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MEET THE TECH EXEC
George Suda
CIO
Smile Brand Inc.

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

John Gwinner is a Chief Technology Officer with a huge interest in VR. He developed a VR interface for CompuServe during the last wave of VR. He helped develop Web3D and VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language) with a focus toward PC’s, and put early versions of XML on the web. He was a returning speaker at the Game Developer Convention on 3D toolkits and VR. He was an early Kickstarter of a new VR Headset in 2014. Now that VR is definitely taking off again, John is once again at the forefront, developing VR interfaces to data, architectural visualization, and a bowling game that pits you against garden gnomes.

John has been working with Oracle ERP systems, including the EBUsiness Suite, and JD Edwards, for over 15 years. He has implemented over 400 clients, supervised the creation of an offshore office, created a private hosting cloud (and over 15 years experience with private clouds), performed upgrades, platform conversions for Solaris/HPUX to Linux, and established coding methodology and source control.

John has been working with C++ nearly since the beginning. He's ridden the crest of various programming waves from "Structured Programming" through "Object oriented programming" to Agile/Scrum development. He's built from large, Windows server based industrial "Smart control panel" to small embedded Arduino systems. An early proponent of open source, he also works on closed source systems.

Programming is part art and part science. Managing programmers is only herding cats if you don't understand programming - John can be hands on if needed, and understands executive management.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

What song best describes your work ethic?

Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas; it was on a loop when I was first flying to college – and Cornell was a lot of hard work. That song reminds me of my career – sometimes, you have to put in hours to get something done. For example, one month we were de-hosting somebody from one cloud and moving them to our cloud, and I worked 440 hours in one month. Sometimes there are urgent projects and you need to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

What is one thing most people don't know about you? 

I am a captain in the Martine Corps and I’m 9th award expert in rifle and pistol.

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

When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. I never made it to space and at this point I’m not sure I ever will, but you never know. My defense is that PCs weren't around when I was a kid; as soon as they were, I just took to them. I really enjoy what I'm doing now with technology; not just with VR (virtual reality) but other IT projects as well. When you step back and think about what you’re really doing, you are enabling people to work better, increase productivity and help them do their job, so I look at technology that way - helpful.

What is your experience with hiring millennials and how is it different?

At my past company, they didn't train people so we didn't want to hire professionals without experience. The result of this was we rarely had any millennials because they simply did not have the skills needed. My other company was the complete opposite so I had some experience with younger professionals there. The one thing that surprised me was they tend to work 8 hours and are upset about working longer hours, and seem to have less of a concern about the company success. Part of this depends on the compensation structure of the company, but most of it is just an attitude shift among young hires.

Is IT a revenue driver? 

IT is often viewed as a cost center because getting budgets approved for new servers or upgrades for servers can be very difficult. For a CTO or an IT Director, it can be hard to adequately describe things in terms of what business people need and justify replacing servers. Leadership needs to explain the cost in a strategic way so the business executives understand that the investment will reduce other costs and result in a revenue driver. A lot of that is on the IT guy. Being able to explain and show that technology issues aren’t always the computers fault and could be the fault of the architects who programmed them is where having effective communication skills with rest of the business is key.

Take on public cloud?  

Security is definitely an issue with public cloud. I've talked to banks that would never go to public cloud because they are worried about a hosting company having their passwords and the possible hacks associated with public cloud. I think the best use of public cloud is if a company isn't comfortable putting their data in the public cloud, you can use the cloud as an extension of your IT service. Both Oracle and Microsoft have shown ways to successfully do this.

Where do you think IT is pointing to in the next 5 years? 

