and challenge our assumptions and hypothesis. The UN partnership will set that flywheel in motion as Athena helps companies create an inclusive environment that celebrates the business and societal rewards stemming from gender equity.

What is next for Athena?

We want to empower one million women working and leading in STEM workforce by 2030. This audacious goal will require a sophisticated digital communications campaign, so we can effectively reach all those women and women champions ready and willing to contribute to society through STEM.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column heading_color="primary-1"][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interview" button_text="Learn more" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration||target:%20_blank|"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

To download the full magazine and read the full interviews, click here.

Ryan Fay is responsible for leading ACI Enterprises, Inc. global business, technology, and security strategy. As Global CIO, Ryan leads a global team of multidisciplinary technology staff (comprising both ACI and acquisitions) spanning 170 countries and communicating in over 180 languages. Ryan’s team has been able to radically disrupt the corporate benefits experience by delivering industry-leading 24/7/365 access, and a seamless, intuitive user experience for customers worldwide.


 What superpower do you want most? 

 The superpower I think would be most incredible would be time travel.  I am fascinated by history and science and would love to witness the great empires of the past and listen to the major thinkers and doers who were far ahead of their time.  And for my own benefit, it would be great to see into the future, learn what changes are coming and bring back some knowledge.    


What did you want to be when you were a kid? 

 When I was a kid, I really wanted to either build rockets or fly rockets. My parents actually met at General Dynamics. They both worked there designing and building rockets. There's a park in Irvine that has a big rocket in the center, and we'd go there for their company parties, and I thought it'd be so cool to be able to build my own rocket. Luckily, I’m able to live vicariously through Elon Musk. 


 How did you get into technology? 

 My dad was the president of Avnet, and I would see him working and talking about technology 24/7 and traveling internationally to different suppliers to make some of the coolest products. And both my parents encouraged me to think about how things work, which is how I became interested in pursuing the networking side of IT.   

I was always curious about how a storage array is able to ‘talk’ to a mainframe? How does that then connect to the Internet? That's kind of where I started. While the networking side can be fun, I quickly realized I didn’t want to be on call 24/7 to fix FUBAR systems. After being on that side of the technology stack for years, I knew I loved technology, but what surprised me was that I was actually pretty good at using technology to solve complex business challenges. With that, I decided to dive into management and executive leadership.   


 How have you managed employee transitions during this growth? 

 I have been an IT leader at ACI Specialty Benefits for almost eight years, during a time when ACI has acquired four companies and experienced unprecedented growth. In response, ACI has had to quickly build strong core team across technology, analytics, big data, IoT, and of course security. And I would argue that technology is an increasingly important component across all other departments and functions, including marketing, HR, customer relations, and finance.  There is a growing amount of crossover and workflows that have allowed some of our marketing folks, for example, to now move into an analytics role. So now enterprise-wide, ACI is rapidly shifting from a traditional benefits company to a technology company. I’d argue that every business today is a technology company and if not, they are probably not paying close enough attention to the paradigm shift that is happening worldwide.  


 What platform(s) do you use? 

 ACI is a big VMware customer, leveraging both private and public cloud services. For public cloud, ACI utilizes AWS and GCP. The easiest way to leverage cloud services is to spin up a development environment on a government cloud AWS server. I like to leverage cloud services in a different use than most.  

 Instead of only using public cloud technology for rapid scalability and elasticity, I like to see what each workload is going to require via cloud services and then have my team start to build that infrastructure at our own data center proactively.  

 I also have to take into account the specific technology needs of ACI Specialty Benefits as a leading global employee assistance program (EAP) provider.  In this capacity, ACI fields daily suicide calls, serving as a first responder in times of crisis, thus reliable technology is an absolute-must for service and performance guarantees.  In addition to providing these 24/7 EAP clinical support services, ACI is also a provider of life management benefits, corporate concierge, and errand running.  With major Silicon Valley clients, multi-geographic hospitals, national law firms and Fortune 500 clients, ACI partners with businesses who are looking to support employees at work, home and everywhere in between.   These companies are investing in employee well-being because it’s good for business.  Maybe a father or mother or spouse is going back to school; they used to be the one that was cooking in the house. They no longer have time to do that, so ACI will bring on an on-site chef or provide errand running to deliver groceries.  

