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Last Friday I had the privilege of attending the Boston CIO of the Year® ORBIE® Awards. No, I haven’t been moonlighting as a CIO – I was a guest of our very own Joe Kinsella, CTO and Founder of CloudHealth Technologies, who was a nominee. More on that in a bit.
The event recognized New England chief information officers and chief technology officers who have demonstrated excellence in technology leadership. This year, more than 90 tech leaders were nominated for the award, selected by their peers, colleagues and customers as Boston’s best and brightest. To say the collective IQ in the room was daunting is an understatement.
About the Event
Finalists and winners were selected by prior ORBIE recipients and industry peers. The nominees fell into five categories: Nonprofit / Public Sector, Corporate, Enterprise, Global, and a special Leadership Award.
Anyone who has been to an awards show knows they can sometimes be…a bit of a snoozefest. But, the organizers of this event knocked it out of the park. Bask Iyer, CIO & EVP, Dell | CIO, VMWare kicked off with a Q&A keynote led by Doug Banks, Executive Editor of the BBJ. This was no routine fireside chat – Bask didn’t shy away from any of Doug’s pointed questions, and he didn’t sugarcoat any of his learnings. The discussion touched on industry trends (IoT and hybrid computing), Bask’s career and his dedication to putting the customer first. He discussed the changing role of CIOs and that the job requires much more than “really smart tech people.” He reiterated several times that great CIOs must also be strong business leaders.
I couldn’t agree more.
Behind the Curtain
Throughout my career I’ve had the good fortune to work closely with many incredibly bright and talented technologists, from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. And, an observation I’ve made is that, as a genre, tech leaders have many commonalities. They’re smart, inquisitive, data driven, intensely focused and passionate about creating new solutions that solve really hard problems. They also tend to be quiet, reserved and often introverted. Some call them geeks – a badge they often wear with honor (rightfully so). On their own they do not seek the limelight.
That’s why I think the Boston CIO of the Year award is so incredibly special. It’s not very often that these tech leaders receive widespread recognition for their contributions to innovation, leadership and creating business value. Usually their accomplishments are silent to the public. Or worse, they only gain recognition for misses rather than wins, as Bask pointed out in his keynote.
I see this firsthand with Joe. I’ve worked with him for more than four years now, (since we received our Series A funding). During this time he’s proven himself as a tech visionary that helped define a new market – cloud service management – as well as an astute business leader. His foresight and understanding of the challenges that would surface as customers adopted cloud computing at enterprise scale defined the successful path we’ve taken as a company. To illustrate this point, just five years ago CloudHealth Technologies was….well, Joe bootstrapping his idea and looking for proof points in a few founding customers. Now we’re more than 180 people working out of a bustling headquarters in Boston’s Seaport District and opening offices around the world. And a lot of that is thanks to Joe.
He has created a vision for CloudHealth that hinges on his go-to mantra: "everyone is a product manager" responsible for creating business value that drives customer success. To this end, Joe works tirelessly, even calling himself a servant leader who will do whatever it takes to support both the business and the people driving it day to day.
If you attended the award ceremony last week, you probably heard the finalists' stories, accomplishments and personal philosophies. However, unless you’ve had the privilege of working with one of them, you haven’t been privy to the best parts of their personality. So I’ll wrap on a personal note with some of my favorite “cool things” about Joe...
Yes, he is incredibly smart, but most importantly he is a really funny guy. He believes that every business situation can be tied to Monty Python, that developing software is like navigating the galaxies in the Starship Enterprise, and that the best words to live by come from Yoda - “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” The Empire Strikes Back
Did I Mention He Won?!
When Joe’s name was announced as Boston’s “corporate” category CIO of the Year, I was thrilled. It’s a testament to the vision he has defined for the company, everything he’s accomplished in his career to date and what he has done for the community as a whole. For me, it’s deeply satisfying to see not only Joe, but also all of the finalists and winners publicly recognized for their contributions and successful careers.
Although he’s an excellent speaker, like many true technologists, the public facing side of Joe’s role lies outside his comfort zone. Something an extrovert like me has a hard time grasping.
Even now, Joe won’t bask in the limelight – he’ll stay humble, take the torch and pass it to the next great tech leader. And if you’re lucky, maybe he’ll even give you an autograph ;-)