CTO Sessions: Kim Anstett, Iron Mountain

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? “One initiative that we rolled out last year was bringing 25,000 Iron Mountain employees onto Google workspace as our new office collaboration suite.”

Iron Mountain

Name: Kim Anstett

Company: Iron Mountain

Job title: EVP and CTO

Date started current role: April 2020

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Kim Anstett is the Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Iron Mountain, where she leads teams driving digital-first innovations and new product development. With 25 years of experience as a technology leader, she excels in creating a vision, building world class teams and executing technology programs for large, global businesses, while being committed to diversity, inclusion and leadership development. Prior to joining Iron Mountain in 2019 as CIO, Anstett was the CIO for Nielsen where she was focused on technology transformation to increase customer engagement, expand margins and enhance security through cloud-architected, data analytics platforms across AWS, Azure and GCP. In 2016, Anstett was recognised by Tech Diversity Magazine as a Distinguished Chief Information Officer. That same year, Tampa Bay Business Journal named her CIO of the year for public companies and the Tampa Bay Technology Forum recognised her as CIO of the year.

What was your first job? I started my career working in tech over 25 years ago. My first job was at a telecommunications company that has since become Verizon. I took part in one of its early career programs, training in tech and then joined a group responsible for the telecommunications plant design.

Did you always want to work in IT? I have always wanted to work in engineering, as most of my family works in that field. My studies also heavily influenced my decision and path, as my schooling tended to be mainly hardware focused rather than software focused – which built a solid base for my career. It was a blessing that, through family and education, I found a passion for business technology solutions that propelled my IT career.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a degree in Electrical Engineering. I have also received certifications in several other areas throughout my career, including software development, database design, and UI design.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. The first 12-13 years of my career were focused on product engineering, developing solutions for businesses that were closely aligned to customers. After that, I had an opportunity to work on rebuilding a data centre, which was my first exposure to infrastructure and the enterprise IT aspects versus the applications and customer facing solutions.

Rebuilding the data centre was truly eye opening and sparked a passion in me to explore an area where I was more focused on the enterprise ERP systems and infrastructure. This enabled me to better understand how we run an operation in the business and eventually brought me into a CIO role at my previous company. It was also fulfilling being on the other side of the implementation and I believe that was a tremendous career opportunity. It helped me to understand all aspects of operations from our internal business to creating a solution for our customers. I can relate to customer needs but also understand and appreciate the complexity of operating our own business.

What type of CTO are you? I think of myself as a technology leader that is very much focused on enabling business transformation. The world we live in today is changing rapidly and is more dynamic than ever before. This was especially apparent in what we’ve experienced with the global pandemic. I am extremely passionate about helping people less familiar with technology obtain the benefits of technology solutions and realise their vision of how best to serve our customers and markets. Enabling that through and with technology is very fulfilling.    

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? The two areas that are most impactful and interesting to me are cloud and cybersecurity.

The power of the public cloud is tremendous. It allows for speed and innovation due to  rapid onboarding. In contrast to the past, where companies had to acquire their own infrastructure buildout capability, which was time-consuming and came with significant investment. I see the cloud as an enabler for innovation and, in my opinion, it is the foundation for so many of the technologies that are changing the world.

Similar to cloud, cybersecurity is exciting as it plays a vital role in the protection of assets and the ability to maintain the integrity of services we provide for customers. Data privacy is extremely relevant in real time situations that everybody is dealing with - whether they are businesses or consumer. As a technologist, I have to be very focused on the latest trends in cybersecurity and make it a priority in everything we do, whether it's our internal business operations or customer solutions. We have to design for security (security by design) rather than reacting to an incident.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I struggle with anything being “overhyped” because I think we should always be open to what we can learn from technology. It’s important to continue innovating and stay in touch with new developments, but we should avoid going down a path because of a “trend” that isn’t necessarily tied to the overall business need or our technology strategy. We make careful choices about which technological advancements we want to incorporate into our business.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? One initiative that we rolled out last year was bringing 25,000 Iron Mountain employees onto Google workspace as our new office collaboration suite. I'm really proud of what we accomplished because we managed to do this move in six months, which is pretty significant for a company that was relying on other office-based productivity tools.

We made it happen with an agile implementation where we had employees on the new productivity platform within the first two months and then gradually rolled it out to additional geographies and functions. The reason I’m so proud of it is that it was such a collaborative effort and a real culture movement for our company. Starting from February 2020, employees were able to use Google Workspace tools for real-time collaboration, and reliable and high-quality video conferencing. It was just an amazing way to stay connected in a time when people felt isolated because of remote working.

