CIO Spotlight: Mitch Bledsoe, Verb Technology

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? “Executive roles on the technical side of the house are becoming less standardised in their responsibilities list.”

Verb Technology

Name: Mitch Bledsoe

Company: Verb Technology

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: October 2020

Location: Newport Beach, California

With 20+ years of both corporate and entrepreneurial technology management and an absolute passion for building high performance teams that realise the best solutions for the toughest problems, Mitch Bledsoe love what his does! Leading from the front rather than cracking a whip from the back begets a culture of trust, creativity and ownership. Having led multiple domestic and international teams through successful large-scale product development efforts, legacy modernisations and the buildout and maintenance of all the infrastructures to support them.

What was your first job? Sweats ‘n’ Surf in Redondo Beach, CA.

Did you always want to work in IT? There was a time that I was thinking healthcare.  Since I had already been working in IT during my college years, it was just natural to keep going down that path.  I’ve never looked back and have enjoyed the ride.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I started my first Technical Consulting company while in high school and ended up growing it through college spending some time abroad and finishing my under-grad at Canterbury in London. During that time, I collected the requisite Microsoft and Cisco certifications to make the company marketable. Educationally, I started down the pre-med path, fast-tracking classes at 2 different Cal-State campuses and weekend accelerated courses at Cleveland Chiropractic College in Hollywood, CA. At the same time, I was working for myself at night keeping local, small businesses up and running. Once I made the decision to stay focused on technology, I changed majors and graduated with my Business Administration degree from Canterbury.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. No detours but having started & sold two of my own companies and making the jump to large conglomerates, I certainly have the entrepreneurial DNA complimented by lots of Fortune 500 experience. I am very excited about Verb because we are at a place in its evolution where the company can benefit from the creative aggressiveness of a start-up AND the calm, process orientation of a mature market leader.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Hands down…VerbLive! I believe that VerbLive is reshaping how people all over the world buy products & services, how they will do their work, and connect with each other in a mid and post-pandemic era.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? First and Foremost, continue establishing a culture of high value, high quality, and high performance across the technology organisation. Keeping focus on transparency and predictability. As a result, continue to expand the penetration of our VerbCRM product, get VerbLive out to the market creating new revenue AND laying the groundwork for a whole new set of ground-breaking products.

I’ll be working very closely with Julie Holdren, Verb’s new Chief Product Officer, to continue maturing our product delivery processes and creating even more visibility for our senior team and shareholders.

I’ll also spend time working on strategic acquisitions by ensuring candidate companies’ technology can effectively enable Verb’s strategic roadmap.

Since we are a SaaS company and our products run exclusively in the Cloud, we will continue to focus heavily on utilising continuous integration and delivery tools that will allow us to safely and continuously provide new features and solutions to our customers maximising their value in the marketplace.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? Executive roles on the technical side of the house are becoming less standardised in their responsibilities list. CIO’s are traditionally more business minded and very involved with figuring out how technology is the right size for the organisation. It must be well governed and providing a quantifiable return on investment. In the age where SaaS is king, the Cloud is secure and stable, and you don’t need a company of thousands to take an idea and turn it into a highly profitable enterprise, the CIO can do so much more.

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? Verb Technology was born digital. However, that doesn’t mean that that we’re not looking for opportunities to improve our current processes and products and apply latest frameworks where it makes sense. As a software company, we already live within the agile framework for development and have an ever-increasing DevOps culture across all products old and new. With each process improvement effort or product enhancement, we must create value for the company or our customers. While we may not have a digital transformation effort underway, I can assure you that Verb will always have a value enhancement effort scheduled for Go-Live!

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? As a SaaS company heavily utilising the Cloud for both product delivery and business tools, our IT footprint is relatively small by design. The more we can focus on delivering high value, high quality, high performing solutions into the hands of our customers with the least amount of traditional IT overhead, the better. This means that Verb has embraced the concept of delivery teams owning their product from cradle to grave. It means that IT has become an enabler for delivery teams by providing infrastructure on demand, efficient resource governance, and a true visibility into our various environments and systems. As I get deeper into the details, I get more excited about the great work that has been done to put us well onto the described path. There is some work to do but the level of automation that Verb already has is impressive. The best KPI’s to measure the value of IT? How often product is able to be delivered into production safely and efficiently by the delivery team on its own!

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Culture is Flow and Flow is Culture. Good culture nurtures a healthy flow from ideation to value realisation. Interruption to the flow means that our culture doesn’t match our people, processes or tools. Culture is the glue that brings people, process, and tools into a flow that produces the end result. It is the first piece of the puzzle. Find the people, create your processes, and select the tools with culture in mind. Define company values based on the heart of its leaders; company values are supported by its installed culture; by correlation, the installed culture will reflect the heart of its leaders and as such, will be intrinsic in all decisions made. I am a Verb family member today because I believe in the values of its leader.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? In a world flooded with technologists, one would think this to be the easiest. On the contrary, finding truly experienced solutionists with the talent of elegant coding is rare.

What's the best career advice you ever received? “DON’T BE A DOCTOR!!!”

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Not just yet. That will certainly be a priority as soon as I am fully up to speed with all aspects of the Verb technology portfolio. I am figuring out exactly what I need to be for Verb before I can identify the next potential generation.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Understand where you land on the optimist/realist/pessimist spectrum and surround yourself with people that you are and people that you are not – Listen to them but make your own decisions.

Understand that you may be a jack of all trades but a master of something far less.  Surround yourself with people that can take up the slack – Listen to them but make your own decisions.

Understand that the hours in any given day are for work time, fun time, AND sleep time - For both you and everyone else!

What has been your greatest career achievement? Having a previous employee after 15 years still say thank you for helping him through a rough life patch.

Putting a $200MM project slated to have a $50MM annual savings impact into production

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? If I could guarantee the same outcome, there might be a few things I would have like to have tried, like having a traditional college experience. But I would gladly keep everything as is if the path ridden was the only one on my way to where I am.

What are you reading now? Justice in the Digital State by Joe Tomlinson. SCRUM The Art of Doing Twice the Working in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland.

Most people don't know that I… Restore cars with my dad. And am an old school Marvel dude.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my family. Visit my older boys at college.

Ask me to do anything but… Eat brussel sprouts!