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MEET THE TECH EXEC
George Suda
CIO
Smile Brand Inc.

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George Suda joined Smile Brands Inc. as Chief Information Officer in January 2008. George is responsible for all of the company's technological systems and projects, plus he oversees all Central Business Office functions.
In his career George spent 11 years with Apria Healthcare, the country’s leading provider of home healthcare products, ultimately as the Executive Vice President and CIO. In this role George was responsible for managing all aspects of the information services strategy in all 50 states. He was responsible for making significant changes in the billing and collections process that had substantial effect on insurance denials and company Days Sales Outstanding.
George attended Oklahoma State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix and an Executive MBA from Chapman University, where he also received the Beta Gamma Sigma & Dean’s Award as the top MBA student. George continues to be involved at Chapman serving on the Board of Counselors.

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Tell us a little about Smile Brand and the role of IT within the company.  
We have about 400 offices across the U.S., and the IT department supplies all technical support to those offices including phones, data, management systems, reporting, financials, the whole works. We also support a lot of the x-ray functionalities, since it’s all digital, so we move somewhere in the vicinity of 30,000-40,000 x-rays per day across our network, across all locations. We have all phases of dental from general dentistry to oral surgery, so we have a lot of lines of business across the organization. Our help desk is in Texas of 10 employees, so they'll call our help desk first.   
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?   
I wanted to be a pro football player. I played college ball and got injured and that was that. IT wasn't on my mind but after taking a couple of classes, I thought it was pretty neat.   
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?   
How can we better support them and all processes. We just brought on someone who's business analytics and process improvement to see how we could use tech to eliminate manual steps and improve processes. We've been continually doing a lot of development projects that work directly with the business leaders. I think we shifted more from short term projects to long term projects with the scope of projects expanding fast. We were always aligned with the executives but now we've more aligned with the development team to release a lot that is helping the business.   
How do you see the role of the CIO changing as IT becomes more essential to business operations? 
I think one of the big changes that I see is that IT has definitely gotten more complicated. Some of the traditional solutions we've considered in the past aren't looked the same as they used to be. The decision that we're making on technology are a lot different and there are a lot more web based solutions for us. There are more hybrid development solutions that are more viable now than they've ever been. With pay as you go, it’s a lot easier to do ROI rather than spending millions of dollars so you could scale with multiple applications.    
As a CIO, what is your biggest technology challenge or concerns for the upcoming year?   
Security is what keeps me up at night. It's eating up more and more of the budget and we're seeing more and more threats. It's what you don't know; before, security was pretty easy, but now we've got cloud based servers all over the place and there are threats coming from every direction. Keeping that environment up and making it top of mind is one of those things that we always have to address. It's one of those things that we constantly revisit and it takes up a lot of our conversations. A lot of companies think going to the cloud increases security issues but let me tell you: if you think any company can do security better than AWS, you're wrong. They put more money into security than most companies put in their IT budget.   
 What’s your take on public cloud vs. on premise?  
We are about 60% in the cloud now. We are big proponent of moving stuff to the cloud. In today's day and age its really difficult to get the skill set with all of the skills you need. We have another push to move data to the cloud in October – November. We do have servers for handling x-rays in our offices we won't move because if we lose connectivity to the network, we cannot conduct business. That's why we do have some data that we prefer to keep on premise.   
Has the idea of using cloud changed your mindset of using outsourced/Managed Services? 
We actually worked with a company to help move us to the cloud and we ended up firing them in three months. You really need to be careful with what you outsource because we don't want to end up held hostage. We ended up doing things quicker when we did it internally. We do pay a maintenance agreement with Amazon so we get some of their support which has worked fine for us. We use a diverse base of technology and the skills of the managed service provider we tried using just weren't where we needed them to be.; they tended to push us toward their wheelhouse rather than aligning with our project plan and getting us to where we wanted to be.   
 Have you had experience hiring millennials? If so how is this different from traditional hiring?   
We're doing a lot of web based java so it fits right into what we they are doing. We've hired a couple of people right out of college that have grown with the company. You need to make sure you're bringing them up; that you are aligning the salary with the skillset of millennials who are adapting quickly and bringing value to the organization. I used to be on the board of counselors at Chapman University and I am close with their dean of the business school, so I'm around young adults frequently.  
Do you feel IT still carries the title of a cost center rather than revenue driver?   
The closer you get to the business the more of a revenue driver you are. I got the call centers initially because there were problems with them and a lot of what goes on in the call centers is driven by technology. We were able to really put some analytics around it that added technology which allowed us to take more calls with the same amount of reps, driving revenue. To be successful, you need to be either driving revenue or cutting costs, but either way you need to be helping.  
 If you could give guidance to any CIO, IT Manager Director about how they position their careers what would you tell them?   
One of the things is when I get in meetings with the business people, I don't talk tech (bytes, servers etc.). That may be IT's job but that's not the business' job. I think you need to understand business first so you don’t confuse people with the other stuff. You need to understand and learn the business before you talk to the business people. If all you know is IT they are not going to listen. The only way to solve business problems is to understand those problems.   

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MEET THE TECH EXEC
Jim Phillips
SVP & CIO
SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union

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Jim Phillips has over twenty five years of experience in financial services in both banking and insurance. Prior to joining SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union he was the SVP & CIO at Stanford Federal Credit Union where he led enterprise transformation efforts including a core system conversion, infrastructure upgrades, and deployment of innovative new online and mobile technologies. Before Stanford Jim served as SVP & CIO at Arizona Federal Credit Union in Phoenix Arizona managing infrastructure upgrades and large scale projects around disaster recovery and data analytics. Jim previously served as President of a banking consulting group working with mid-sized Banks and Credit Unions around the country. He was a Senior Manager in the Financial Service practice at Accenture, and a Vice President at Bank of America for Business, Commercial and Trust systems. Jim’s is best known for development of enterprise technology strategies that add value to the business units he serves. 

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What did you want to be when you were a kid?  
Growing up, my dad managed a small, regional bank. I thought it was really cool and professional and wanted to follow his footsteps. After developing a new IT system for a life insurance company, I discovered that combining my love of development with helping people achieve financial security was the right direction for my career.  
Now, serving as the CIO for SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union - and helping our Members’ better their financial lives - I am doing exactly what I’d dreamed of all those years ago. 
What’s the #1 area of focus CIOs should concentrate on?    
In today’s world, I believe every CIO’s top focus should be on keeping their customer’s information safe – I know that’s what keeps me up at night. In our case, our Members have trusted us with their personal information so that we can help them fulfill many of their financial dreams. It is our responsibility to keep their information protected in an increasingly connected retail environment. More and more consumers are using their debit and credit cards through wallets, apps and smartphone “pays.” With hacking and cyber attacks becoming more prevalent, sophisticated and agile, IT areas must focus on continuous improvement of security programs to keep both their customer’s information and their brand’s reputation secure. 
Have you experienced any challenges in hiring millennials?    
Compared with online gaming companies, startups and tech giants, financial services is not always perceived as the coolest place to work. However, as an industry, we are progressively evolving away from a more traditional work style to one that allows flexibility to attract the many different generations in the workplace today.    
For the most part, millennials are looking for organizations that allow them to learn and develop. They want their job to fit their life and are looking for their work to have meaning and purpose.  
This aligns very well with the credit union principles and philosophies that have been part of our culture since our founding. We are a not-for-profit financial cooperative owned by our Members, living the “people helping people” philosophy each day while supporting the educational communities and cities in which we operate. Because we’re an educational-based credit union, training, developing and providing opportunities for intellectual growth for our employees is very important to us.  
For these reasons, I believe we’re a great fit for millennials.  
What’s your take on public cloud? 
The benefits of using a public cloud are increasing from price to access and configuration. While we are still primarily an on-premise shop, that is changing for us and other financial institutions as well. A few years ago we were hesitant to move services to the cloud because of the sensitive nature of the data that we manage. We’ve gotten to the point that we are fully confident in the security of hosted cloud solutions and are looking to move some of our mobile services to the cloud. Historically, we've managed our own data centers, but now many banks and credit unions are moving to colocation facilities that are better maintained and managed by leading data centers. 
We are hearing so much about the internet of things – what does or could the internet of things for your business look like?  
We started to see the internet of things pop up about two years ago. There are some pretty exciting things happening and we’ve been evaluating opportunities to leverage that would make it even easier for Members to transact with us. We’re exploring integration opportunities with Fitbits, the Alexa app with capabilities for simple transactions like transferring funds that would improve our Members’ experience. There’s also a lot going on in the financial payments space with the ability to pay with your watch or fingerprint, so we’re also talking to our vendor partners about IoT embedded information. 
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? 
Our CEO relies on IT to be an advisor for the entire organization. We’re here to provide our internal partners with more than just technical deliverables. They need us to be consultative, take the time to understand the objectives they’re trying to accomplish and come up with the right solutions. Often IT departments have a back office mentality -  that needs to change.   
If you could give guidance to any CIO, IT Manager, Director about how they position their careers what would you tell them? 
Let’s face it – us IT geeks love technology, and it’s easy for us to become enamored with developing and launching technology for technology’s sake. What’s most important is to stay focused on meeting the needs of your audience with relevant technology that helps make their lives better. At SchoolsFirst FCU, we begin with our Members; seeking their feedback and reviewing their input to implement technology that makes it easier and safer for them to interact and transact with us.   