 On top of that, ACI is also a global provider of student assistance. If someone's looking to go back to school and get their Ph.D., ACI’s specialists help facilitate not only the back-to-school transition outside of work hours, but also babysitting, child care, even finding low-cost laptops and affordable housing.   


What area of focus are you concentrated on? 

 To start with, I use something called a four quadrant. I break down all my different urgent projects into a four-quadrant matrix. Quadrant one is the absolute most important item of the day. These are the fires, those items that must get addressed immediately. 

 Anything that's not generating business value, I put into a waste quadrant. For me, it's really about solving the pressing issues that need my attention in the moment. Those are all my first quadrant items. From there, I then break that quadrant into smaller priorities that can be delegated out to my team. It's much easier for me to then focus on the high priority items that need my attention. I also set aside time to focus on the technology development and business strategy. 

As Global CIO, my number one priority is always recruiting, developing, and creating a culture of excellence. The last one is everyone’s job in the organization, but I have made it my personal goal to create a culture of excellence. Motivating and retaining highly-skilled, talented staff is always a fun challenge for me. When talking with other CIOs I often hear that security and digital transformation are top goals, but I personally think nothing can be accomplished without a strong team of competent, resilient and passionate individuals.  The role of the CIO is moving so rapidly that every CIO should be working to surround themselves with the best talent and then getting out of the way to let them do what you hired them to do. The role of the CIO is going to change even more drastically by 2020. 


 What is your take on public, private and hybrid Cloud? 

 I think to be really successful a hybrid cloud strategy is key. If we were to utilize just a public cloud offering or only support a private cloud infrastructure, we’d really be losing a lot of our speed and agility, but at the same time, we’d be giving up a lot of our security and guaranteed SLAs. With a well-thought-out roadmap and strategic plan a hybrid cloud strategy gives an enterprise the best of both technologies. I think in order to be agile, yet highly-secure, a hybrid infrastructure is a must. If you’re a start up with only two employees, then running everything on AWS might not be a problem based on your industry and vertical. However, as an enterprise begins to scale, having full control over your environment and SLAs becomes more and more critical to both you and your customers.  

Cloud strategy cannot be explained in one, or even five hours.  It takes experience and took ACI about six months to learn the nuances. ACI transitioned approximately 15 million users from AWS proper to VMware’s Cloud (VMC) AWS product. We did all of this with zero downtime. To accomplish this, it took six months of just planning. On top of that, my team transitioned to multiple AWS infrastructures and different hypervisors internally to quality check each step of the way. A project of this magnitude required not only a ton of planning and testing but also custom API connection/ integrations. To accomplish this, we worked very closely with AWS, as they helped in creating the necessary protocols. As soon as you get down to nuts and bolts, AWS really won't tell you, or Google for that matter, what their real compliance levels are in a granular enough fashion to satisfy some of our internal requirements. When we get audited, I would not want to be in the position of providing just AWS/GCPs pre-vetted environment audit. It’s important to me that we can show an auditor that we are thinking about how we can best secure our/customers data while still being pragmatic about our triple digit growth demands.  

 If I'm not going to put my own technology on there, why should I risk putting our client's technology and everything else on public cloud environment?  If one of our clients get audited, and they’re a public company, then that audit gets pushed down to ACI to satisfy and showcase our best practices and internal documentation. Even though we're private, we are running our companies’ environment as if we were a publically traded company to satisfy these types of situations. The difference is now I am explaining our environment to not just one auditor but likely multiple auditors who are scrutinizing every decision that we’ve made. To successfully pull this off, my strategy really revolves around partnering with large cloud providers while still maintain our own compliant environment to ensure we have the correct combination of both breadth and depth.  


What would be the greatest mistake that you've made that you've learned from? 

 I think every mistake is actually a lesson learned, and the biggest lesson I learned is that cooperation is more important than competition.  I am much more focused now on partnership opportunities than ever before.  I think transitioning from competing to partnering helps everyone achieve more than whatever they can accomplish individually.  That's the whole secret of one plus one equals three. I'm not going to be able to do everything so why should I pretend like I can?  


 If you could give guidance to any VP, manager, director about how they position their careers in IT, what would you tell them? 

 If you're a VP or director or head engineering or whatever it's going to be, I don't think your job is going to be there for the next ten years, really. I'm trying to train all my VPs and IT directors to understand that it's not the technology portion that makes you relevant. It's your ability to translate that into business value. You have to literally think of yourself as a translator.  

