CIO Spotlight: Iain Saunderson, Spinnaker Support

What's the best career advice you ever received? “Hard work and doing your homework pay dividends.”

Headshot of Iain Saunderson, CIO at Spinnaker Support
Spinnaker Support

Name: Iain Saunderson

Company: Spinnaker Support

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: November 2017

Location: Denver, Colorado

As Spinnaker Support’s Chief Information Officer, Iain Saunderson is responsible for the internal and external facing technology leveraged at Spinnaker Support, as well as managing the security practice. Saunderson has over 30 years of experience implementing complex technologies across a wide variety of commercial and government verticals. He has served in leadership roles in organisations including Oracle Corporation, P2 Energy Solutions, and DBAK. Saunderson’s experience is in leading enterprise architecture, development, and managed services organisations. Saunderson lives in Colorado and enjoys spending time trail running and skiing in the mountains.

What was your first job? My first real job was as an Oracle developer after graduating with Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Business Information Systems from the University of Natal in South Africa.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, I was always fascinated by computers and programming. I studied Computer Science and Business Information Systems, which I loved, and I remember logging into my first Oracle database in 1988. I knew from an early age that IT was an area I was very passionate about.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Business Information Systems from the University of Natal in South Africa.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Not really as I was always focused on technology. I did double major in environmental science and that side feeds my passion for the outdoors.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? We have a significant investment in developing our revenue operations centric systems, which will allow us to focus more than ever on our customers.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? With our high growth, developing an organisation that perform at scale is a key theme in the coming year. We have seen growth across the globe as business leaders have recognised how transformational third-party support can be for their business. With the economic situation as it is globally, we are also ensuring organisations are aware of how third-party support can enable them to cut costs without compromising on support.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? There is always opportunity to realign responsibility at the C-suite level and we are always reviewing if alignment of roles and responsibilities makes sense.

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? Yes – we have always been a cloud only company, so that has set us up for success from the beginning. With our focus on revenue operations and customer success we can gain more insights into what our customers are needing and wanting than ever before thereby helping improve the Spinnaker customer experience.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We do. We measure all aspects of our business with KPI metrics and are constantly refining our data and metrics.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? We are a fast-paced organisation with very little bureaucracy. This means we can make sound decisions quickly, so we look to hire people that fit that profile.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Highly experienced technical resources required to deliver our service are always a challenge, but we have invested significantly in a global recruiting engine and are able to hire in most geographies. IT faces a skill shortage globally, so this is a challenge, but we are still able to welcome talented people to our team.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Hard work and doing your homework pay dividends. It sounds simple but it has helped me to get where I am today. You can have all the talent in the world but not putting in the work or not being prepared will become an issue.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes. This past year and next has been a large focus on staff development. We have seen record lows in staff turnover, and this has helped us develop move people into new more challenging roles.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Gain as much practical experience before moving into a management role. It’s so much easier managing an organisation when you understand how that organisation functions and performs day to day duties. It’s easy to rush your career progression past this initial first steps.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I don’t necessary dwell too much on past achievements, and like to be focused on future initiatives, but I do think the third-party support business we have developed in Spinnaker is best in class. To hear from customers about how they have transformed their business makes the hard work worthwhile.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Not a thing. I’m incredibly happy with how my career has panned out, but despite that I’m still keen to take Spinnaker forward.

What are you reading now? I’m working my way through Bill Gates’ reading list.

Most people don't know that I… played the bagpipes in high school!

In my spare time, I like to…spend time outdoors - trail running, backcountry and resort skiing, rock climbing and backpacking.

Ask me to do anything but… play board games!