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MEET THE TECH EXEC
Charles Podesta
CIO
UCI Health

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Over thirty years experience in Information Technology for Healthcare, the last eighteen years as a Chief Information Officer, Podesta has worked for Academic Medical Centers, Health Systems and Community Hospitals. He is currently the CIO for University of California Irvine Health. Previous to this engagement Podesta was SVP & CIO of Fletcher Allen Healthcare, a large academic medical center and health system in Burlington, VT.
Other positions included SVP & CIO at Caritas Christi Health Care, now Steward Health in eastern MA, CIO at Berkshire Health Systems, Pittsfield, MA, Director of IS and Interim CIO for Baystate Health Systems in Springfield, MA. And prior to that, leadership positions at St Vincent Hospital, Worcester, MA; UMASS/Memorial, Worcester, MA and Magee-Women’s Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA.
Over the years, Podesta has made numerous presentations at national conferences and is quoted widely in healthcare publications on a variety of IT topics including Epic’s Community Connect Program.

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What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
I was interested in being a major-league baseball player or being in a band, and I currently play spoons for bands so I kind of made it. Maybe not with a real instrument but it’s fun, you can check out my YouTube account to learn more -just type in Chuck Podesta Spoons.
What innovative projects are you the CIO focusing on this year to support the vison and mission of UC Irvine Health?
We're currently working on a huge strategic project with UC San Diego, we're changing our electronic health records from all scripts base to the Epic system. UC San Diego has already migrated to this system and will be hosting us, which is saving us a lot of money being we won't have to build a system from scratch. We're doing it as a collaboration with UCSD so from a strategy perspective we'll have two independent academic medical centers on a single instance of that electronic health record. Patients that we both serve will be in a single database so when physicians access that information they could see patient data from anywhere in the UCSD or UCI network. We're moving to population value based care and strategically working together on joint programs serving areas that may be underserviced from a standpoint of health. Having a single electronic record between the two organizations really supports that effort both in Orange County and in San Diego.
We go live in November with this big project but parallel to that we’re looking at a single support model from an IT perspective between San Diego and UCI because if we have a single instance of the electronic health record we don't really need two IT teams supporting it separately. We're going through a process looking at where we can share and centralize resources with the implementation. It's pretty exciting, we'll be the first two academic medical centers on the same instance of electronic health record in the United States when we go live. It's never been done before. We're making the single support model scalable so other UCs could potentially take advantage of that as well to reduce costs. It's more about IT following strategy, making sure you create the IT components to follow your business strategy and being a key partner throughout the process.
What's your take on Public Cloud and how have you as the CIO improved academic healthcare workflows due to cloud technology?
I just had a keynote speaking engagement on a panel at a recent cloud conference. If you look outside of healthcare, yes everyone is moving to the cloud. The issue with healthcare has always been with the Protected Health Information (PHI) and as CIOs we have been nervous about moving that information to a cloud based system with the risk of having a breach. That's always been in the back of our minds with the thought of how fast you really should move to the cloud. Some of the technologies we use aren't architected for the cloud, which is another reason we've been slow to adopt, but now it's starting to rapidly move in that direction.
When we first started working on a recent analytics project, we had a large new data warehouse on premise that we just recently moved to the cloud. With HIPAA protection in place the savings are tremendous because now you're able to scale up or down and easily add more storage when its needed, making it a lot less expensive. We're seeing huge benefits from that right now so what I think you'll see is more and more movement going forward. Every time we look at a new
application we always look to see if we can run it from the cloud, either private cloud or public cloud. Now with all the security protection public cloud vendors are all moving in that direction, getting into the healthcare side of the business.
With our Epic project, both UCSD and UCI are having Epic host us on their private cloud at their large datacenter headquarters in Wisconsin. Electronic health will technically be in the cloud. If you talk to 100 CIOs you'll get 50% that express wanting to move to the cloud and the other 50% that aren't ready to move, I think we are at a crossroads. It's about timing, a few of us should try it; as we get a year or two down the road and see the savings without breaches the fear will be eliminated and others will get more comfortable.
What innovative projects are you the CIO focusing on this year to support the vison and mission of UC Irvine Health?
We're working with a start-up company doing quite a bit on the analytics side. We're building what we like to call an ecosystem with a new data warehouse. We like to call it an ecosystem because it's a living, breathing entity instead of thinking of it as a being a black box that receives information from all various sources like electronic health records or lab systems, mapping it to some data warehouse that you must update once a day for reporting. That worked in the past with Microsoft SQL but we're moving into a more native format wherever it comes from whether it be social media, IoTs sensor information, and again the electronic health record, tracking the data in real time and being able to use it right away. This way you don't have a bunch of people mapping the information, you've created a self-service environment. We now have dashboard graphics to display as data is refreshing in real time on a second by second basics, so they could start to use the data for research or operations. That's why we call it an ecosystem because what is looks like right now is different from what it looks like 30 seconds from now based on the data that its ingesting.
We're starting to do a lot of subscriptions with social media, it's amazing what's out there. Just from turning your location services on it's unbelievable with the amount of information being sent to the cloud. We could look at patients and see how they are using applications and how they prefer to collaborate, email vs. text messaging. If you’re going after a specific demographic with a message you could now see how you should target them based on the analytics.
With these analytics, we’re trying to create a personal experience designed to target a personal persona based on the data as a corporation group. Design an experience for patients without having to ask, we just know from the data insights. Part of how you get reimbursed is based on the patient experience. You're going to see a lot of Chief Experience Officers coming in to drive that experience into the healthcare space. We want patients to have a satisfying experience when they’re spending time to visit our facilitates.
What are your specific hiring challenges if any?
It's a very competitive area, Epic is one of the leading electronic healthcare systems along with Cerner, they probably take up 80% of market share between the two of them. Once you get on that specific platform it's hard to find talented professionals with those specialized skills and once they get the certifications in the product they become highly marketed, so consulting companies are recruiting your best employees. You need to get creative with some strategies, our UCI
undergraduate and graduate school is filled with smart engineers, as well as excellent students with math, science and even English majors. When you hire millennials right out of college and get them certified on Epic they get up to speed quickly because you’re trying to hire the best and brightest. I've had success managing and measuring success during my tenure at the University of Vermont where we would hire two or three millennials per year. Managing them is different. They produce very productive work but have a work hard, play hard attitude so actually work better and faster without a deadline. They enjoy completing projects so they could move on to the next thing, rather than waiting until the last minute when a deadline is provided. New graduates are also compensated at a lower pay scale so you may lose them after a few years as their pay scale goes up, if you manage them well they work very well. Don't get me wrong you also need to recruit employees with more experience, you should just leverage millennials as a strategic way to recruit.
What kind of messaging is coming down from key executives about their partnership with IT?
With the Epic implementation, our joint collaboration has been huge, we have 700 people across the organization working on this project. I just did a big presentation to our executive team addressing where we are on progress and the benefits in each of the areas whether it be revenue cycle or clinical, they are all looking for efficiencies within their area based on the new electronic health record. This is making nurses and physicians more productive while the revenue cycle is calculating charges we may be currenting losing so getting up in revenue by utilizing technology to empower the business going forward is key. Right now, we have a bunch of different systems but Epic will provide us with a single system that integrates efficiencies so everyone can really see where the information is flowing. That’s what they’re looking for right now. Our collaboration with UCSD is huge for us as they've been live on the system for a while now so they're educating us on how they are using it best.
If you won the lottery, what would you do?
I would start a foundation, build a school somewhere either in the United States in a poverty-stricken area or outside of the United States. That's something I've been thinking about anyway. I’m passionate about running marathons that support charities, so I'm at a stage in my life where I want to give back. I've been blessed with a wonderful family and life so I would definitely want to start a foundation that would give back in some way.
Has the idea of using cloud changed your mindset of outsourcing IT?
We still mainly handle IT inhouse but outsourcing, which we now refer to more as managed services has its place for certain things if you can get creative around that. I think outsourcing to other countries will slow down more, especially in healthcare. You really need to look at your core competencies and consider what you need to accomplish for them. We are outsourcing our datacenter to the cloud and letting those experts manage it as it’s not our core competency so I look at that as smart outsourcing.
If you could give guidance to any CIO about how they position their careers what would you tell them?
It’s interesting because it depends what they actually want to accomplish. Do they want to be a CIO or VP from an Operational standpoint? There is a place for both and depending on your work style you need to sit down and consider how you prefer managing and leading. Ask yourself the question, am I tactical and results driven when leading people day to day or do I like to sit back and look at what should be happening a year from now and take more of a strategic standpoint. Then you need to consider what both entail. I’ve seen employees get promoted to a VP or Director role and do extremely well there because they are hands on and could still patriciate in strategy but really excel in the day to day operations. I would say that role is 30% strategic and 70% technical from an operational standpoint. I’ve seen employees excel in these roles and get promoted to CIO and get lost, finding it hard to make that leap and start thinking in a unique way. You need to be introspective about yourself and really consider if you want that change because both roles are very important so if you excel as a Director or VP you could be very successful staying in that role rather than taking the leap. When I was in that role and interested in becoming a CIO I got a mentor who I asked to coach me in understanding the differences of the roles, so if you are ready for that leap there are defendable ways to achieve that but my initial advice would be to consider what role you would be more successful in as they are both very important.
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MEET THE TECH EXEC