 You have all this noise coming in, and your job should be to take that noise and translate it very simply into business value.  If you can't tweet the answer, it's way too long. We’re all busy; if you can’t take a complex issue and explain it to me in 130 characters or less, then I’d argue you don’t truly understand the resolution. Of course, some problems require much more communication than that, but your abstract of the issue should be high-level and concise. If it’s not, then keep working at it until it is. Every leader is going to have to be a master communicator for the modern world. That’s one of the leading advantages we currently have differentiating us from the machines of the future.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]To download the full magazine and read the full interviews, click here.

Jaye Connolly-LaBelle, who serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at RippleNami, brings more than 30 years of experience to the table. She has served in various leadership roles during her tenure in the finance and mergers & acquisitions areas, as well as in key C-level roles in both privately and publicly traded corporations. At RippleNami, she holds the responsibilities of developing and executing the company's long-term strategies as well as creating shareholder value.

RippleNami is a company that is redefining mapping, connecting the unconnected through its proprietary visualization platform. They have positively affected 3 million+ users (such as farmers, refugees, veterans, women, and children) in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, and the UK.

Why RippleNami?

"Phil Gahn was in the intelligence services for about 12 years and after that he went on the humanitarian side landing aid for the UN in Africa. One of the things that he kept seeing over and over and over is that no one had current maps. He started putting it all together and said, 'Why can't we connect to unconnected people?' We spend about 150 billion dollars a year on aid, 90 billion never reaches those in need. He pitched it to me, and I said, 'I love to travel, I love to help people, let's do this.' That’s how RippleNami was formed. Nami in Swahili means with me. Ripple means movement, so create movement with me. We're a for-profit, social good company."

How do you turn the unutilized data into powerful, smart information?

"While we had landlines and computers, developing countries have immediately just got cell phones. They've created huge amounts of data. What they don't have in Africa is data structuring and data management. A lot of it comes from lack of security. That's why when blockchain came around, we thought it was a great way to break down data silos.  We put it up in the block, so it's secure, and we give access to those who actually need it."

How does blockchain technology work on the cell phones and help the people who need it?

"I'll walk you through Kenya livestock. We partnered with the Department of Veterinary Services. Their problem was that they went out and provided animals with vaccinations, but didn’t know anything about the animals, what disease they have, if they've been treated before, who owns them. The farmers that own the cattle can't prove that they own it, therefore, they're not bankable. We realized this is a whole ecosystem of problems. To solve it, first we need to know who the animal is. By using a microchip, we can do a whole electronic healthcare record on a cow, as we say, the internet of cows is here. Once we identified the cows, we also identified the farmers. Now when the vets go out, they can provide them with the healthcare that they need, they can see it on a map real-time, and the blockchain will come into play with micro financing. The banks can now start micro lending to the farmers, based upon the assets they have, the cows."

What has your impact been so far?

"In the livestock, in three months, 40,000 cows were tagged, 700 farms were recognized, in one county. There's 47 counties in Kenya, so we are planning to do the same in next 3 counties, and so on. Once we have phase one done, then they'll go to the micro lending and slaughter houses. In the UK they don't know where their veterans are, who they are, what they need, what services are available. Compare that to the US, we have 47,000 charities that help out veterans, but no one is really collaborating in helping them out, so that's where our system comes in and allows everyone to collaborate. In UK it's about 2.8 million people right now that are on our system and are using it to collaborate and figure out how and where can they get the services they need."

Being on the road a lot in different parts of the world, how does your team collaborate, how does technology help in that?

"Believe it or not, WhatsApp is the app of Africa, Skype is the app of Europe, and a lot of different ones in Asia.  We're a virtual company, we're up all the time."

How do you make sure your data is secure?

"Because our customer is the Ministry of Defense in the UK, we are already GDPR compliant, which has now been the gold standard that everyone else is following."

How does an IT department look like at RippleNami?

