CIO Spotlight: Sanjay Macwan, Vonage

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? “The CIO role is central to delivering corporate social responsibility. This includes the influence the role can have on the company going green or boosting diversity…”

Headshot of Sanjay Macwan, CIO & CISO at Vonage

Name: Sanjay Macwan

Company: Vonage

Job title: Chief Information Officer & Chief Information Security Officer

Date started current role: 2019

Location: New Jersey, USA

Sanjay Macwan joined Vonage in 2018 as SVP, Enterprise Engineering and Networks, leading Vonage's enterprise platform and engineering teams to drive innovation and new development in the Company's solutions for Enterprise customers. In 2019, in addition to his ongoing responsibilities, Macwan was appointed CIO and CISO. In his CIO role he has driven secure, scalable, Cloud-native and SaaS-Native transformation of the global technology infrastructure as well as build data-driven culture to deliver best in class Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX). With more than 20 years of experience in technology leadership, strategy and execution, Macwan has built and led highly successful technology innovation programs that have delivered transformation, operational efficiency and a sustained culture of innovation across multiple industries.

What was your first job? My first full-time job was as a Software Engineer, where I was responsible for designing and coding a large scale system management software platform. This gave me an invaluable introduction to the industry, where I was able to  use foundational computing technologies such as C Programming and Unix Operating System and cutting edge user interfaces to deliver large scale software applications serving global enterprises.

Did you always want to work in IT? Growing up, I wanted to pursue medicine and considered becoming a doctor. However, I also had a strong affinity to mathematics and that started my pursuit of an engineering and technology focused career. 

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I was very fortunate to have a fantastic education that opened the door for many career opportunities. I earned BS in Electrical Engineering and MS in Computer Science from New York University School of Engineering. I also completed the ASIS Security Executive Development Program at the Wharton School. 

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My career has always been in the field of technology, but I have taken detours within the technology field. For example, after working as a Software Engineer with a hands-on programming role that I enjoyed a lot, I detoured into a Systems Engineer and Architect role that involved very little programming but required big picture understanding. It was an uncomfortable and anxious detour quite early in my career, but that set the foundation for my subsequent career of broad and strategic technology roles. 

Other key detours have been when I took on different roles from senior R&D and Product Development leader for a multitude of technology areas to Chief Technology Officer (CTO), to Chief Information Officer and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). This has given me a 360 degree understanding of developing, deploying, securing, and operating large scale technology infrastructure and services. 

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Over the past 3 to 4 years at Vonage we have become truly a cloud native, SaaS native, security first, and data driven organisation. Now, in the upcoming year, our investments are focused on two broad themes. The first focus is on delivering world class Customer Experience (CX) and world class Employee Experience (EX), which are fundamentally critical to ensuring that Vonage continues to lead the way in the industry. The second focus is enabling a greater scale of business, to help grow our customer base, market penetration, revenue and margin growth. 

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? The top priority is to accelerate growth and the global scale of Vonage. The best way to deliver on that priority, besides best products and services, is to enable world class Employee Experience and world class Customer Experience. 

Automation plays a critical role in this goal. Through employee centric and customer centric automation, we can help employees do their jobs more efficiently. This, in turn, has a knock on effect on our customer base, who can access our products and services more intuitively, with greater levels of reliability, security, and trust. All of our IT systems and processes are designed to support this employee and consumer experience end to end. 

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The CIO role is central to delivering corporate social responsibility. This includes the influence the role can have on the company going green or boosting diversity, as well as inclusional aspects of workforce and supplier/partner ecosystem. Through the purchase and operations of core technologies, CIOs ensure that companies can have direct visibility and understanding of their carbon footprint, help set diversity and inclusion objectives and embed best practices across the organisation. 

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? Not only has Vonage undergone a digital transformation as a company; we are also in the business of helping customers across multiple sectors to digitally transform their workflows. Our cloud-native APIs and communications and collaboration solutions are crucial in supporting the customer experience for many companies across a variety of sectors. 

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We have a significant maturity in our digital business as we are a highly cloud-native, SaaS-native, automation and data driven organisation.

What does good culture look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Good company culture values trust, excellence, accountability, and collaboration. These are core values that we at Vonage practice daily in every interaction. 

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? In addition to cybersecurity, data science and engineering skills (which we know are in high demand), we’re also seeing that roles that require a hybrid mix of technical and business analysis skills are harder to fill quickly.

What's the best career advice you ever received? The best career advice I received is “teach so you can learn – learn continuously”. In order to teach something effectively, one must not only have a deep understanding of the subject matter, but must also anticipate questions from different vantage points from students, co-workers, and customers. 

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. We take talent development and succession planning very seriously and devote specific attention to this effort in our annual planning and through regular assessment.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I would advise aspiring IT leaders to develop a 360 degree view of their work in the early stages of their career. When you’re at the start of your career journey as a technology innovator, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus solely on building a solution. But a successful IT leader must understand all aspects of their technology, not only from a development perspective, but also as a user, supplier and operator. I’d encourage aspiring IT leaders to learn other aspects of the business, such as UX, to help gain a more holistic understanding of their work. 

What has been your greatest career achievement? At Vonage, I’m proud to have overseen the company’s expansion and transformation into the cloud and SaaS native company that it is today. As part of this expansion, I’ve also taken a particular interest in talent development, and I take great pride in watching my team members develop and grow not just in their own core technical discipline but also develop a deeper cross-functional perspective.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? When I look back over my career, I am grateful for all the experiences and opportunities I had. That being said, I believe that I would have benefited from a wider range of challenges earlier in my career. As I mentioned previously, I strongly believe that IT leaders are most successful when they have a 360 degree outlook on their technology, and I feel that I would have benefited from a wider array of experiences even much earlier on in my career.

What are you reading now? I am currently reading Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst, by Robert M Sapolsky, which explores the best and worst aspects of human behaviour. Reading this book has made me consider the impact that environment and experiences have in shaping an individual, as well as an understanding of the evolutionary history of human behaviour.

Most people don't know that I… Most people don’t know that I love to run. This is something I never thought I would say, but a few years ago I got into running and I now have a running streak that’s into its fourth year. I find running to be a great source of discipline and motivation. Now, even after a long day of work, teaching, and family time, I will put on my head torch and go out for a late night run to maintain my streak.

In my spare time, I like to…to draw and paint with my family. Whether it’s drawing the Vonage logo on office whiteboards or getting inspired by a legendary artist Bob Ross, I enjoy the creative process of drawing and painting.

Ask me to do anything but… Don’t ask me to dance.