Norm Fjeldheim

CIO

Illumina

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Norm Fjeldheim is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Illumina. Norm is responsible for evolving a Global Information Systems (GIS) strategy that will support the scale and future growth of Illumina, including supporting product and market development strategies from an Information Technology perspective. In addition, Illumina is investing significantly in global business processes, and Norm will be instrumental in the success of this program, including implementation and sustaining support for ERP and related ecosystem business applications, integration services, business intelligence, master data management and business process management. 

In addition to his IT responsibilities, Norm is also Head of Global Facilities Management Services. This includes Real Estate, Security, Engineering and Operations as well as Health Safety and Environment. 

Prior to joining Illumina in 2016, Norm was Senior Vice President and CIO at Qualcomm since 1987. He served as Manager, Director and Vice President of Information Technology. He was instrumental in the creation and implementation of systems to support Qualcomm’s growing and diverse corporate needs. Norm and the IT department guided the selection and implementation of technology to link Qualcomm’s corporate sites across six continents. 

Norm began his career as a systems analyst at Unisys Corporation and was a programmer analyst at M/A-COM Corporation.  

Norm serves on CIO Advisory Boards for Salesforce.com, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Amazon Web Services and has presented at numerous industry conferences on challenges currently facing CIOs including CTIA, Oracle World, The Economist CIO Agenda and IDC’s Data Center and IT Forums. 

Norm holds a Bachelor of Science degree in business, information systems from San Diego State University. He also completed the Wharton Executive Development Program at the University of Pennsylvania. 

About Illumina 

Illumina is improving human health by unlocking the power of the genome. Our focus on innovation has established us as the global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies, serving customers in the research, clinical and applied markets. Our products are used for applications in the life sciences, oncology, reproductive health, agriculture and other emerging segments. To learn more, visit www.illumina.comand follow @illumina. [/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

