The CIO Bulletin recently sat down with Jake Brander to get his take on how the role of the CIOs has developed over time. This was a Q & A style interview which covered many topic today and looking into the future.
Q. What do you see as the CIO’s top priority?
Generally speaking, a CIO’s main priority is to stay ahead of technology trends to effectively implement the digital transformation. In the new hybrid environments, it is also critical for the CIO to help incorporate business initiatives with a focus on cyber security, cloud migration and end customer experience. While driving revenue may not be a CIO’s primary focus, there is a huge benefit if they are able to efficiently scale the company and reduce costs. This can be accomplished by implementing the right technologies with the best fit partners.
Q. According to you, what are the biggest obstacles to success?
The fundamental obstacles to success haven’t changed much over time. Here are the things that I noticed set the best CIOs apart from everyone else during my dive into entrepreneurship. To start, it is difficult to find people who are willing to put in the time and effort outside of the normal 9-5 because they don’t want to miss out on their leisure time. My first 3 years building Brander Group included 10 – 12 hour days, Monday through Friday, and 6-8 hour days Saturday and Sunday. Even before I started my own company, I worked similar hours while simultaneously fulfilling key roles in building two other companies. It’s a mindset…
Another obstacle to success is related to fear of taking risk. Having an unknown outcome prevents people from taking that next critical step. I have learned to embrace risk and get excited for the next step into the unknown. The unknown allows me to create the outcome in my mind, then work to materialize it through hard work, testing and adjusting until we are successful.
Finally, one of the biggest obstacles to tackle is the lack of vision and focus. No matter how hard you work and how much risk you take, the outcome is likely to fail without clear vision and laser focus. You should begin every day dedicated to achieving the goal at hand. I find too many entrepreneurs adopting this mentality of having “many irons in the fire”. They seem to think that as long as one of their ideas does well, they will become successful. The problem is, if they don’t focus on one idea enough, it doesn’t allow them to make the progress needed to succeed. They are often misled by already successful entrepreneurs who have made it to a level at which they are able to invest in many ideas that are run by other entrepreneurs because they have already figured out the formula to success and have the resources and time to invest.
Q. How do you manage the partnership between IT and the rest of the business?
We look at IT as a main driver to the success of the business. Every time we implement a new technology, we have a critical evaluation of the efficiency it will create across the organization, which will make all departments streamlined and cross functional. There is also focus on future-proof solutions that are able to adapt with upcoming trends. Lastly, we focus on security applications that prevent any critical business risk as the world moves into a cloud-based ecosystem.
Q. A CIO is considered as the organizational glue for driving change. Do you agree?
Yes, the CIO plays an ever more critical role bridging technology and business initiatives in order to grow revenue. This was made very apparent during COVID as many CIOs had to quickly adapt and provide customers convenient ways to shop and purchase products in a new stay at home society. The CIOs who implemented multi-channel strategies helped keep their company’s revenue growing.
Q. What would you say was the single most influential factor in your professional success?
The most significant factor in my success was working under an engineer minded CEO early in my career who was also a mentor. He helped me sharpen my natural sales abilities by adding a critical outlook in every situation which focused on solving a problem. It wasn’t as apparent at the time, but he turned me into a highly effective consultant with a unique ability to look at every circumstance as an opportunity to fix a problem. Then once a problem was found, we would work on aligning a solution to it. If there isn’t a problem, then you can focus on adding potential value by way of features and other benefits.
Q. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Focus on an industry with a unique solution or little competition. Work more hours than anyone around you until you reach your target level of success. Figure out ways to streamline or automate all daily sales or administrative functions.
Q. What do you think is the most memorable moment in your career?
The most memorable moment early in my career was when I closed my first six figure sale with a large web service provider. I used consultative sales and offered a unique solution to a big problem they had in their data centers. Thereafter, this win provided me a tremendous amount of confidence in a problem focused approach to sales.
Q. What other leaders do you look up to, and why?
I admire leaders who have made significant impact in the world, taken massive risks, and possess the drive and work ethic that are fundamental to being a leader. Amongst many others, the four I look up to most are Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Richard Branson.