Security will be a major focus – devices and languages have to be made more secure. Even though I was complaining about public cloud, I do think in time programming will be made simpler through the abstraction of the Cloud. An advantage of public cloud is that it makes it so easy to spin up a new server but a lot of people misunderstand support costs, even with the cloud. One of the trends that will continue is HTML programming and specialty programming skills. Average IT guys will not have all of these specialties so as time goes on, outsourcing will continue to grow for companies like us. It will also make hiring more difficult as job openings will continue to specify very narrowly constrained skills, which take longer to fill. This is slowing cloud options because of the lack of customizations. With VR/AR, Machine Learning, and the rise of AI, IT will allow us to focus more on analysis, in addition to automation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner css=".vc_custom_1534522322036{padding-top: 50px !important;padding-right: 50px !important;padding-bottom: 50px !important;padding-left: 50px !important;}"][vc_column_inner][grve_callout title="MEET THE TECH EXEC INTERVIEWS" heading_tag="h2" heading="h2" button_text="LEARN MORE" button_color="green" button_hover_color="white" button_link="url:http%3A%2F%2Finfo.managedsolution.com%2Fc-level-interview-registration||target:%20_blank|"]IT is a journey, not a destination. We want to hear about YOUR journey!
Are you a technology innovator or enthusiast?
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MEET THE TECH EXEC

Brian McCarson

CTO IoT Strategy and Senior Principal Engineer Strategy and Solutions Enabling Division of IoTG, Intel Corporation

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To download the full magazine and read the full interviews, click here.
Brian McCarson is the CTO of IoT Strategy and is a Senior Principal Engineer at Intel Corporation. He has a Master of Science in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering from North Carolina State University. Brian specializes in system architectures for IoT, data extraction, data visualization, innovative data analytics, and multivariate problem solving. He leads the Technology and Standards Team within Intel’s Internet of Things Group Strategy and Solutions Enabling Division and is the system architect overseeing the Intel IoT Platform.

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According to your 3 videos that you published on Intel.com, where does Security fall into the 3 Phases of IOT? What are your concerns at each stage? 
In the first phase of IoT (Connecting the Unconnected) security is relatively easy. You have one object or “Thing” that is stationary and someone has to manually install something to bring the Internet and connectivity to that “Thing”. The physical process of bolting the connectivity on to the back of a pump or putting that into a car establishes the security or trust you need. You can then provision that device, connect to it, and give it an IP address and track it pretty well. It gets exponentially more complex as you start moving to the different phases of IoT. In the later phases you have questions like, “what happens when a device is self-provisioned?”, “what happens when a device wakes up and wants to optimize its environment and use another data source next to it?” and “what happens when a device figures out how to change its configuration and settings to optimize performance?”. That is a much higher degree of complexity than you would see in Phase 1. The best example I can give from that is autonomous driving.
Imagine this scenario: one of the most interesting value propositions for autonomous driving is this idea of platooning. It's kind of a cool concept. You get on a freeway and as soon as you hit the on-ramp your car basically takes over and you're just sitting there watching Game of Thrones or something on your tablet and your car pulls right onto the freeway for you and it starts platooning with other cars on the freeway. It can basically operate with maybe a 6-inch distance from the bumpers in front of and behind you. You will have a stack of cars all lined up together just going 80mph down the freeway, reducing drag within a tunnel of air resistance and you'll get better fuel economy and reduced commute times. But that involves being able to trust the cars in front of you to tell you what they are doing. The only way platooning works is if you can trust that if the car in front of you sees a hazard it will communicate with everyone else in the platoon chain in time for them to respond. But when you commute to work you're not going to plan your commute with your neighbors so you can platoon with someone you can personally trust. This has to have a seamless connectivity to all the other vehicles and has to happen across multiple makes and models of cars not just certain vehicles. Multiple manufacturers, networks, and passengers need to agree to cooperate and you have to trust that just because you're communicating with other cars you're not allowing them the ability to drive you into a barricade if someone with malicious intent joins the platoon.
It's so much more complicated in Phase 3 when you are considering what information a system will have to share and who it will be allowed to seamlessly communicate with.