As the CIO of Illumina, what's the number one area that you're focused on right now?
Everything starts with the organization. Since I got here, I've been here almost two years now, and I've been focused on what is the organization good at and not good at. Who are the people that I can count on? Building up a leadership team. Then building up the strength of the organization.
I measure that in a number of different ways. Customer service, what is our customer service score, and how does the organization view us? Having a good customer service attitude, we get stuff done. I look at the capacity of the organization. One of my goals when I first got here was I wanted to triple the number of projects we were doing in a year. We accomplished that in first year.
I also look at what's the morale of the organization. Do people want to be here? What's the turnover rate? Couple different ways they can measure that. Obviously, you can look at turnover, and people want quality candidates coming in that want to work here, but I also like to go out and kind of get an outside survey. Computer World runs a Best Places to Work in IT survey, and it's a pretty extensive one. It actually has meat behind it, and so I did that the first year that we were eligible to do that, and we made the list the first year out of the gate that we applied, so that was gratifying that employees viewed us as a good place to work because that's where it comes from.
How is IT structured? Do you have a centralized IT, where you're servicing internal employees within Illumina, or does IT also align to the business units and your built-in solutions that are customer facing?
One of the things that I found when I got here was that the organizational structure of IT was very confusing. It was confusing for the employees, and it was confusing for the people in IT, so I simplified the structure and built an organizational structure. It's a matrix structure, but from an outside-in perspective, it mimics the organizational structure of the company.
We have functional organizations. We have a finance organization. We have a manufacturing, and so on. I have a finance IT organization that lines up with finance, and one with operations, and so on. That makes it very easy for people to understand, who they work with. People on the operations side, they know who their IT folks are that they work with.
Two advantages. It does clarify everything so people know who their customers are, and who the IT person is that they need to get work from, but it also breaks up into multiple channels of projects. I can run multiple finance projects independent of multiple operations projects, which are independent of multiple commercial sales projects. That's partly how you get this big increase in project capacity. You don't try and run everything through a central team. You break it up and have essentially multiple swim lanes, multiple project tracks, and then each group can operate relatively independently of each other, and different groups can have a different cadence.
Finance tends to be a little bit more conservative and risk adverse, so they want their projects to be a little bit slower, a lot more testing, more of a waterfall approach from the project management. On the ops and commercial side, particularly commercial, they're much more comfortable with an agile methodology. They like fast, iterative projects, lots of little projects that add up to a lot, and ops is kind of somewhere in between. We can have different cadences set up by having not one central project management office, but actually break up the project management, and each team has a project manager, they have testers, they have developers, they have all the resources that they need to get the projects done.
It's an organizational structure that's optimized for speed and capacity and customer service because it aligns directly with how the customer, each functional group, wants to work with IT.
How do you bring that back, in all of the different infrastructure that's being built?
The other half of the organization is essentially the enterprise side of that. There is an enterprise architecture team that governs the technology roadmap for all the organizations. We maintain technology roadmaps, and we all get redone systems, and they maintain centers of excellence. The technology gets deployed the same way into different groups, and then they run the kind of common or the enterprise-wide systems there, so learning management, identity management, applications services, and microservices come out of that group.
Then, beneath that is IT infrastructure. That's servers, data centers, network, customer service. Security is in that group, so those are enterprise functions. It is a hybrid organization. The bottom layers are horizontal, cut across the infrastructure and cut across the entire organization, and then the applications layers are essentially vertical and align vertically with the customers on the business side.
It's a pretty effective model in a high-growth company, where you don't need the IT to be super cost efficient. This is not cost optimized. It's still pretty effective cost-wise, but it's really optimized for speed of delivery and keeping up with the business when the business is growing as fast as Illumina's is.
What’s your segue with scalability growth and all that good stuff? How do you deal with, how do you take on public cloud, scaling resources?
We're actually one of Amazon's largest customers already. I'm on their advisory board. They have a CIO advisory board of about 15 CIOs. I'm one of those. That gets me kind of executive connections with AWS, but we're just a big customer. I'm a big believer in the cloud and have been for years, but I'm not an "everything has to be in the cloud" or "everything has to be on prem." I don't believe in one size fits all for anything. You’ve got to look at each business problem and determine what the right solution is.
Right now, we run an on prem kind of an engineering support infrastructure that handles a lot of the data from our instruments. Our instruments produce a ton of data. That infrastructure, on a per storage, per terabyte, per compute cycle, is actually cheaper than Amazon, so it doesn't make sense for us to move to Amazon just on a pure cost basis. But there may be features or functionality that we want that would make it worthwhile. We evaluate that.
Do you look at Amazon as a long-term storage solution to potentially development, or how are you leveraging Amazon?
We use it for several types of things. We're doing some AI work, machine learning type of work with them as well. We're taking advantage of Amazon's capabilities. I don't think of Amazon strictly as storage and compute. If you think of them that way, then it's just a cost equation, and often, you can do it better than them from a cost perspective, and we certainly do. But when you start thinking about them as a platform, and there's all these capabilities that they have that you can tap into, now you can start looking at different value propositions. The graphic adoption, more capabilities, more services around your application that you don't have to build.
I can give you an example. We had a situation where an engineer in our development environment, a fat-fingered setting, opened up the server to the public. It was completely exposed. Amazon told us about that situation 15 minutes after it happened. There's no way I would have been able to monitor the environment that closely to be able to do that. If you need that kind of monitoring capability, you want to take advantage of Amazon, but that's not in the base offering. Some of it is, but some of it you have to kind of move up the stack and add those value-added services and determine whether that makes sense for you to do. Sometimes, a lot of times, it absolutely does.
They were already using Amazon when I got here, so it was not a matter of convincing anyone that we needed to go to the cloud, and in fact, for the most part, the business leaves those technical decisions to us. They don't try and get in the middle of those decisions. They trust us to be the experts, and it's more about just being able to do this in the business. We need to enable this kind of business capability. "Okay IT, go figure what's the best solution." If we come back with, "We're going to do this in the cloud," they're like, "Okay." And if we say we're going to do it on prem, they go, "Okay," as long as it works.
I don't have to get into technical decisions typically with the business. There's some exceptions. There's different groups that like to get into the middle of the technical discussions, but for the most part, they're looking for us to provide a solution, and they would just want to give us the requirements.
When I got here, I realized that we had very, very little reporting capability. I couldn't believe it, how little we had. We had just implemented SAP, and it really hadn't built up the reporting side during that implementation. We also didn't have an enterprise architecture function. We didn't have any, so I built that, and then we ended up implementing an analytics platform and a reporting platform. We actually deployed that in the cloud. We ended up purchasing HANA and ended up initially starting to, and had SAP run it in the SAP cloud. So we're running SAP the application on prem, migrating the data into SAP's cloud, and then we found out that SAP doesn't really do that very well. What they know how to do is SAP on top of HANA in their cloud. What we were doing is HANA as a data warehouse infrastructure and engine, so we took that over and did that ourselves and just migrated it recently to AWS.
Our analytics platform is now at AWS, and what I like is to enable it to something I call self-service IT. Other people call that shadow IT. I call it self-service IT because you give them the right tools, you give people outside the business the right accesses to the data, and then say, "Go ahead and have fun. Write your own reports. Do your own dashboards. Do your own analytics," and we give them the tools to do that, we standardize on Tableau for that. HANA's the backend. 20x improvement in performance going off SQL server to HANA. Direct translation of the data from SAP right in the system. We control the access, and now we've got hundreds of people writing a report, and that was the only way I was going to be able to get through the backlog of reports. If IT was going to have to write them all, we never would have got them done.
It's a model I've used in the past, different technology this time, being able to go to HANA. What used to happen, and it still does to a degree, but we're in the process of consolidating, was operations had its own data warehouse and its own IT team running and doing reporting off that data warehouse. Then supply chain had one, and commercial had one, each region in the commercial division had one, and finance one. Data spread out everywhere. Who had the right answer? All kinds of duplication of effort.
It’s all now centralized. It's all in one place, so now we can control one data point. Let's say backlog. You define what your backlog number is. You built that into the HANA database. It's calculated automatically every time you update the data, and then everybody can report on it, and everybody's reporting on the same network. Pretty amazing.
What's your take as we see this all unfold, and we see economies of scale, the Amazon's, the Microsoft's, the Google's, how do you weigh your options between those players that are probably top tier in market?
That’s an interesting debate that you see take place within CIOs, and some CIOs will say, "Well, I want to avoid lock-in," and so they will develop to the least common denominator across those platforms. They'll invest heavily in containers or whatever so that they can, in theory, migrate their workload from Amazon to Microsoft to Google, and then they could negotiate pricing on that.
I actually don't believe in that. When you get large data sets, we're talking petabytes of data, we're already petabytes and petabytes of information, you just don't move that. That's just not easy, but then going back to my earlier comments about, here's all this functionality that Amazon's developing. They're not developing that. Microsoft's not developing that same capability, so if you say, "Well, I'm going to not take advantage of that so I can port," now you're losing out on all that innovation that these companies are putting into their platforms.
We, as an IT industry, have been dealing with vendor lock-in our entire careers. Whether it was Oracle or SAP or IBM or whoever, that's just a fact of life. This idea that we have to avoid vendor lock-in just because it's the Cloud makes no sense to me. What you want to do is you want to have good negotiations. You have good contracts in place. You stay on top of that, and then you want to maximize the capabilities of what you value. You can extract from that investment with that particular supplier, whether that's an SAP or whether that's an Amazon or whether that's an HP or whoever you're buying that equipment from. You wouldn't go in and say, "Oh, I'm going to not take advantage of a bunch of capabilities with an HP server just in case I want to go buy a Dell one." Now you're losing the value of that particular server.
I look at it very much as, again, what is the right solution. Google, for example, is doing a ton of work, as is Microsoft, around AI and machine learning. What they're developing is different than what Amazon is developing, and in some cases, it might be even a little bit further ahead than Amazon. It's possible that we would be saying, "All right, for that workload, we're going to take advantage of that at Microsoft or Google rather than Amazon." There's no reason why we couldn't do that.
I don't believe in that, "Oh, we're going to pick one partner and that's it," or "We're going to not pick a partner.” We're going to try and manage this, and we can pick any at any time. That’s my philosophy on the cloud. Then, you look at your own on prem, and that's a decision. I've never believed in segregating my teams and saying, "Okay, here are the cloud guys and here are the on prem guys." It's the same team, and the cloud and your data center, they're just tools in your toolbox, and they have to understand what's the right tool for the right job. I always have done that very early on in my career because I wanted the people to own those decisions, and say, "Okay, yeah, I'm the expert. I know whether a data center, on prem, or Cloud is the right solution for this particular business plan."
Everybody has the same challenges being in San Diego. What type of hiring challenges do you face?
That kind of goes back to where I started. You want to make this a great organization. I like to build world-class IT organizations. I pride myself on that, so you’ve got to make it a good place to work and all those things. There's really three factors in that.