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? I believe that to better serve your customers, you need to give attention to both customer experience and operational efficiency. Our customer experience is at the heart of all of the products and services we develop and provide. From an operational perspective, leveraging new technological advancements and data will not only help us achieve further automation but also make faster decisions.

From an external perspective Iron Mountain is fully committed to helping accelerate customer digital transformation. Many of our customers have been relying on physical and paper-based solutions, but since the pandemic they’ve required a  hybrid solution. As they migrate to digital, Iron Mountain is excited to partner with them on that journey.

To balance that customer experience with operational efficiency, we make sure to advise our own data scientists or cloud engineers. As they have clearer insight into our customers’ needs from the data they receive, they are also able to guide us. That really prepares us well and creates a culture of being customer focused. As a result, it makes it easier for us to build the right product that meets the needs of their own digital transformation. Therefore, I find that focusing on both makes both sides benefit faster.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Operational efficiency is an area that our customers need our help with as they need products and services that provide faster and more reliable solutions. Iron Mountain is focused on bringing AI and ML capabilities to assess the data companies use for their operations and determine how they can streamline processes and remove unnecessary steps. Our software helps make their operations and workflows be as efficient and effective as possible.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? We have a really strong process of connecting with business leaders across Iron Mountain. One instance is our multi-year planning process. This is where we look at each area of our business to discuss growth goals and aspirations and what opportunities we have with technology. It’s a great way to ensure that we stay strategically aligned and prepared with solutions and opportunities – rather than waiting for a problem to come to us.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? I am fortunate that, in my role as CTO, my primary business partner is our Chief Commercial Officer, Greg McIntosh. Greg is responsible for the product management as well as our global strategic accounts and sales enablement. As partners, Greg and I work closely with each other, helping us stay on top of business needs and understand the most critical areas of our work, aligning technology to support that. Many organisations may have similar partnerships, but I highly recommend connecting the technology leaders directly to the commercial leader to optimise workflow and product strategy and development.

What makes an effective tech strategy? A technology strategy is incredibly important as it sets the tone and creates clarity for the employees working within the department. The technology strategy should be our anchor in how we make decisions.

For example, one of the key elements of Iron Mountain’s technology strategy is cloud architecture. Cloud architecture helps us evaluate which technologies to use for a particular programme or product. It’s not to say that everything we would do can follow that one principle, but it guides us in how we evaluate options knowing that cloud architecture is a primary pillar of our tech strategy.

Another element of our technology strategy is data as an enterprise asset, like cloud it  serves as a guide for our decisions. When we evaluate a business initiative or a product, we think about how we can decide on solutions that will maintain and elevate data as an enterprise asset – guaranteeing we can provide enterprise value, integrity and trust for the brand. As a result, in building our systems and integrating across platforms, we can make better decisions knowing that data as an enterprise asset is a fundamental component of our technology strategy. Following these key pillars helps us stay aligned, focused and reach goals, making our tech strategy effective.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? Over the last few years, I’ve seen such an evolution of what’s available. Therefore, my hopes and aspirations as a technology leader is to raise the bar on the expectation of technology. I would like all of our employees and customers to expect innovations and capabilities that they may not originally have thought possible. The CTO role will continue to evolve and influence every aspect of a business as I already see that there’s a need for more applications that provide flexibility and security.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I would say that my most significant achievement, or what I'm most proud of, is seeing so many employees flourish in their technology careers. I find my position to be critical in being able to focus on talent and building people up in their engineering role. My job is also to provide them with really impactful, interesting work, projects and programmes that enable growth and learning. When we marry up talented individuals with impactful work and a sense of purpose, we see careers grow and our business succeed. My most proud moments are seeing individuals progress through their careers and taking on bigger and bolder assignments as they grow.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would say that while I’m thrilled, we had the Google solution in place, I would be even bolder with tools and resources around collaboration for every part of our business. We have a significant workforce that, even through the pandemic, were working in our record centres, additional scanning centres, or making deliveries and servicing customers. I believe that there are opportunities to make their lives easier and provide even more capability especially given the circumstances where maintaining social distancing requirements posed a challenge. I would build out our tools and make sure we think of user experience first as well as our employees having the best solutions at their fingertips.

What are you reading now? I love to read. Currently I’m reading The Heart of Business by Hubert Jolly (the CEO of Best Buy). I would highly recommend it.

Most people don't know that I… am the mother of three phenomenal and high energy boys.

In my spare time, I like to…Sit outside to enjoy fresh air and the world around me.

Ask me to do anything but… Go skydiving.