CIO Spotlight: Paul Nizov, ABBYY

How do you cultivate a good culture fit? “My U.S. military service instilled in me a sincere appreciation for and commitment to hard work, teamwork, clear communication, and leadership responsibility… Those same values translate well into the business world, and I work to cultivate them with my teams.”

Headshot of Paul Nizov, CIO & CSO at ABBYY

Name: Paul Nizov

Company: ABBYY

Job title: CIO and CISO

Date started current role: March 2021

Location: Charlotte, N.C.

Paul Nizov is VP, Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Security Officer (CSO) at ABBYY, a US-based global company that powers intelligent automation. Nizov advocates the importance and impact of security among the company's leadership team. He manages security risk, overseeing the strategic, operational, budgetary aspects of secure software development, data privacy, and information protection. Nizov has extensive expertise in regulatory compliance and security frameworks such as NIST, ISO, SOC, HITRUST, HIPAA and GDPR.

What was your first job? Like most youth, my first job was working within my community. At 15, I was happy to join the workforce and spent a year washing dishes at a local restaurant.

Did you always want to work in IT? I was drawn to science and technology from a young age. Having studied electrical engineering and computer science, I started in engineering and operations, but transitioned into IT.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Juris Doctor. My certifications include CISSP and CISM.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I’ve had the great fortune of working in and experiencing information security, cyber security and IT from different angles, from the public and private sector, working in the US and Middle East, and for global companies. For example, prior to working in software development, I spent time in energy and nuclear.

Most importantly, exposure to different industries allowed me to gain a broad perspective on risk and risk appetite, setting expenditure priorities, cultivating relationships with company leadership, and building InfoSec / IT functions that are both cost effective and deliver maximum value to the core business.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? At ABBYY, we are continuously investing to improve cost-effective cloud consumption and resilience across the enterprise. We believe this is important for ensuring optimal customer experiences, business resiliency and agility. 

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Considering current events with the pandemic and geopolitical context, resilience is and will continue to be a top priority.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The CIO’s effectiveness goes beyond his roles and responsibilities. Having a good working relationship not only with your core teams but also across the enterprise is paramount to success.  The success of the CIO depends on a shared focus on the business objectives.

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? At ABBYY we’re continuously reimagining how people can work – whether it’s bringing in new technology, revamping our processes or upskilling employees. Staying on top of the latest security and ISO standards is also very important and directly relates to how we continuously transform our technology and operations with customer satisfaction and revenue growth at the centre of everything we do. I believe customer experience and revenue growth are tightly tied together and is something our entire management team works to balance.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We’re an established company in the business of delivering innovation, so naturally we extend this to our business. If you look at Gartner’s Digital Business IT Transformation roadmap where they define different stages of digital business readiness as ambition, design, deliver, scale, and refine, I would definitely rate ABBYY’s maturity level at the highest level

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Be a team player willing to support the company’s strategic objectives and core business.  We encourage openness and transparency across all levels of the organisation with a focus on retention and career development.

My U.S. military service instilled in me a sincere appreciation for and commitment to hard work, teamwork, clear communication, and leadership responsibility (as well as succinct language). Those same values translate well into the business world, and I work to cultivate them with my teams. 

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Across the board, technical competencies are in demand but in short supply, from senior software developers to experienced cloud engineers.

What's the best career advice you ever received? No one cares more about your career than you.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. As a leader, it is important to reflect on your own career path and empathise with the aspirations of others. To that end, we encourage training opportunities, knowledge sharing and cross-training.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Never stop learning. Remain curious about technology. Follow trends. And anticipate the next technological disruptor – be it quantum computing that threatens today’s encryption standards or otherwise.

What has been your greatest career achievement? There have been many milestones along the way, but the greatest achievements are those that were challenging due to unprecedented external factors. Currently that has been navigating InfoSec and IT functions through the pandemic and current geopolitical conditions.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Few of us anticipated the disruption caused by the pandemic. Across the board, resilience has become of utmost importance.

What are you reading now? Boys in the Boat, an inspiring story about the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and Sandworm, an account of one of the most recent cyberwars.

Most people don't know that I… climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

In my spare time, I like to…Read historical non-fiction, enjoy woodworking, travel with my family, and go on hikes with our dog.

Ask me to do anything but… Don’t unpack my suitcase the second I get home from a trip.