It's the type of work the people get to do, the people they get to work with, and the manager that they work for, and then the environment that they work in. If you can make all those good, then you generally get top talent wanting to come to you, and you get that top talent wanting to stay. First and foremost, you see more people quit because they don't like the manager. They don't like their boss. That's number one.
I started right away on assessing my management team. It was the first thing I did when I got here. Could they do the job? Could they attract the talent? Could they build the team? Could they manage a team? Could they make all these decisions that I'm talking about?
That's your starting point, and then, you build out your culture from there. I developed Qualcomm, a large, growing company, where a lot of people in San Diego were interested in joining that. For many years, I said I had the best job in San Diego, and now, I can say I have the best job in San Diego because I'm at Illumina, and we're literally changing the world. It's interesting, coming from a tech company, at Qualcomm, we were being able to change the world through mobile devices, and it certainly had a great impact on the world. I feel better about the mission statement at this company.
There's not a person here at this company that doesn't talk about something personal. Whether it’s a disease or a family history, or they have family, or they have friends that haven't been impacted by something that we're working on to try and cure, cancer being kind of the one that's foremost. We're involved in so many different things. Genetic, the genome, and personalized medicine. Personalized medicine starts with your DNA.
How far do you think we are from each of us in this room having our own genome sequence?
I've had mine done.
At a cost that's affordable to everyone?
There's two ways to do that. You can do the partial genome sequencing, so that's Ancestry and 23 & Me, and that gives you some information. That's useful, and they can tell you a number of factors. I know from that analysis that I have that I'm a better sprinter than an endurance runner, so I've been able to adjust my exercise routine appropriately. My wife has sensitivity genetically to certain foods that she's learned because of that.
When you do the whole genome sequencing, now you can get even more information. We're doing everything we can to bring that price point down so that it's as cost effective to do the whole genome as it is to do partial. Once we get to that point, now you're almost like, "Why do we even bother with partial. You just do the whole thing and get all that additional information." I learned from the whole genome, there's a particular drug-thinning agent that they would give people that's having a stroke. It doesn't work on me. That's really good to know if you're ever having a stroke, they don't give you the drug in the hospital that isn't going to work, and then three hours later, they realize it doesn't work, which is what would normally have happened. Now I know that.
I know what my predispositions are on certain kinds of diseases. One of the most interesting one is when you're going through kind of the prep, they're talking about, "Well, what do you want to know? We can learn a whole bunch of things.” One of the questions was, there's a particular genome combination. If you have it, you will get Alzheimer's disease. It's not a 50% chance, no, it is 100%, you just don't know when and you don't know how badly. Do you want to know that? That's an interesting question to think about.
Is that available today? Did you want to know?
Yeah, that was one of the questions they asked me. Yeah, absolutely. I figured I'd forget it anyway.
How did you transition from Qualcomm and get all of this new knowledge?
For me, it was a blast. It's been so much fun. Illumina is a high-tech manufacturer. We produce an extremely complicated instrument, and then we produce the enzymes that are used in the DNA sequencing process. In that aspect, it was very familiar. Qualcomm ran a very complex supply chain. It operated a scale, so a lot of the same capability, and even earlier in my career, Qualcomm was a manufacturing company. We manufactured cell phones, base stations. There were a lot of skills that transferred directly over.
Then there was the whole new industry, learning all the terminology around genomics and how do we sell, what's the different selling models. There was enough of the familiar that I was able to come in and hit the ground running and feel like I could make a difference right away on the IT side, and at the same time, there was all this new, fascinating, just wonderful stuff that I got a chance to learn about. Then, to top it all off, they gave me facilities, too, and I was like, "Oh my god, I'm in heaven," because now I can work on building and do that. I had actually started off in construction as a kid, so it was like coming home. It was enough of the known coupled with enough of the unknown to make it just fascinating.
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
I was going to be a contractor like my dad. General contractor, building buildings. I was fourth generation construction, and I was the first one in generations that didn't actually go into construction. My grandfather built the Hoover Dam, worked on the Hoover Dam. It was crazy stuff like that, and somehow, I ended up in IT, and it turned out to be the greatest move I ever made.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Northern California, right in the heart of Silicon Valley, so I knew all the names. Hewlett Packard and Intel. They were all neighbors. I came down to San Diego to go to school, and I was taking business classes and it was actually business management. I wanted to learn how to run a construction company, and oh my god, it was so boring. I was just dying in these management theory classes. There's 800 people in the lecture hall, and one of the required classes was a programming class. I was scared to death. I though, "Oh my god, I don't know what this is. I don't know how to do it." I took the class and it just clicked. It was just like, "Wow! This is just great!" I got an A in the class, and I said, "I can get a degree in this. This is fun enough. Management stuff is horrible," and at that point, I really just wanted to get the degree and then go into construction.
I had one interview, just to kind of get some interviewing experience, and they offered me a job. $25,000 a year, I could stay in San Diego where my girlfriend was, and I didn't have to work in the dirt. It was like, "Why wouldn't I want to take this job?". I took the job. I did a couple of different jobs, bouncing around, getting some experience, and then I joined this little startup called Qualcomm, which nobody had ever heard of. It was 90 people when I joined the company. It was just crazy, and I was the first IT guy they hired. Right place, right time, and the right combination of skills that they were looking for. Boom! I couldn't have done this job if it hadn't been for Qualcomm because I learned so much going through all of Qualcomm's various iterations and business models that they did.
What are any big mistakes that you've learned from?
Let's see. God, there's so many. There were times when I put loyalty over kind of the person who isn't really getting the job done, and when you're in a high-growth company, it is very difficult for every single person in the organization to grow as fast as the company's growing, personally. There were times when the organization grew faster than the individuals in it, sometimes the leaders. We'd have people that were very successful and great leaders at a certain size, and once you got to the next level it became much more challenging.
I struggled with that, being able to recognize that and trying to make the right organizational decisions. Some of those became painful. I let them go too far, and then it became really challenging and emotional, whereas if I had acted on it sooner, I could have put the person into a different role in the organization that was better suited for their skillset versus ultimately, a couple cases where I had to terminate people, and they were people that I had been friends with for a long time. That became difficult.
It really is back to people issues and organizational issues that you need to address and be timely about that. When I took over the entire IT organization at Qualcomm, there were a lot of problems with the organization, and there were morale issues and a lot of things, and I realized that I needed to do a lot of housecleaning. I ended up doing some layoffs, and what was interesting about that was when I did the layoff, morale went up. People started looking up going, "Oh wow! Management's finally dealing with the folks that are not carrying their weight," and the performance went up because the top performers were getting rewarded, and they weren't having to carry people along.
It was a revelation, where you really saw this complete shift in the organization by actually focusing on the bottom portion of the organization. You’ve got to take care of your top performers. A lot of cases, top performers take care of themselves because that's why they're top performers. It's the bottom performers that end up taking 80% of management's time. Actually pulling the trigger and acting decisively on that makes a huge difference for the organization because now they see management being decisive and making good decisions and acting on the problems.
I did that, and it became kind of a mantra within the organization, and just became something that we did collectively and culturally. People ended up getting a sense of pride being there. "Hey, we're the elites. We're part of a really strong organization. Not everybody can make it here." The few, the proud, the Marines, whatever.
One of the nicest compliments people would say, "Norm's really tough, but he's fair." I could care less whether they're purple or from Mars or whatever, as long as they got the job done, then that was what mattered. Early on, there was a quote that I heard from one of the managers, a really smart guy at Qualcomm, one of the senior guys. He said, "Never confuse effort with results." I've had some of those conversations. "I'm working 60-70 hours a week." But you're not getting the job done. Now you're just not working effectively.
We'd kind of rank, we force ranked kind of the bottom 10%, and I never said you had to get them out to my management team. It was, "You have to have a plan. Either improve their performance, get them into the right job if they're in the wrong job, or exit," but it wasn't, "You have to exit." It was, "Fix it. Fix the problem." Whatever the best way to fix it was. There were plenty of times when I thought, "That person, there's no way they're going to make it," and we shifted the roles, and they took off. There were times when I would have bet, this person's going to go and just knock it out of the park over here, and they would crash and burn. I learned not to judge, prejudge, and that was another one of the mistakes I made. There were situations where I kind of prejudged and thought, "Yeah, I know what's going to happen."
If you were on a deserted island, what three things would you bring and why?
As long as I have Internet connectivity and a computer. You said I could bring anything I wanted. A satellite communication, whatever it is. One of my hobbies is I still kind of have that architecture, design gene in me, so I do 3D graphics, 3D art. Pixar, DreamWorks kind of stuff. I have all that software. I do animation and people and superhero characters and animals and landscapes and buildings. Whatever I just kind of get into, so I would just have a lot of fun. That's the creative outlet that I have. I do digital sculpting with a program called Zebrush. I learned lots of different tools that they use in the entertainment industry, and then some cheap ones too. I don't buy the really high-end stuff, but anyway, that's my hobby, so as long as I have that, I could probably live anywhere. I read all the time. I don't have to have a book. I like books, but I don't have to have a book, so I can read on my computer. I'd just order food from Amazon.
You need a solar cell to power the computer, and then you need a satellite uplink to pick up your internet off the satellite. I'd actually probably include my wife because I would want to have somebody to talk to. I can only stay buried in my computer for so long. She and I have been 35 years together, so she's not sick of me yet.
If you could give guidance to the world of CIOs and VPs of IT, what would you give them in terms of how to look at their careers and skillsets?
I would say the main thing is you’ve got to get a diversity of experience. You can still do that within IT, staying in the IT field, but different companies, different jobs. Qualcomm was a unique place because every few years, the job just completely was different just because of the company, but I would never recommend anybody stay on in a company 28 years, or even 10 or 15. It's actually a negative on a resume now to see that because you don't show that you can succeed in multiple places with multiple cultures. You can only show that you've succeeded in one place. Now you're a much more risky hire to move to another company. I don't know that you could succeed there if you've only succeeded at one place.
The culture here is different here than Qualcomm's. The decision making process is different. I definitely had to adjust. My boss talks about how he watched me adjust my first year, and he said he was actually more pleased with that than the accomplishments that I made because it showed that I could actually modify my behavior to fit Illumina.
It wasn't that the decisions I was making were wrong. I ended up implementing the decisions that I made based on my initial assessment. I did the 100 days. First hundred days, you do that evaluation, and at the end of that 100 days, I was ready to make a bunch of organizational changes. I hit a wall. The organization wasn't ready for me to move that quickly, and it took me another three, four months to actually then evangelize the changes I was making, convince people that these are the things that made sense and here's why, and then implement those changes. I had to adjust to the decision making and the cultural style and the speed at which the company was comfortable operating at.
I couldn't expect the company to conform to me. I had to conform to the company and the culture. I learned, but I was open minded enough to say, "It's not Illumina, it's me. I’ve got to go adjust," and then figure out how to get it done within Illumina's structure.
Now that I've been here a while, and I've built up trust and people are getting more comfortable with me, the organization's much more comfortable with me, that decision making process has sped up. It was that first year, I was the new kid. I had to get people to kind of rally around me, and put the right leadership in place that was able to deal with that kind of speed. Now, we're way faster, three times, four times faster. I hope to get another 25-40% more capacity out of the organization.

