CIO Spotlight: Martin K. Wright, Sev1Tech LLC

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? "We look for passionate, hardworking, and driven individuals."

Name: Martin K. Wright

Company: Sev1Tech LLC

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: October 2011

Location: Woodbridge, Virginia

Martin Wright has been Sev1Tech's CIO since the company's inception in 2010. As CIO and Vice President of the High Impact Technology Solutions (HITS) team for Sev1Tech, Wright helps customers overcome the challenges they face today in enterprise IT platforms, cloud services, advanced network engineering, cyber-security, data center and application migration, financial controls, and risk management. With his global perspective and experience, he is responsible for overseeing the company's IT functions as well as serving as the liaison between technology and business operations.


What was your first job? A bellhop at a hotel in Virginia Beach, VA.

Did you always want to work in IT? After I began tinkering with computers and electronic devices, it seemed to come naturally and turned into a professional passion.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I received a BA in Computer Graphic Design from George Mason University.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My first IT job was as a Dial-Up Windows NT Specialist for Erol's Internet in Northern VA. From there, I worked as a Systems Administrator, IT Manger, IT Director, Chief Information Officer, and Global Chief Information Officer within several companies. I was very fortunate to have opportunities early in my career to be exposed to exciting growth, government contracting, environmental science, mergers and acquisitions and global organisations.  

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Cloud everything. Providing flexibility for our employees to be able to work anywhere, anytime without relying on regional or local data centres was one of my team's greatest achievements in 2019. We were able to scale, respond, and act quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic through our communications platforms and additional tools within Microsoft Office 365 to enable a successful remote workforce. As we continue to expand our cloud migrations, we will continue to leverage "As-A-Service" options from our vendors.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Growth, growth, and growth. Corporate Information Systems has aligned its objectives with the CEO's priorities to provide a platform which sustains the growth of the organisation and reinforces the activities within the organisation with the appropriate tools and technology assets.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? There are several organisations where the CIO's function is mainly IT focused without a directly line to the CEO, Board, or other major business stakeholders in the company. In those structures, it does not give visibility to the health of the organisation or the strategy which IT could underpin the enablement of those strategies. Fortunately, at Sev1Tech, this is not the case and the CIO is given the appropriate responsibility and accountability within the organisation.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? As CIO, we should always be leading digital transformation and the emphasis must be applied to both our customers and the efficiency of our internal operations. This balance is achieved by "listening" to the customer, externally and internally. Understanding the requirements and applying the appropriate processes and tools to support this transformation are critical. Typically, one customers' requirements are similar to another, and being able to take lessons learned and objectives achieved to other customers streamlines transformation across separate groups. There have been several times throughout my career where the tools created for internal operations have been turned into external customer tools used to accelerate the services we perform.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? As an organisation, I like to believe we are mature when it comes to quantifying the value of IT. It is reflected in our weekly huddle metrics which are shared with the entire organisation. Not only do we look at metrics from IT, but we also review the key performance indicators from Finance, Accounting, HR, Contracts, and Business Development. This information is captured, presented, recorded, and distributed to the entire company as it occurs. Also, with any organisation, there are always room for growth and our Quality Program within the company drives the efforts for continuous improvement be examining, modifying, and introducing new metrics that provide visibility to effectiveness in the company.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? We look for passionate, hardworking, and driven individuals. If you have a desire to learn, give back, do more, and innovate, Sev1Tech is the place for you. We have found that individuals who have this passion are quick to adopt our family-based culture and find Sev1Tech to be one of the best places they have worked. A relatively flat organisational structure allows all of our employees easy access to the CEO and leadership team, who encourage career growth, empower employees to share their ideas, and offer many forums for this to be expressed within the organisation.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Certified Cloud Architects/Operators, Certified Network Engineers and Cyber Security Analysts.

What's the best career advice you ever received? If you love what you do, going to work is easy! Find what excites you and run!

Do not forget to manage up and down. They are equally as important.

Politics and multiple dynamics are always at play when it comes to customers and employees, no matter what - always work to anticipate the outcome of your actions beyond the decision or discussion itself.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. I do, I currently have two "Deputies" who support running the infrastructure, applications, and operations of IT within Sev1Tech. It is critical for other IT leaders to not only have partners on the team that can act on your behalf, but anticipate the actions needed by the organisation to support its goals and act accordingly.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? It is ok to start your career at Tier 1, not everyone has to start as a Senior SME. If you work your way up, you gain knowledge and experiences which support your career growth. This experience prepares you in becoming a trusted and valuable member of the team. This doesn't mean, sit back and watch, it does mean, take action to resolve and enhance all areas of the job you perform and the positive or negative results it delivers will define how you move to the next challenge.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Next to helping create one of the best places to work at Sev1Tech over the last 9 years, when I was Global CIO of AEA in London, England, I spearheaded an international IT transformation through consolidating multi-regional IT teams into global team with "follow the sun" support, eliminating additional costs of $500K to business, significantly reduced annual telecommunications operational expenses by $530K per annum through deployment of global communications platform and championed migration of 1,500+ users to a global platform, reducing annual licensing costs by $520K.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have migrated operations to the Cloud much sooner!

What are you reading now? An oldie but goodie. As schools are closed for the remainder of the academic year, I am reading Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen again with my children in our "Coronavirus Book Club."

Most people don't know that I… ride my electric longboard or bike to the office as often as the weather will allow it.

In my spare time, I like to…automate every aspect of my home.

Ask me to do anything but… work in isolation or remote for another 5 weeks (referring to COVID-19 stay at home policies). While I am still very concerned with health crisis we are experiencing, I am ready to see my peers, teams, and the employees within the company again. Video conferencing and working remotely has been very effective for us an organisation, but I still very much miss being around people and developing shared experiences amongst the team.

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