"Everyone's based in San Diego, all our corporate offices are here. We're a SaaS based model, and cloud based, but when something new comes around, we'll look at it, we'll evaluate it and make the decision. On technologies, we'll either buy it, partner, or build it. If there's something already great out there, we're not going to go recreate the wheel. If it doesn't exist, we'll build it, and if it exists, we want to possibly own it."[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column heading_color="primary-1"][vc_empty_space][grve_callout title="Tech Spotlight Interviews" button_text="Learn more" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration||target:%20_blank|"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
We would love to highlight you in the next edition of our Tech Spotlight.[/grve_callout][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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Jamie Valdez

VP of IT

Buffini & Company

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To download the full magazine and read the full interviews, click here.
With 25+ year’s experience, he has had opportunities to build and support IT operations in Europe, Ireland, Asia, and the Americas. He is well known for designing and implementing innovative IT solutions that enhance operational efficiency, accelerate revenue growth, and maximize profitability. While serving in the United States Navy, Jaime was responsible for Integrated Tactical Amphibious Warfare Data Systems (ITAWDS) and the Joint Over-the-horizon Tracking Systems (JOTS). He is a recognized leader in professional and consulting services, business development, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), among other technology disciplines.

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What's the #1 area of focus VP's in IT should concentrate on?
Security of a company’s assets should be top priority.  Cyber security is going to grow leaps and bounds in the coming years and the CIO or CISO need to have a plan in place.

What's your take on public cloud?
The Public Cloud has matured a lot in the last 5 years.  Companies like AWS, Azure, and Google have driven down cost so much that they are a compelling buy decision.  Gone are the days of having to budget CapEx dollars to replace old equipment that needs retired or purchasing software that needs upgraded.  These companies do it for you.

Do you feel IT still carries the title of a cost center rather than revenue driver?
IT done right, it’s absolutely a revenue driver.  There is still an old guard out there that wants to maintain systems that have been around for years.  This is the wrong mindset and a thing of the past; however, these IT folks still exist.  IT should be innovating ways to help the business to do business faster, staying more competitive, helping marketing with digital transformation, helping sales improve the sales process to close business faster, developing analytics to help the business see into the future.  Artificial Intelligence is going to be “huge.”  Building applications that have machine learning that analyzes a company’s many datasets will provide the business a leap forward.
What are you doing to support innovation in the company and its own organization to deliver better solutions?
I am continuing to expand upon our SaaS platform called Referral Maker®.  Over 19,000 Realtors and Lenders use this as their CRM application of choice. Last year we launched the first ever fully mobile application for iOS and Android.  In addition, we launched a new Teams product that allows the Team Leader to gain powerful insights about his/her business performance.  The Referral Maker® product was just honored the 2017 HousingWire Tech 100 Award Winner: Top Technology Company.

Are there any hiring challenges?
Yes, I’ve hired 10 people over the past 2 years and each time it’s taken months to fill.  The job market is stiff and many companies are paying top dollar to retain and counteroffering retain and attract talent.  It’s an employee’s market right now and great time to be in IT with IoT, AI, and cyber security.

What superpower would you want most?
There was a TV series on NBC that was called Heroes.  On the show there was a character by the name of Hiro Nakamura.  He had the ability to travel back and forth through space time manipulation.   
 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?   
There are a lot of documents and websites that talk about the synergy between the CIO and the CMO.  With digital transformation on the rise, the CIO and CMO need to be in lockstep as to the IT plans for supporting Sales and Marketing.  This is what my CEO is looking for me to do.  To support the business, ensure IT is staying ahead of the business, and to be innovative.

Has the idea of using cloud changed your mindset of using outsourced/Managed Services
No, I see them as independent from each other as I offload certain workloads to the Cloud and need Managed Services for day-to-day operations.  This can be boots on the ground at remote locations, additional help when a tiger-team is needed for special projects, and etc… So, I see them as complimentary.

If you won the lottery, what would you do?  
I would likely take time off to fully take advantage of the new found wealth.  I would travel the world with my bride of 26 years and travel to all the places that we’ve talked about over the years.  Among some of those places includes Greece, France, London, Spain, Italy, New Zealand, Jerusalem, and etc…

If you could give guidance to any VP  about how they position their careers what would you tell them
Be a partner to the business.  Earnestly listen to what the business is saying/asking and leverage technology to support the businesses need.  IT is meant to be service to the organization and not the other way around.  Service the organization by providing them the tools they need and want vs. what you think the need and want.

Rank your top three IT concerns out of: security, mobililty, IoT, analytics, DevOps, advanced systems architecture, cloud, automation. 
1. Security
2. Analytics
3. DevOps

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Managed Solution is conducting interviews as part of an outreach initiative to share trends and engage technology enthusiasts in the southwest.


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