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MEET THE TECH EXEC
Jeromy Giacosa
IT Director
Accriva Diagnostics

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Jeromy Giacosa is the IT Director for Accriva Diagnostics with experience as a Director for over 15 years. He holds an MBA from USC's Marshall School of Business, and a BS in Management of Information Systems. Jeromy specializes in analyzing the needs of different departments and determines the best way to meet business objectives by modifying existing systems and processes or developing new ones. He drives the entire organizations technology needs including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Infrastructure. Mr. Giacosa is an active member in the San Diego IT Directors Group, sits on the Advisory council for the California Technology Summit and Interface Summit, was a nominee for the Top Tech Exec Awards, and has been heavily involved in the IT community for over 20 years.

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What’s the #1 area of focus IT Director’s should concentrate on? 
I feel that Director’s should always focus on better, cost effective, and faster ways of doing business through the use of technologies. You should always be up to date on the latest technology trend. When I joined Accriva IT was holding the company back. I was shocked to discover many systems and applications were over 10 years old and hadn’t been upgraded due to perceived complexities with process for approving changes through the quality department. I standardized, simplified, and upgraded the company’s IT infrastructure while working closely with quality to streamline the process for approvals to make changes with production systems. You have to look forward with technology, if you are looking back than your company is going to be left behind and any disadvantage in today’s market could be a huge loss for the company.
What’s your take on Public Cloud? 
I believe the cloud has pros and cons like any solution and it should be used if it aligns with the business needs. If you are a small company you can give the appearance of being large by having some of the tools and up times of the larger organizations. You do not have to manage any of the day to day support of Cloud based systems which saves the company a lot of time and money. I recently did some work for a small company that has offices all over the world and I recommended that they go with a complete cloud solution from virtual desktops to servers in order to maximize efficiencies for the workers all over the world. At my current company, We use of the cloud for systems where it makes sense like Office 365 for e-mail and Google Cloud for our R&D department; however, most of our systems including ERP, Document Control, Active Directory, File Services, etc. are hosted internally.
Are there any hiring challenges? 
Thankfully in this day and age the knowledge base of the applicants is rarely a worry. It is finding the right personality and if that persons strengths fit in your IT team that is the problem. So when I hire people I like to take them to lunch and have key staff members join us to see if they think they can work with this person I am considering.  It is not always a perfect fit so I like to ask them some key questions to understand their strengths. Documentation was lacking when I first came to Accriva so I made sure that the person I hired was a good fit but also had a strong background in documentation. Ideally, I like to find candidates with passion, intelligence, integrity, and communication skills in addition to technical competence. Once hired to be successful associates require responsibility, accountability, authority, and autonomy.
What do you like to do? 
I love to travel, see new places, and meet new people. I just got back from a trip to England and it was amazing to see how the country has changed in 20 years since my last visit.
What kind of messaging is coming from the CEO about their partnership with IT? What are they expecting you to look at? 
IT can be challenging because the CEO and other C-level executives turn on their devices and expect them to work the way they want them to work 100% of the time. They have some idea of what my job entails but they do not know the day to day. If I am doing my job right, they do not have to be bothered with the day to day. My job is simple; everyone in the company should think the technology is just their and not give it another thought. When things do go wrong it should be minutes and hours never days to get things right. You do this by engaging the CEO with your vision of seamless technology meaning that no one should ever be idle in the company for any period of time. If one person is not working that means the company is not being productive and if the company is not making any money which makes it difficult to ask for additional funds to further streamline systems.  CEO’s are looking for faster, cheaper, and better processes so that the company can maximize profits. You can do this a number of ways like standardize, centralize, and simplify your environment while maximizing the use of technology to your company’s advantage which I am proud to say I have accomplished at every organization I have worked with.
What are some exciting new projects coming up? 
Accriva has recently has been acquired by Werfen. We are currently integrating our processes and systems into theirs. We are finishing up migrating our e-mail from Office 365 to IBM Verse and are actively working to integrate our JD Edwards ERP system into SAP. It’s exciting to implement or integrate ERP systems that you haven’t worked with before providing an opportunity to learn new systems. After this integration, I will have been involved with the implementation and support of 6 different ERP platforms including Oracle Financials E-Business Suite. We have a lot of training coming up to educate the end users on the new way they will not only be conducting their business but also give them an opportunity to voice concerns and problems. I like to do this before implementation so that I am aware of any struggles they may have and address it before it is a problem. I always like my company to have a 24/7 up time with happy and productive associates.
What superpower do you want most?
I would like to know what people are thinking. Many people do not like to ask for help, but if help is offered many accept. I think if I had this superpower I could help a lot of people with their problems. I love solving problems.
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid? 
I always wanted to be a policeman because I love to help people and solve problems.  I would have made a great cop, but I am glad that after I graduated junior college I got a job with an IT consulting company that ultimately led to a 20+ year career in IT, a Bachelors in Information Systems, and an MBA from USC. IT is my passion and I often find myself telling people IT is not a job or a career, but a Life Style.
What mistake have you learned from? 
One mistake I learned from over my career is determining how quickly to let an associate go (terminate their employment). It’s common knowledge to hire in haste, regret in leisure; but something I learned is to focus time and energy on my top performers and for those that don’t cut it let them go as quickly as possible. I realized that by keeping certain people around it was actually bringing my entire team down. If someone is not working out you just have to cut them loose otherwise their attitude goes viral and before you know it your whole team is dysfunctional.
There are certain traits that are extremely difficult if not impossible to change and you either have them or you don’t which includes: passion, intelligence, integrity, and communication. I look for these traits when I hire or build teams because these traits cannot be taught or learned. Technical competence is only part of the puzzle and to have a fully functional team begins with the right team members who can then be inspired, encouraged, led, and managed for personal and professional growth which leads to meeting department and corporate objectives for the success of the team and the company.
If you won the lottery what would you do?
I would travel and see the world with my family. I think it would be and eye opening experience for my children. I would never stop working in my field and thankfully I could do my job anywhere in the world because the language may be different but the technology remains the same.

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MEET THE TECH EXEC
Helen Norris, CIO, Chapman University

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Helen Norris is the Chief Information Officer at Chapman University. She has almost 30 years’ experience working in IT leadership roles.  Originally from Ireland, Helen has earned a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, and a Master's degree in Computer Resource Management and Business Administration from Webster University in St. Louis.  Helen holds a project management certification (PMP) from Project Management International (pmi.org) and is a fellow of the Educause Leading Change Institute.  She serves as a board member of the Southern California Society of Information Management (scsim.org) and a trustee of the National Endowment for Financial Education (nefe.org).   Helen also previously served as the Director of the Sacramento Women in Technology International network (witi.com).

What superpower do you want most?  

You mean the one that I don't already have? To read people's minds. To understand what it is that people want. I feel like you have to listen really hard to what people are saying and I spend a lot of time practicing listening.

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

I grew up in Ireland in the 70's which was a little different than here. I was the first to go to college in my family, as my parents worked in factories, and I didn't have a professional background. I was good at math and I wanted to be a math teacher or an actuary. When I was finishing up college at Trinity College in Dublin, there weren't many choices to move cities in Ireland, so I went to live in Germany. I didn't speak any German, so I worked for American Army in Germany. There, I was a computer programmer where I accidentally fell into IT and never went back. Back in the early 80's they didn't have computer science so I did a lot of fortran and pascal. In 1984 I moved to the US where I lived in St. Louis. Since 1997, I've been all over California where my first job in higher Ed was at UC Berkeley. After that, I worked at CSU Sacramento and then moved to Chapman University in 2014. Now, I oversee 75 people and we provide IT support to both the entire main campus and our health science campus.

How are you inspiring young women in STEM areas? 

I do a lot of work with different organizations in Southern California to support advancing women in technology. We do have a Women in Science and Technology group at Chapman and I have spoken to them on several occasions, and also connected them with other women leaders in technology.  During Women's HerStory month, we did an interview that we were able to Facebook Live which was to stress to women, students, and faculty who don't often see women in leadership positions in technology. I am also connected to STEM Advantage and Advancing Women in Technology (AWT); organizations that provides scholarships to women and underserved communities studying in STEM fields in different universities.

You were the first female interview conducted after 30 previous interviews, does that surprise you?

It's important to be visible to show people that you can be a woman and lead in the field. I never once had a female supervisor or manager in a technology field.  I do see a lot of women represented in management on the application side or project management side of information technology, but it is difficult to break through to the most senior roles.  So sadly, I’m not surprised to hear that.

How do you think women could change IT? 

I remember people had this image for IT of somebody in the back playing dungeons and dragons, eating pizza, and now that stereotype I hope is gone. Our work is really focused on what we can do for the organization and how you support the business. To support the business, you have to know the business and know what their priorities are, otherwise you are just a utility. I want to be an asset to the organization and learn the needs of the community.

What are the top priorities for a university or for education?   

