Get to know the Premier 100 Class of 2017

The annual Computerworld Premier 100 awards shine a spotlight on individuals who have had a positive impact on their organization through technology.

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Jason Lei

Jason Lei

Title
General manager, Intelligence Product

Employer
MediaMath

Location
New York

Coolest current project:
Hands down the MediaMath Brain, the patent-pending, proprietary bid optimization algorithm that takes full advantage of sophisticated machine-learning, built here at MediaMath. It has optimized marketing results for thousands of advertisers, billions of dollars in marketing and trillions of ad impressions, and properly measures impact on the advertiser’s business.

How are you using reverse-mentoring:
We aren’t surprised that many innovative ideas come from talented engineers who aren’t yet in leadership positions. We encourage and cultivate this with the biannual 24-hour hackathon, where our employees of all teams and levels build applications and systems for a variety of problems — many of which make it into MediaMath products.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
The IoT will transform our lives, and as a result of being connected, it will present a tremendous opportunity for marketers. The challenge at that point will be to balance innovation into the mesh of IoT with assurance and standards for consumer privacy and choice.

Biggest tech disappointment?
The speed of advancement in wearable tech isn’t quite as I had hoped. As one example, I had high hopes that the mobile phone would be replaced with devices such as Google Glass and connected watches to eliminate the need to carry an extra mobile phone, but that hasn’t materialized just yet, but I’m still hopeful we’ll see wearable innovations that will render the mobile phones unnecessary.

Paul Lough

Paul Lough

Title
Vice president, technology strategy and planning, and CTO

Employer
Navy Federal Credit Union

Location
Vienna, Va.

Coolest current project:
The selection and implementation of a digital banking platform and the anticipation of transforming a number of siloed delivery channels into a more intelligent, effective and cost-efficient means of delivering an exceptional member and employee experience.

An innovative staff idea:
Recently, one of my staffers took the initiative to demonstrate voice-based banking and integration with the Amazon Echo device. There’s still some perfecting to do, but it’s great to see us thinking ahead and being positioned to support new service delivery models should they become desirable or mainstream.

Biggest tech disappointment?
Blockchain technology. There’s been so much hype surrounding everything it was going to solve. But now that reality is setting in, the use cases for my industry are perhaps more limited or further out than originally perceived.

Personal leadership style?
I strive to be trustworthy, knowledgeable, fair, caring and decisive. I value the perspectives of my employees and always carefully consider what they have to offer.

Ryan Loy

Ryan Loy

Title
Vice president, IT

Employer
Adtran

Location
Huntsville, Ala.

Coolest current project:
We are developing an enterprise user standard built around full mobility and cloud sharing, with enhanced data loss prevention. This offers the business a better way to share information and communicate, while providing protection of our core intellectual property.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
That the physical ownership of data centers will be a thing of the past. We are focused on moving everything to the cloud, enabling us to focus more resources on developing business services.

Personal leadership style?
Servant-style leadership, focused on developing others and cultivating an organization of trust. I rely on my directors to do the right thing and make decisions based on the best interests of the company. I believe in creating a culture focused on the business with the mindset that we are businesspeople who happen to have responsibility within IT. This mindset change has enabled us to further evangelize the value IT can deliver to the organization.

Read Loy's full profile.

Nandu Mahadevan

Nandu Mahadevan

Title
Vice president, SaaS operations

Employer
BMC Software

Location
Santa Clara, Calif.

Coolest current project:
As a SaaS provider, the ability to spin services up and down and apply patches in seconds, along with the huge compute and storage savings, make Docker one of our biggest game-changers. Its value stretches from ongoing migrations to deploying high-availability, high-performance data centers.

Personal leadership style?
Hire smart people and enable them. Be an innovation “visionary” and sponsor. Allow for mistakes to happen and help navigate political battles to bring new ideas to fruition. Leverage partnerships and technologies that contribute new value.

Skills you’ll hire for:
We need both business and technical skills — all in one person. A technical account manager who knows business practices, who is the first line of contact to users in a support scenario and can give the customer the best service experience, often without pulling in additional expertise.

Charles Mance

Charles Mance

Title
Director, Communications &and Technology Support Services

Employer
George Washington University

Location
Washington

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
I believe we will see a sea change in networking and applications, where more applications will live outside of the physical infrastructure and the network will just provide connectivity. IT departments will continue to standardize, automate and consolidate as services become more appliance- and cloud-based. Virtual 3D and holographic imaging will become more commonplace. Mobility will continue to drive services and offerings. The “network” will be wireless with cellular and Wi-Fi converging to provide connectivity.

Personal leadership style?
I tend to lead by example with a hands-off approach. I let my staff work on their own and take ownership of their successes and mistakes. I am approachable and fair when needed.

Skills you’ll hire for:
I will focus on skills related to software-defined networking. I plan to train current employees and augment the staff as needed.

How has your vendor management strategy changed in the past few years?
As we look to partner and outsource commodity services, we will require more vendor management skills. This will become a necessary skill for subject-matter experts who will need to help establish service-level agreements and hold the vendors accountable.

