CIO Spotlight: Jason Conyard, VMware

CIO Spotlight: Jason Conyard, VMware


Name: Jason Conyard

Company: VMware

Job title: Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer

Date started current role: October 2020

Location: Bay Area

Jason Conyard is the Chief Information Officer at VMware, leading the global information and technology organisation in support of the company’s worldwide business operations. With a passion for innovation and a bias for results, Conyard focuses his team on delivering a great at-work experience for all – one where advanced collaboration and productivity resources help everyone aspire to the next level of performance and potential. He is an active champion of diversity and equity in the workplace, proudly supporting talent development and serving as the executive sponsor of VMware’s Pride affinity group.

What was your first job? My father owned an industrial cleaning business in the UK so one of my earliest jobs was cleaning windows as a teenager. I remember watching him and learning how to build relationships with people – something that has stayed with me and became foundational for my career.

Did you always want to work in IT? What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? Well, I actually didn’t have a traditional start - I didn’t go to university. I left home at 15 and began a journey of learning through doing and working. From working at an Aviation and Motor Racing Museum in the UK to joining a US company and moving to the Netherlands and then the US. All of that was shaped by my fascination in discovery. Very early on I was interested in the Titanic and then ultimately traveling to places like the Air and Space Museum. Through all of that I’ve been involved in technology in all shapes and forms so that has been the common thread throughout my life and career.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Prior to joining VMware, I served as vice president, IT at Juniper Networks, and led infrastructure and end user services globally, managing a multinational team and service providers. Before joining Juniper, I served as Managing Director for BlackRock (formerly Barclays Global Investors), was a Principal at Global Communications Partners and served as Director of Worldwide Communications at Symantec.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? As we approach a post-pandemic world, there’s been a shift in thinking about remote work to the anywhere workplace. Both employers and employees are asking for more flexibility and that’s presenting opportunities while also creating security challenges. From a security perspective, how do you secure and update every device that an employee wants to use remotely?  A SaaS and cloud-based future is a powerful solution. 

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? From our perspective, it’s clear that multi-cloud will be the model for digital business for the next 20 years and we are leading the industry to help our customers continue to transform their companies for this new era. With our cloud-agnostic approach, we are uniquely positioned to meet our customers where they are and take them where they want to go.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? From an early age, I’ve always known that I care about people and put people first.  I think that’s probably unusual for a technologist, but you would be surprised how many colleagues also feel strongly about the end user and the employee experience.  That will likely become more important for CIOs as we move into a post pandemic world and flexibility to work anywhere becomes paramount.

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? Driving the digital strategy for VMware and its customers in close partnership across the company is key to my role. For us, successfully turning digital transformation from a concept into reality involves both advanced technology and understanding the human factor – they go hand in hand. I’m always thinking about people and putting people first which drives our focus on the customer experience. 

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We actually look to our business partners to validate the value they receive from our IT investments. We do things such as benchmark our portfolio of spend with the Run/Grow/Transform methodology and interestingly is that we have less percentage of Run (lower value) efforts than our peers AND our cost of IT per VMW HC is lower (so it’s not just that we spend more, but we get more value of the money spent). Also, since all business functions have a technology component, it’s really about the CIO’s role to make sure this is coordinated, effective, secure and efficient.   

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? At VMware, we celebrate people from a wide variety of dynamic backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives – inclusivity and diversity are part of our DNA.  I’m proud to represent the Pride affinity group which is also deeply personal for me. I’m so privileged to work at a company where I can be my authentic self – a married gay man, a space nerd, and a supporter of long-term sustainability – all these parts make up who I am.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? There is a talent war out there for all IT and Engineering roles, but the hardest to fill has been finding diverse candidates in more senior roles or at higher levels. We are focusing a lot of energy in this space.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Be your authentic self.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. We have formal succession planning for my direct reports and down a level or two, and each of my business leaders are well equipped to take on more responsibilities if the opportunity ever presents itself. 

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Know what sort of person/leader you want to be and outcomes you want to drive.  For me, it’s about putting people first and enhancing the overall employee/customer experience. 

What has been your greatest career achievement? Coaching and mentoring has been at the heart of managing people and teams – large and small – throughout my career.  The most rewarding career achievement to me is to see teammates that grow and flourish.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would say getting more focused on retention and hiring certain roles earlier on, particularly to keep more IT engineers from gravitating to the product side.

What are you reading now? That is definitely something I’m working on for the holidays – I’m building a list. Check back with me in the new year. But I’ve always loved poetry and literature – James Baldwin is one of my favourite writers.

Most people don't know that I… am a huge space nerd. And that is part of why I love discovery…the unknown. Most people don’t know I also worked at an Aviation and Motor Racing Museum in surrey at a fairly young age. Discovering the unknown is a form of escapism and that’s exciting to explore.

In my spare time, I like to…Anything outdoors.

Ask me to do anything but… Jump out of an airplane – but I’ve done hang-gliding and paragliding but that’s where I draw the line.