I think it really varies between all universities and university systems. When I was at the CSU's and the UC's, the priorities and focus were on costs, as we had constant budget pressures. This included being more efficient and helping students to graduate in a timely fashion. In universities it was harder for them to get the classes they wanted and we had to make sure we provided the ability for students to graduate. We wanted to understand what students’ needs were  and how they can use technology to graduate.

At Chapman, we are very focused on personalized education. Rather than developing online education, we’d prefer to use technology in the context of personalized learning. Also, we are adding more faculty with a research focus. We have to have the right connection to other universities, the efficiency has to be there. Using technology to enhance our mission and define the role of collaboration in teaching. When students leave here, they are expected to be able to collaborate.

Students have access to Google tools and O365. The way students use them are mostly for email, and then they use One Drive or Google Drive for collaborative purposes. People use One Note a lot to just manage their lives and we use a variety of tools. In our College of Educational Studies, Google apps are very popular. It varies a little bit from discipline to discipline, but Google Tools are very popular.

We have all these tools (phones, iPads, laptops, etc.) and yet we still struggle to get information to students—how can we get something in front of them and how do we make sure we are delivering the right messages to them? When we bring people from this generation into the workforce, how will we train them? It's so easy to get in front of them but it's harder to communicate.

What are your hiring challenges in regards to millennials?  

We have hiring challenges in general; it's very difficult to hire technical people in Orange County. There's lots of competition in Silicon Beach and we struggle to find candidates in fields like security. They want a cooler place with sexier tools, and  it's just not as exciting as working for Snap Chat. We are more of a traditional environment and workplace. We have to figure out how to provide the flexibility to be attractive to millennials.. I do think that millennials are working in places where they like their mission, and since we are mission driven, that becomes more attractive.

Where do see technology in education in the next 5 years?   

The ability to use VR to train and educate people. That's something that will continue to see growth in the next 5 years. We are beginning to look into it for example, in the health sciences we are already using virtual cadavers. That's an area we are going to see massive growth. In the future, as patients, we may be treated by someone who was completely trained virtually.

What kind of messaging is coming down from the CEO/Key Executives about their partnership with IT?

A couple of things: we are focused on business intelligence and dashboards, and very focused on providing more and more data to our colleagues around campus. Our Data Warehouse is built on a Microsoft SQL back end and we're using something specifically built for our universities. Those are the kinds of tools we are looking at. We're doing a lot of work in the classroom with technology enabled space and learning spaces, and transforming classrooms to spaces that are much more inviting. We want to have students share information back and forth; the same kind of thing in informal learning centers.

Are you connecting with any universities abroad?  

We have a campus in Irvine that we've done a fair amount of teaching to and from the main campus in Orange with. We frequently have guest lecturers via Skype. Our Irvine campus is interesting because we opened a School of Pharmacy four years ago, and our dean is very forward thinking. The entire curriculum is made with technology in mind and the students interact with it from the day they come on board.

What's your philosophy on premise or moving to cloud?   

Moving to the cloud makes a lot of sense in a variety of ways. I think it's harder to move to the Cloud than we're led to believe, with the first reason being cost. The other challenge we have in universities is that the cloud efficiencies of scale are really harvested because you go to a standardized model. Some things can be outsourced, but if I'm supporting researchers in data science, they need cutting edge, non-standard technology that will remain on premise.

Do you talk to students about what they need from you?  

I spend time with our student government association to make sure we are providing the services they need. We do reach out and talk to students and faculty as much as we can and try to consider their points of view.

How about security?  

Security is always a major issue. We need to be open as a network and we have to balance that need with security. It's much more difficult to dictate things students can and cannot do. We've always had students bring their own devices and we've had to manage that for a long time. Over the last couple of years, we've really focused on education and outreach. We work hard with students and do a lot of work on phishing campaigns and password management since we have a transient community. It's a big deal in information technology and we think as a university setting we are a target. Hackers have used universities as launching pads since we maintain so much personal information.

If you could give guidance to a CIO, what would you tell them?

I would tell people to build your relationships across the organization. Sometimes, people just build them internally and manage up, but you have to manage out. Build your relationships across the organization and give them your time. It’s difficult for more introverted people,  but just take an hour,  (only 2.5% of your time if you work 40 hours a week) and reach out across the organization and just talk to people about their needs and about their departments and groups..

What advice could you give to your longer younger self?   

I wouldn't give any advice. I learned from all of my mistakes, so for the most part, I am glad I made them. I would just say learn to listen and build relationships.

Was there a woman in history that you admired or looked up to? 

There are so many women to admire, like Maya Angelou. Any women like that have done amazing things. Harriet Tubman I admire from history. More recently, women in Silicon Valley like Marisa Meyer from Google—I admire her and think she's made mistakes but that's what I would admire about her.

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MEET THE TECH EXEC
Jason Fischer, CIO, PIH Health

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Jason Fischer is the Chief Information Officer for PIH Health Hospital, an IDS with 2 acute care facilities, home health, over 20 medical office locations, and a Managed Services organization.

Prior to joining PIH Health, Jason spent 7 years as the Director of Applications and Revenue Cycle at CHOC Children’s. During that time, he led the Information Systems application teams, project management office, development, revenue cycle and hospital coding departments. In addition, he was the executive sponsor for both the ICD 10 and Meaningful Use programs for the health system. Most recently, he was instrumental in the opening of a new patient care tower, tripling the size of the previous patient care facility and bringing in many new ancillary service lines. In addition, he assisted CHOC in achieving HIMSS level 6, a testament to the organizations goals for improving safety, minimizing errors, and prioritizing IT implementations.

Prior to CHOC Children’s, Jason gained broad industry experience as an auditor and management consultant with Ernst & Young LLP and Accenture. During his 10 years, he consulted with many of the leading health care systems in the country.

Jason earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Biology from Syracuse University in New York. He is a lean six sigma green belt and CPA/accounting professional. 

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If you could have a superpower, what would it be?  

The ability to see into the future. With the healthcare IT landscape constantly changing, there are many shifts in resources that we need to consider, both in terms of people and technology, to be as impactful as possible. So if we were able to see into the future that would be great.

What’s the #1 area of focus CIO’s should concentrate on?  

In healthcare right now, the number one area of focus is security.  With all the breaches that are coming into the healthcare space for patient data and with the increased focus on exploited vulnerability, security is a top priority.  We've been focusing on everything from laptops to network vulnerabilities from an IT standpoint but the most important and biggest risk for us and any organization are the people. We have what we call a Phishing exercise where we send messages out to the organization on a quarterly basis to see who accepts the messages by launching an attachment or clicking on a web link.  This enables us to educate and notify those users thereafter in an effort to reduce continued risk. Because our entry point is our people through email or through other means regardless of how widely deployed our security technology is , any one associate or clinician can pose risk to the organization.

What’s your take on public cloud?  

We use the public cloud for a couple of different purposes right now and are working with a few outsourced vendors.  I think it’s a great, cost effective model for supporting healthcare IT, however I think that there are some challenges with risk and exposure, potentially HIPAA violations associated with data sharing that may take place outside of our control. The cloud has proven to be cost effective and beneficial from a growth standpoint and the public cloud decreases the need from our data center.  But the focus really needs to start with reviewing the risks when we select the vendor. We need to consider if the cost benefit outweigh the risk burden.  As one example, our human resources application suite is cloud based along with a few other niche applications.

Do you feel IT still carries the title of a cost center rather than revenue driver? 

I don't see IT necessarily as revenue driver but I also don’t see it as just a cost center. We are 100% a business partner within the PIH Health organization. That's how this organization sees it and that’s how I see it. We model our strategic plan from the organization’s strategic plan, roadmap and vision, which of course equates to growth, revenue, and quality in the healthcare space. So, while we're not necessarily a revenue driver we absolutely support, and have enabling technologies to support, those business models and the growth of the organization.   

What are you (the CIO) doing to support innovation in the company and its own organization to deliver better solutions?  

PIH Health is focused on mobile technologies around telemedicine, analytics and clinical processes.  Telehealth is a current initiative we're starting up for the stroke service line. We have a mobile solution that we are going to deploy here in the next 30 days for our physicians in the in-patient setting to access labs, radiology results and orders all through their mobile phones.  For management across the organization, we've deployed a mobile application which essentially is an analytics scorecard, where you can view key financial and performance indicators across our two hospitals.  We are also focusing on analytics in general. Analytics in the healthcare industry can be improved. In addition to security, we have a huge focus on using all of this data that we've aggregated for many years now in a meaningful way to help drive business decisions whether they be in the finance space addressing what we should invest in and where we should grow, or in the quality space around patient disease classifications, whether it be asthmatics or diabetics. We have been collecting data (both clinical and financial) for many years and are now starting to use it to drive business decisions across the enterprise.