 

What about as far as external threats?  
Imagine that someone didn't like a city or the type of people that lived in that city. If they can hack into even a handful of vehicles that have a Level 5 automation capability where there is no steering wheel, no gas pedal, and no brakes and takes full control, you are completely at their mercy.
That is an interesting challenge that we have to be able to overcome with autonomous driving. How do you allow for seamless communication between vehicles and still be protected from hacking? Many people are thinking about how to do it. We will probably have to build multiple layers of protection.
So, the first layer could be a hard-wired, functionally safe system within the vehicle that has its own private in-vehicle network and allows you to have all the sensors and actuators controlling things independently and nothing can interfere with that. The next layer could be the informational awareness layer where you are sensing the external environment beyond what the vehicle’s sensors can see and you can take those bits of information and then filter as you need to.
That partitioning can be done now. You can have one-way firewalls where no data can come in but data can go out. But part of the problem is that manufacturers are making more vehicles with wireless and wired connections for additional access to media capabilities. One could argue that there needs to be a strong separation between media-based electronics and vehicle control-based electronics in your vehicle architecture.

 

What superpower do you want most? 
Manipulating time, time travel would be the best.

 

What is computing in the Fog? 
Fog is probably one of my favorite subjects. Before I can explain my thoughts on Fog I need to explain my thoughts on the Cloud. The thing that is great about the cloud is that it makes it easy for almost anyone to afford having data center capabilities at their fingertips without having to buy their own ridiculously expensive data center. You can allow people to have little packets of data center compute and storage usage and have a kind of communal data center business model. Facebook is a great example of that. They buy and manage enormous data centers and you only use the tiny little portion that you need for your links, networks, and photos. Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are also great examples of that model and they offer a great economic value proposition that allow individuals or even startups who could never afford the initial costs of building their own data center to jump right into the market.
There are some problems with the Cloud however.
There are some limits in physics and economics that are really hard to overcome. For example, if you own a retail store and you need to stream 4k or 8k resolution video because you want to be able to look at the video and analyze it in real-time so that you can know the demographics in your store and decide how you want to advertise to your customers based on who the people are that are walking through the door. To do this takes A LOT of high-resolution video data. Streaming all of that to a remote data center is very expensive and time consuming and the economics don’t always make sense for a Cloud-based system architecture.
The same is true for fully automated vehicles. If you are having your autonomous car drive your child to school and it sees a hazard, you are going to want that automated car to decide to apply brakes immediately and on its own and not have to dial up to ask if the Cloud if they should apply the brakes. The time latency of making decisions when you have to send information to the Cloud is another problem.
When it is foggy outside that means the clouds are down at ground level and immersed around you. Fog Computing is a metaphor for bring the power of Cloud Computing (which by definition is remote) down to where users and “Things” are in an immersive way. Fog is around us, it's immersive. If you think about an autonomous vehicle it's a data center on wheels, even if it doesn't have a wide area network connection it can keep you safe without it. Fog is interesting to me because it can solve key problems: cost of data transmissions, reliability of access to the cloud, and the latency or time it takes to make a decision. Fog is not for every application. But for some it can completely change the way they operate.
The cost of computing, connectivity and storage is dropping so fast because it is commoditized. Take a single transistor, the same kind that sits in in the brain of your tablet, smartphone or laptop, it can switch on and off up to 10 billion times in a second. To put things in perspective, if you wanted to switch a light switch on and off 10 billion times it would take you over 200 years without any sleep, food or bathroom breaks. Yet the cost of producing those transistors is less than the cost to grow a single grain of rice in rural China. The cheapest unit of food on the planet is more expensive to produce than the most complex unit of compute. That's the phenomenal reality of the compute and connectivity we have in the world today. Fog computing is now becoming practical whereas 10 years ago it would have been cost-prohibitive. I get so excited when I try and imagine the possibilities. It's going to be interesting to see how our homes, schools, workplace and the rest of our daily lives will evolve with Fog technologies coming to market.