Saran S. Mandair

Saran S. Mandair

Title
Vice president, Production Operations and Global IT

Employer
Yapstone

Location
Walnut Creek, Calif.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Unikernels and container orchestration. Unikernels are minimal, specialized operating systems that offer improved security, a smaller footprint and fine-grained optimization, which can be particularly relevant to microservices. Container orchestration tools simplify management and provide a framework not only for defining initial container deployment, but also for managing multiple containers as one entity.

An innovative staff idea:
We are moving everything to the public cloud to enable rapid business agility and developer/employee productivity. The move to the public cloud also mitigates risks related to natural or man-made disasters. Our company won’t own or operate physical data centers but will instead focus on more value-added services for our customers.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
Intra-public cloud workload migration will be the norm, and private cloud setups won’t be relevant. The concerns about security, networking and more will be minimized further. All IT and engineering services will be consumed via APIs from multiple clouds.

What’s the most important task you’ve delegated this year?
Having my administrative assistant completely manage my calendar.

What title do you aspire to?
CIO/CTO for an innovative company.

Dave McCandless

Dave McCandless

Title
Vice president, IT

Employer
Navis

Location
Oakland, Calif.

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Driverless, autonomous vehicles of all kinds — land, sea, air and space. Managing vehicle automation is a Navis core competency — we will continue to acquire companies and technologies that advance our leadership in the global cargo management industry.

Coolest current project:
IT operational analytics for full IT resource usage visibility reflected back across all lines of business. Simple yet comprehensive 360-degree utilization insights on demand via dashboards for executives.

Boldest prediction for the next 5 years:
Chatbots will enable explosive value for corporate knowledge consumption, bringing true self-service to internal and external customers. Chat interface designers will replace UI designers as the hot talent workers. Chatbot virtual centers will replace human call centers, displacing the human workforce across the entire industry.

How do you find time to innovate?
The innovation spark ignites when a time-tested solution is contrasted with a disruptive insight. I try to find downtime to ponder how to improve existing solutions with an insightful twist — give the aha moments a chance to bloom. I set aside recurring times for team members to develop insights into ideas and then business concepts.

Trevor McDougall

Trevor McDougall

Title
CIO

Employer
Open Colleges

Location
Sydney, Australia

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Virtual reality is very exciting for education — the potential for this technology is amazing. We are looking at working with providers who are testing this technology — the challenge is it must work without expensive equipment needed from the student.

Coolest current project:
We are looking at using machine-learning engines to predict which students will be at risk to drop out and require a proactive intervention. We have hired some data scientists who are helping us with the data we have.

An innovative staff idea:
The team came up with a learning platform feature called a “study planner” where students input their goals and plans for study. We now have the ability to track students against their own plans and provide interventions when needed, constantly reminding the students of their reasons for studying.

How are you using reverse-mentoring?
People are encouraged to stay on top of the latest trends, and we use specific team meetings to share information and ideas with the rest of the team. With technology changing so quickly, everyone has an opportunity to bring something to that table.

What title do you aspire to?
Chief operating officer, and then CEO.

Scott McIsaac

Scott McIsaac

Title
Chief infrastructure officer

Employer
Secure-24

Location
Southfield, Mich.

How do you find time to innovate?
Innovation is ingrained in our organization. We have highly skilled technical experts, with more than 1,800 technical certifications throughout the organization, and our teams constantly evaluate and recommend new technologies. We also have several industry-leading partnerships. I serve on the customer advisory boards for many of our partners, so we are plugged into vendor road maps and are often asked to test and run proofs of concept on many new technologies.

How have you created work/life balance?
Secure-24 provides flexible schedules, unlimited vacation days, 100% paid benefits for employees and their families, and a follow-the-sun support model, meaning our senior engineers aren’t required to be on-call 24/7.

How have you adjusted your risk management strategy to align with the evolving technology landscape?
We are constantly evaluating bleeding-edge technologies, but we deploy cutting-edge technologies — meaning those for which processes are in place, automation is available and risks are reduced because we follow best practices and learn from the mistakes of our predecessors. We also work closely with our vendors on technologies and best practices for deployment and architecture.

Matthew A. Minetola

Matthew A. Minetola

Title
Executive vice president of technology, CIO

Employer
Travelport

Location
Atlanta

What emerging tech has captured your interest?
Virtual reality. If you think about providing a traveler insight into their experience, what better way than to provide them a virtual reality trip to the actual destination?

Coolest current project:
The “macro project” of migrating one of the largest Transaction Processing Facility mainframe environments left on the planet to a microservices cloud-based solution. There are probably four to five technology generations that took place in between and we are moving across them all in one transformation.

New titles in your IT organization:
Strategic vendor relationship manager

How do you evaluate emerging technologies?
We have a formal incubation program that allows us to move the ideas through to viability evaluation. If they are seen as viable, they are picked up by the business partners and funded to become minimum viable products and capabilities.

How do you find time to innovate?
How do you not? That is what will differentiate us tomorrow. It is in everything we do from how we manage our time and people to where we spend leadership time to ensure we are constantly looking at the what if?

What title do you aspire to?
CEO of a technology-based company.

How are you working with startups?
We have a formal incubation program where we work directly with startups and provide seed money for those that can provide a viable proposal.

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