The other thing that I think is really exciting for us, you may even experience this in your personal life as well, we started deploying a patient engagement kiosk in our physician practices.  Upon arrival, it allows patients to check in without having to wait in line or complete paperwork, or as an option a “pre-visit” check in from a web based platform in the comfort of your own home.  The whole purpose of this is to expedite your patient visit so you can spend more time with your care provider as opposed to completing paperwork that you then have to hand over to a person who has to enter that information into the system before you could be seen. Another innovative approach is our interoperability platform. These allow us to share patient data with other facilities so they could have visibility into your problems, your allergies, medicines and so on. Data sharing is another focus in the healthcare industry right now. We are participating in a closed program with seven health systems in the Los Angeles area as well as a major payer to exchange data across our patient base. The purpose is really two-fold and includes increasing the quality of care for all patients whom are part of that population and managing costs.

We run on average about 50 projects through our department at any point in time, and these are not just IT projects.  They are organizational initiatives, so we have a lot of examples of things we are doing to advance the business. The whole purpose is creating efficiencies where we can in departments, as well as to determine how we grow and establish ourselves in the community as a care provider that has the highest level of quality and is the most efficient.

We are hearing so much about the internet of things – what does or could the internet of things for your business look like?  

The one thing that comes to mind is connectivity of devices, patient monitoring devices or infusion pumps are currently separate from our IT systems. When you start connecting through IoT we're sending patient data to those devices and they are sending clinical data back to our electronic medical record.  We are just beginning to plan for this level of integration and are researching the security concerns to ensure a safe and efficient connection. As an industry, I think we need to get past the security concerns with some safeguards. The vendors we are working with in that space that support those technologies right now are working collaboratively with us and our EMR vendor toward integration.

Are there any hiring challenges?  

Yes, every day. The market for healthcare IT specifically, for good talent is challenging. It is really hard to find the right fit with the right skill set. PIH Health has open positions all the time. We try to fill them, but it's that balance of finding senior-level experience who have niche knowledge of a particular electronic medical record platform or a particular technology. These people are really hard to find because they are sought after so you see salaries increasing as well, which is good for the economy.  Our department on-site has about 100 full-time employees. We have an off-site support service in Buena Park and 30-40 full-time employees that we utilize in India, so we have a 24/7 IT support team.

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

An orthopedic surgeon. I became more interested in the business of healthcare and had a heavy interest in IT. I balanced that out by keeping my focus in healthcare.

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?  

IT is seen as a business partner. We provide shared services to the entire organization. Our senior leaders understand that to achieve our goals around revenue growth and efficiency,  technology and a technology team that partners with them is integral. That is why we model our IT strategic plan off of the organization’s plan. We're in the third year right now of a plan that we're going to refresh for another three years based on where the organization’s priorities and roadmap take us. From a service line perspective, growth prospective, efficiency and cost perspective, as well strategic advancement, the message is clear that IT needs to be a partner. We're also looking at the offset of those investments as well. Whether it be in people or other areas where total cost of ownership can be decreased, it is important to constantly evaluate the benefits of any IT investment.

Has the idea of using cloud changed your mindset of using outsourced IT rather than keeping in house?  

I don't think so. As I mentioned earlier when we discussed public cloud, we have our HR suite, we also have a private cloud that we outsource for database support of our EMR platform that services this organization. I'm all for it where it makes sense and where we can show a proven track record. We still have two data centers full of server stacks that must be on-site right now for applications we host on-site.  But I do see it as a cost reduction when utilizing larger businesses like our EMR vendors who have larger datacenters that end up costing less. So I fully support it when it makes sense for the business, it’s never an all or nothing decision.

If you won the lottery what would you do?  

I would probably still work. I enjoy what I do here at PIH Health, I enjoy the operations side and more so the growth, so I would probably just continue with the status quo.

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

I grew up in IT moving through some of the ranks and had an opportunity at different stages of my career to broaden my horizon and not just be niche focused. For any individual who is interested in growing into a larger management role in IT, I would absolutely suggest creating both breadth and depth to get a good feel for what the department has responsibility for and how it runs.  Getting a good feel for what works and what doesn’t is very important. You get to develop your own opinions and your own management style as you grow. I think it’s a lot easier to manage a broader department if you have greater insight into the overall scope of what that department does, so my advice would be rather than being more linear and niche focused, be a little bit broader throughout your career.

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. View Services. 

MEET THE TECH EXEC
Gary M. Devan, CIO, Mission Federal Credit Union

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

Gary Devan is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Mission Federal Credit Union in San Diego.  Gary has been with Mission Federal Credit Union (Mission Fed) since 1991.  MissionFed has $3.2 billion in assets, 30 branches, and 214,000 members. 

Gary is a native San Diegan and graduated from San Diego State University in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in Information Systems.  Gary also graduated from Western CUNA Management School in 1997 with High Honors, and was the recipient of the Charles Clark Award for class leadership and academic achievement. 

Overall, Gary has 42 years experience in financial institution technology with Mission Fed, Security Pacific National Bank, United States National Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, and Great American Savings & Loan. 

 

What would you say your top 5 focuses are this year?

First, to improve the experience of our customers, whom we call members, which is one of the hot topics of financial institutions right now and which has always been very important to us. We're focusing on making sure it is an effective, efficient and pleasant experience for our members.

Second, we are focused on regulatory change and ensuring that we are compliant with all the regulations that come down along with that change as well.

Next, Security and information security is always a focus in continuing to address new threats and improving our security posture and protection.

Fourth is management information. Some people will call it big data, and, although we might not need a big data solution, we do need to understand how we can best utilize all the information we have to serve our members and attract new members.  Along with that, we work on exactly how we manage information and present information to operations and management.

The last is basically always an ongoing priority:  Internal efficiencies and the best practices that are aligned with them, or doing better than the best practices.  We are always enhancing our products and services.

What's your take on public cloud?

It certainly is a hot topic of conversation right now that we continue to look at. We use cloud services for applications, with SaaS (Software as a Service) being what we use right now. We are watching other architectural clouds, but we are still not yet convinced that security is better or service delivery is better through the public cloud.  There are two factors that we don't believe have matured enough yet: insurance coverage and defined legal responsibilities.  We haven't seen anything go to court yet on this, so if information is lost, what is our liability versus the cloud provider?  It hasn't been fully vetted out in my opinion; not in the cloud.

Is IT seen as business partners helping to drive revenue?

It's evident with the IT lead as the C-Level position, that IT is critical for success; for meeting business objectives, serving our members and meeting their expectations, lowering expenses, and increasing revenue by growing our membership.  We have about 35 employees in our IT Department out of a total of over 500 employees at Mission Fed, and IT is frequently part of cross-functional teams working on key projects for the credit union.

How is IT driving innovation within the company?

We are continuing to ensure that our technology architecture, network, and security are of high quality. We have service level delivery requirements that we keep things up and running to a very high standard. From a pure IT architecture position, we are the lead in change in that area.  From an applications point of view we do have a committee that IT chairs, with participants from several other senior managers that determine priorities for programming projects.  From an executive level, we validate project priorities and we bring topics and issues forth to that level.  We ensure that if there is something we are not doing to achieve our strategic objectives, they will bring it to our attention.  Now, we are just starting the discussions of crafting an innovation committee.  What we're doing now is making sure our functionality in our electronic delivery channels meet our members needs and are consistent with what the competition is providing.

What does or could the internet of things for your business look like?

It means a connected world utilizing a device that is active and doing things on it's own that you told it to do. It's my watch.  It's my Alexa.  It's any technology and device that will simplify and interact with other devices.  It simplifies life.  Interfacing with Alexa; we are very close but not quite there yet. On your Apple Watch you can check your balance or transfer money, but the capabilities are pretty limited so far.  This is the way the Apple environment works; you will get certain connections just by checking time.

What kind of  hiring challenges have you experienced?

The pool and workforce is not sufficient to handle the demand.  We find it very challenging to hire skilled programmers who are experienced.  Over the last 6 months to a year, we have hired people with good education and talent, but less experience than we originally wanted.  So we provide them with a lot of coaching and training.  We do outsource certain projects and bring in software providers to do contract work.

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

I would say always work on relationships.  IT has always been known as the type job where you just focus on the project, not the people.  But IT has changed a lot in the last 10 years.  Technology leadership needs to be in the mainstream of the organization, and the only way to do that successfully is to become a team player.  That means understanding needs and cooperatively building on those needs; act as the consultant and not as the ruler.

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. View Services. 

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