 

What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid? 
I wanted to be a paleontologist from a really early age. I was completely obsessed with dinosaurs when I was a kid. I was born in New Mexico. My grandpa was an outdoorsman and I would go out rock hunting and gold mining with him. I got my undergrad in Geology but unfortunately, there just weren't any jobs at all at the time I graduated. I switched my direction and decided to go into Materials Science and Electrical Engineering and this helped me switch to the semiconductor industry.

 

What song best describes your work ethic?  
My go-to jam before giving a presentation is always Dr. Dre because it gets me pumped up. For my last Intel talk in China I had them play the intro to "Nothing but a G Thing" as I walked out on stage. But the song that best describes my work ethic would probably be something from Radiohead. Maybe "No surprises" by Radiohead. The lyrics are kind of interesting and that's my favorite band and that song was my ringtone for a long time.

 

If you were giving guidance to someone in engineering what advice would you give them?  
I'll give a few answers to that question.
Here is my technology answer: I think as a society, we've figured out a lot of problems with connectivity, compute, and storage and have many of those issues worked out. We haven't figured out how to replicate the human mind and the things we take for granted. You can walk down the street and see someone walking towards you and your brain automatically registers that it is someone you recognize but you don’t necessarily know why. Your brain scanned and registering the shape of their facial features, the way they walk, the way they carry themselves and decided that you recognize them as one of your friends. We take for granted how easy that is for us to do, but we are still figuring out how to do that with computers and cameras. But some of the advancements in compute technology around cognitive neural networks, machine learning and deep learning are helping get us closer. In the field of science called Biomimicry, we are starting to replicate some of the ways biological systems like arrays of neurons have structured themselves and see if we can apply those natural methods to the way computers think. The whole field of artificial intelligence to me is one of the most fantastic technology areas in the coming decades.
How do you teach a computer to do much more than if/then statements? Teach it patterns, and sub patterns. Teach it to observe and learn and make its own if/then statements. It's a very different way of approaching the science of computing. We used to only assign computers to do mundane tasks and workloads. What prohibits us from assigning computers do the miraculous? Apply computing technology to perform complex analysis of someone's DNA and their blood profile and discover they are at risk for kidney failure. Then recommend changes to their diet and medications/supplements to protect their health. Why can't you employ a computer to do more of that advanced thinking. If I was in college I would focus on AI machine learning and deep learning and not much else.
This is the marketplace answer: What differentiates scientists from engineers is that scientists ask questions and test hypotheses to learn. Engineers use science and those same methodologies to solve problems. If learning and advancing the knowledge humankind has of our universe motivates you, then academia is likely the best path for you. If you want to be addressing the market issues that people are facing with their daily lives, learn what isn’t working and what can be improved with technology to address those issues, then engineering may be a better choice for you. Addressing market problems with end users in mind is the best way to make money in business, combine that with the right technology and you have a recipe for engineering success. I tell all my employees that I'm not interested in just doing cool experiments or inventing cool technology. I'm interested in solving real end user and real customer problems with technology. I like the combination, that's where the most interesting magic happens.

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MEET THE TECH EXEC INTERVIEWS

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

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MEET THE TECH EXEC

JOE BERRY

Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer

Thermo Fisher Scientific

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To download the full magazine and read the full interviews, click here.
Joe Beery was named Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer for Thermo Fisher Scientific in 2014, following the company’s acquisition of Life Technologies. During his tenure as leader of Thermo Fisher’s global Information Technology infrastructure, Joe has been instrumental in cultivating unified, “One Team” culture, emphasizing and improving operational reliability, and focusing on innovative strategies, such as the implementation of eCommerce and Cloud solutions, to best serve the business and its customers
Joe served as the Senior Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer for Life Technologies since taking the position at Invitrogen in 2008. In this role, he directed the development and operation of the company’s information technology systems and eCommerce website. He also spearheaded the implementation of IT programs to support the merger of Invitrogen and Applied Biosystems in 2008.
Prior to Invitrogen, Joe was Chief Information Officer at US Airways and America West Airlines for 10 years. Previously, he spent 10 years at Motorola Semiconductor, holding various positions in the computer integrated manufacturing group, and also served as a manufacturing and software engineer at NV Philips in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Joe holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and business computer systems from the University of New Mexico. He is a member of the Board of Rare Genomics a nonprofit supporting the use of Genomics in diagnosing rare disease and previously on the Board of CypherGenomics, a software and services in Next Generation sequencing.

