CIO Spotlight: Kevin Hansel, SailPoint Technologies

Top priorities for you in the coming year? "We went public late last year, and a key priority is to make the transition to operating as a public company without impacting our product and service innovation velocity in any way."

Name: Kevin Hansel

Company: SailPoint Technologies

Job title: CIO

Time in current role: 1.5 years

Location: Austin, Texas


As CIO at SailPoint, Kevin Hansel's focus is on scaling and transforming SailPoint's IT capabilities as the company continues to expand to meet customer needs, globally. Kevin brings to SailPoint extensive experience with driving IT strategy and innovation in high-growth environments, improving business structure, leading compliance efforts, and delivering IT as a competitive advantage in support of rapid business growth. Kevin has over 20 years of IT leadership experience working with a wide spectrum of organizations, from startups to Fortune 500 companies.

What was your first job? While attending college, I had an Engineering co-op job with the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Working in their communications group gave me my first exposure to computer networking.

Did you always want to work in IT? Not at all.  Early in life I wanted to be a marine biologist and study dolphins and sharks!  After that I became interested in electrical engineering with a goal of designing high-end audio systems as a career.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My first job after graduation was designing missile telemetry systems for a government military contractor.  While I enjoyed that work, I also started helping to manage the computers used by my organization.  Over time I realized my true passion was in computer and infrastructure operations.  I made a career change and never looked back after that.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organization in the coming year? We will be spending quite a bit on security and compliance this year (including large initiatives for GDPR and SOX).  We are also looking to innovate more in how we deliver IT solutions for the business - especially for our customer and partner ecosystems.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? We went public late last year, and a key priority is to make the transition to operating as a public company without impacting our product and service innovation velocity in any way.  Expanding our sales, marketing, and customer support capabilities globally is another key objective for 2018.  We are also excited to be building out a formal cybersecurity committee for our Board of Directors - something we think all large companies should do.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? With the advent of the cloud and SaaS, IT must make a sizable pivot to continue to maximize its value.  Many CIOs no longer own and control all of a company's infrastructure and data as they did in the past.  They must deliver an entirely new level of value by helping their company maximize the capabilities of the cloud in a strategic, business-aligned, cost-controlled, and secure manner.  The irony of this is that (if done well) CIOs can finally deliver results at the speed of the business that we so infamously struggled with for decades with traditional on-premises solutions.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasize customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? 18 months ago we embarked on a transformation journey to improve global scalability, increase security, optimize business processes, and achieve a SOC 2 Type 2 attestation and ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification in preparation to take the company public.  Now that we've achieved much of that, the focus shifts to innovation and optimization.  At SailPoint, the customer always comes first, so we have a critical focus on customer experience.  Our high customer satisfaction ratings are also a key driver of increased revenue through greater customer adoption and new deals.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? Now that we have entered the second phase of our transformation journey, maturing and optimizing our IT capabilities are the big priorities for us.  For example, building out a rich set of KPIs and analytics is something we started focusing on in 2017 and will be expanding significantly in 2018.

What does good culture fit look like in your organization? How do you cultivate it? One of our company's greatest assets is its culture.  Our founders set out to create a company based on four key values: Individuals, Innovation, Integrity, and Impact.  Holding true to those values for more than a decade has helped land us on the "Best Places to Work" lists and achieve customer retention ratings of 95% for several years running.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Security talent is currently our hardest role to fill.  Every new breach drives the need for even more security professionals.  It is a great time to have information security skills!

What's the best career advice you ever received? Don't waste time trying to be perfect - focus on being effective and delivering meaningful results.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. I'm blessed to have a high-performing staff with great energetic leadership.  I was hired a year and a half ago to help optimize the IT organization and prepare the company to go public.  I'm trying to share as much of my knowledge as I can with my staff to help them round out their skillsets.  A key goal of mine has always been to help prepare the team for the next steps in their careers.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Expose yourself to as many IT disciplines as you can to become as well-rounded as possible.  Don't fall too far in love with any one technology as it will be soon replaced by something else.  Learn as much as you can about the business side of IT and the rest of the business in general - the more you know about all the other disciplines, the more you can drive value from the IT side.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I've been fortunate enough to build and grow the IT organizations of several companies to the point where they were successfully acquired.  With SailPoint making it all the way to a successful IPO, standing on the floor of the NYSE when the bell was rung was a career achievement for me.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Taken the advice above.  Early on I fell in love with a couple of technologies and really put the blinders on, ignoring how problems could be solved in other ways.  That held me back from learning more about IT in general.


What are you reading now? A book on leadership called "Maestro - A Surprising Story About Leading by Listening". It was written by Roger Nierenberg, an acclaimed orchestra conductor who developed a leadership program based on the complex interplay skills he learned from decades of conducting disparate groups of musicians who had to align perfectly in real time in order to be successful. It is a refreshing change of pace over the usual leadership books.

Most people don't know that I… Was a punk-rock skateboarder in high school who had a halfpipe in his backyard.

In my spare time, I like to…Play ice hockey and race Porsches

Ask me to do anything but… Garden! Patiently digging in the dirt and trying to keep plants alive is just not my skillset.