CTO Sessions: Vince Padua, Axway

What makes an effective tech strategy? "An effective tech strategy is one that actually delivers usage and adoption."

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Axway

Name: Vince Padua

Company: Axway

Job title: EVP, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer

Date started current role: December 2016

Location: Austin, TX

Vince Padua guides his team in innovating the technology and products that combine to form the company's industry-leading enterprise integration platform. His focus is to capitalise on technology trends, drive portfolio and architecture transformation, accelerate new business models, and foster co-innovation with partners, developer communities, and customers. Prior to joining Axway, Padua spent 18 years driving innovation for IBM, Dell, and Intel, and has assumed various leadership and founder roles in commerce and platform start-ups. He holds 6 patents, a B.S. in Computer Science from Fresno State, and an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler Business School).

What was your first job? Technically, my first job was working in the parts department of a car dealership!

Did you always want to work in IT? My mother actually wanted me to be an accountant. I started taking a few accounting classes and while I was pretty decent at it, I was rather miserable doing it. As I was going into undergrad, the Internet was becoming a thing and I looked at the course descriptions, and I thought the subjects in computer science looked far more interesting than accounting. My mom said, “I don't know about this whole tech thing, it may not work out!” I told her I thought I’d be able to figure something out, so I tried it. I’d say it worked out OK!

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a bachelor’s in Computer Science and Mathematics from Fresno State and an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler Business School).

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Early on, I held various leadership and founder roles in commerce and platform start-ups. I went on to spend time at Intel, Dell, IBM, and now Axway. Other than my first two startups, I would say that almost every domain of IT and software that I've been in has been an area where I was never the expert when I joined. Generally, I’m an expert in not being the expert. I've always tried to align business and technology, which ultimately means trying to understand what problems customers are having and then trying to be empathetic with how we go about trying to solve those problems in terms of commercial, engineering or technical resources.

What type of CTO are you? I think people assume CTOs are focused purely on technology, whether it's the product technology or the corporate asset technology. To an extent, yes, but I believe that today's CTOs moving forward are ones that see the technology as the enablers of the business. Some might call my role that of the “visionary” or “strategist” behind our marriage of business and technology: I try to keep that holistic view of the commercial model and how our technology enables it.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Blockchain. The notion of a decentralised, distributed ledger that is immutable and (arguably) not hackable applies to no end of difficult use cases that sit on brittle technology right now. Things like the way you get your direct deposits, the way you do credit card payments… all of those things are ripe for disruption and technologies such as Blockchain are in a very good position to do it in a way that's arguably more scalable and ultimately will be able to offer a more modern and secure experience.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Also Blockchain! The ecosystem is too severely fragmented right now, and while that value may be there eventually, I don’t think we’re there yet. When Coinbase went public, they were suddenly more valuable than Goldman Sachs, Citibank and Chase combined! It’s just really hard for me to get my head around that right now.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Recently, we’ve been working internally on an incubator. We don't think of innovation as something that a small group of people goes off and comes back a year later and says “Hey, look, we have this new thing.” We want it to be open and transparent, we want the company involved, and we want to be able to showcase our progress in very small increments, over as little as two weeks’ time. There aren’t yet a lot of fruits of our labors so to speak, but I'm very proud of it, because our previous commercial model wouldn't have allowed for this kind of continuous innovation. We were more or less doing what the customers tell us to do, and one thing I say all the time is: if our customers could tell us exactly what they want, then they could tell our competitors too. We need to be able to ask the right questions, do the right research, connect the right dots to develop the earned insight.

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? All customers want “better, faster, cheaper.” When we're working on digital transformation, whether it’s the modernisation of the products, the platform, or our commercial model, it all has sights towards driving growth and making us more efficient as well as effective. We spend a lot of time working on ensuring that we are moving in the same direction. If we're going to be a subscription-based company like we are now at Axway, then customer experience is incredibly important. The platform of the technology has to be there to do it, and if we do that well, then we should find more growth – and if we have a shared infrastructure, we should get more operationally efficient. Ultimately, they all have to be at the table and maybe in one sprint or in one release, you can be more focused on one versus the other, but fundamentally you have to deliver on all of them.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Legacy infrastructure and skills. Enterprises often have a lot of older infrastructure that they’re working on moving to the cloud to modernise, or maybe they want to leave it alone and make sure it doesn't tip over. As an API company, we think you should be able to help customers take advantage of those investments and not just put them in moth balls. You can leverage your heritage IT and open it up through APIs with the right approach, because there is untapped value that sits there, whether that is legacy customer information or old inventory data you can do analytics on. And as we modernise the legacy infrastructure, customers will sometimes feel they don’t have the right skills to do it. We help them chart a path forward, both in terms of how they leverage the legacy infrastructure and in building the right skills to do it.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? When I joined Axway in 2016, it was a license-based company. Today, 70% is subscription. That was a big transition: in a subscription model, you need to deliver customers value on an incremental basis. Previously, we would release new versions of the product, maybe every 12-18 months, and then our customers would wait another 12 to 18 months to upgrade, so we had a 36-month gap in where customers were and where we wanted to go with the product. Our commercial model needed to move there as well: somebody in the field selling it needed to demonstrate how in six months or in a year, we’ll be adding a certain functionality and how the client will be able to take advantage of it. You're ultimately investing for the long run because you believe in the direction we're going, that we have a platform and talent and technology set that can ultimately deliver it.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Yes. Just the other morning I was speaking with a client that is on a prior version of the Amplify API Management Platform. They were asking for something to be added that is currently available in the latest version that's out and available now, but they are telling us that they don't want to migrate because it's too difficult. Whether it's because they're an incredibly large institution and therefore operate a little more slowly, or they're turning over leadership or teams, there is sometimes this mismatch between what we would prefer everybody to be doing with the products and the technology, and where they are and what they're trying to achieve.

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy is one that actually delivers usage and adoption. A silly example is the iPhone and its facial recognition software to unlock the phone. If people don't trust Apple with the information, or it's very buggy or doesn’t work because everyone is wearing masks while out and about, or the technology only works well for certain people; if people don’t adopt, then it's not very effective.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I really think the CTO has to take a wider perspective than just the technology. They have to be very in tune with what the business expects to grow and ultimately deliver a great customer experience. You need to fully understand what the business is trying to do and anticipate what it needs to do that.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Honestly, I don't think I've achieved it yet. There are a lot of wonderful moments, a lot of wonderful people, and a lot of great achievements, but I couldn't say what the greatest is, because the story's not over yet.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I don't think I would have done anything differently, because what I've done is what's brought me to this point. Looking back I do believe not becoming an accountant was the right decision.

What are you reading now? just finished Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon, and I’m currently reading a white paper on Split Architecture for Large Scale Wide Area Networks. I guess that’s an example of enjoying the intersection between business and technology.

Most people don't know that I… While in high school, I played a role in a movie as a rising basketball star from the 'mean' streets of California. The good news is, that movie was pre-digital and cannot be found unless you know where it is hidden (on VHS) in my house.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with family and friends.

Ask me to do anything but… Participate in a naming session. Ask me to help name our latest whizbang thing and all of a sudden, my calendar is full!