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What is your focus this year?

You have to go into a deeper IT perspective, we do a lot of software development and cloud for all of our integral platforms. One of our biggest priorities is IT transformation within the organization and with our customers. We are moving to a digital science company.
We have a very large portfolio of major manufacturing, it’s a very product focused company. Our biggest priority, when we think of our customers and the future, is the integration of our platforms. They are searching for an answer, and the answer is a digital answer.
We have the largest life sciences cloud in the industry, with over 50K users, launched about a 1.5 years ago. First priority is the integration of our business with our IT capabilities. Scientists store data in the cloud, our global platform, attaching that is a science capability.  We’re connecting the entire workflow with consumables and analytics. The cloud to our customers is incredibly important. With customer and data analytics, we have the ability to see not only what a customer spends but what kind of experiments they are doing.
The IT organization is in the middle of every one of the company’s long-termsteps, whether it’s our sales process, it’s all connected. We are merging technologies, with over 150K users, providing our customers with better services. The first priority is driving the company to a digital business. It’s huge. It’s really something that we’re moving through as quickly as possible.

Where does the Cloud fit in your organization?

We are one of the largest life sciences customers of AWS. We are moving away to not do cloud on premise. It’s all done with major partners. Around our strategy, with over 2K IT people globally we decided to invest. We are actively moving our E commerce capabilities and internal systems to the cloud- to AWS. For a company of our size, we surprisingly have a small data center footprint. Our large portfolio is not completely in the cloud. We have a Cloud First Strategy. I don’t sign a purchase agreement for any hardware equipment on premise. We classify our 3 part strategy as Born in the Cloud, Transitioning to the Cloud and then Cloud as an Infrastructure.  Can a provider, be our long term future? We believe so.  We are going through HIPPA and all the security steps. To really get the value out of the cloud you have to use somebody else who does it really well. Amazon can hire more people in their security group than I can hire in my IT organization in a single year.

How do you view security from an identity management perspective? 

We continue to look at that over and over, we are thoughtful about our customers. Thermo Fisher Scientific is now a conglomeration of thousands of acquisitions. Everything is driven through thermofisher.com, we have one identity management strategy through that platform that is secure.  Internally we are using an Oracle platform.  It’s a journey and there has to be patience, you do the best job working with your security partners. I just hired a new CSO.  I’m running as fast as I can to pull those platforms together. It’s a constant journey. When people are logging in to use systems, there are different passwords, yeah, it’s just where we are.

As a CIO, as you look at the transition of your background. What have you had to tweak in your thought  process? Things like becoming more fiscally responsible since you are more OpX spend, things like that? Have you felt you have to take on a different leadership style because of cloud? 

Yeah, I’ve only really been in 3 industries. As a CIO of my tenure, it’s interesting, I haven’t jumped around a lot. Semiconductors, airlines and now life sciences. Using emerging technologies and advanced technologies that we have available to us today, the biggest challenge is retooling the leadership to think in one particular way. It’s two things but the first is you have to move absolutely as fast as possible. You have to move your investment profile from infrastructure to value added activities. You have to move from legacy datacenter, heavy metal capability, to what are the things that are going to move the needle for the business. None of our budgets get that much bigger, they grow through inheriting companies or a big initiative. The biggest challenge is hiring leadership, that all the things we used to do 5-10 years ago have to substantially change in order to reinvest. In the future people will hire drastically different and make the transformation in thinking because maybe you could ride that on premise horse for a little longer, but if you don’t get off,  you’re really going to lose the battle.  Everybody is looking to take advantage of that different profile. That is the mantra executives are getting. Same amount of dollars, more capability, now the challenge is OPX vs. CAPX. We feel like we’re ahead of the game, we projected this.

What is your CEO asking from you?

 My CEO is looking to move to cloud strategy faster.  We feel good about the position we are in. The CEO never thought we would say this but we’re the competitive advantage for the company. The biggest concern that’s on their mind is it’s an incredibly target rich environment because we can do things better than we’ve done before. You really can think differently. That’s what we’re trying to get our heads around. In the next 5 years it’s going to be drastically different. You won’t have silos, you will really drive your business differently. The question is what do we go after first that’s going to drive the best amount of value. The speed we can move is so much faster, you don’t want to make mistakes, you want to invest in the right things. We can go a lot faster than we’ve gone in the past. Your investment dollars aren’t going to go up much, a little but not much. It’s about if it’s being put in the right place. We focus on 3 things. We operate as 1 team, win with the basics – cloud has to have reliability, scalability. The 3rd thing is what are you going to do to move the needle? Those are all great- what will drive the greatest amount of value using emerging and advanced technologies.

You’re gathering all this big data that sits in the cloud. Where are you getting that data from? Are you able to govern and look at data analytics, talk to me about IOT. 

 IOT is very interesting in some cases many industries have been doing it for a while. It’s more enabled now. The way we think of that is how we think of the lab of the future, changing the way our customers view our products. That could be anything from sophisticated instruments to anything we see in their workflow.  How do we automate that workflow?  Use the internet of things to drive that a lot faster.  Mobility is really driving us internally more than anything. How do we automate our customers workflow. With BI and analytics it’s really a target rich environment for us both internally and externally. We are connecting all of our salesforce all around lead management. We are in silos.  We did a lot of work crunching our CRM data and systems to better enhance our sales agents to manage leads. When you look at the customers we have and at the complexity of our portfolio that’s a great opportunity for us. As we continue to roll out the cloud it gets us closer to the customer.
That is the beauty of where Thermo Fisher is. We have the biggest portfolio. If you look at the actual scientific analysis. We are using genomic data to help doctors and clinicians do a better job at servicing their clients. We are at the very beginning of learning how big data can learn from data, connect them together and ultimately drive better decisions.  The product in airlines was a seat. You measured every seat every mile. Semiconductors was a semiconductor. You sold power controllers. In our world, we sell these products, have warehouse full of products. At the end of the day it’s all a digital answer.  What type of cancer do I have and what is the best treatment.
That’s why I love the company, the industry, this is the last place I will ever work. When you look at what we do, the mission is to make the world healthier, cleaner, safer, and that is all digital. So this is going to change the way you live and I live. I have 2 kids alive today because of what the company does. They were both born with a rare genetic disorder, and because of our instruments they found the diagnosis, the rare genetic mutation and treated it and they take medication 3 times a day and it was this digital answer. When I think of the future of big data you see a future that is really different for everyone.

Talk to me about back up and disaster recovery.

For on premise things we have SunGuard and the normal capabilities. We think of AWS and Microsoft, the investment profile that they’re putting into this capability far exceeds anything else that anyone can do. What are we doing differently, how are we investing- It’s all of those dollars our execs want us to trim to invest in what will move the needle. We have a great relationship with Microsoft, Oracle, and AWS and over time we will continue to mix it up.

Any challenges with hiring?

You have to groom them from within. It’s really exciting internally here. We had over 200 people go over DevOps training in the Amazon platform. We have very few data centers. From a training perspective it’s a pretty exciting opportunity. You have to train them yourself, it will pay off, there just isn’t enough folks out there right now. We have a pretty aggressive training platform.

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