CIO Spotlight: Sean Mack, Wiley

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? “Security and privacy threats continue to grow and the market for this talent has become increasingly tight.”

Headshot of Sean Mack, CIO & CISO at Wiley

Name: Sean D. Mack

Company: Wiley

Job title: CIO & CISO

Date started current role: October 2019

Location: New Jersey

Sean D. Mack is CIO & CISO at Wiley, a leader in research and education. Mack is a visionary technology executive with extensive experience leading DevOps, infrastructure, enterprise applications, security, and desktop services in educational technology and publishing industry. Mack has led global teams across a wide range of companies from global financial companies like Experian to innovative tech companies like Etsy. He has also worked extensively in the education technology and publishing industry with companies such as Pearson, Scholastic, and Braven (a non-profit technology education start-up). Throughout his career he has held a variety of technology leadership ranging from Vice President of Operations and Applications for Pearson Education to CIO for a start-up in the streaming media space.

What was your first job? I’ve worked my whole life. I think my first job was as a dog walker to earn extra money when growing up in New York City.

Did you always want to work in IT? No, I wanted to be a rock star for a while. This was the next best option.

In all seriousness, I will say I have always had a passion for technology. I remember learning to code when I was 10 and writing choose your own adventure video games on an i386.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Bachelors in Computer Science from the University of California and a Masters in Business Administration from Seattle University.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I have always focused on technology and the fact that I had a passion for technology, the ability to communicate, and the capacity to think strategically naturally led me to technology leadership. I have worked across a broad range of industries across all aspects of technology. From global financial companies like Experian to innovative technology companies like Etsy. I have worked in everything from development to operations from program management to security.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year?

  • Security
  • Cloud
  • Transformation in DevOps, Cloud, Agile
  • Simplification across all technology products and services

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Wiley is transforming at every level. In research we are supporting the transition to open access publishing. In education we are enabling career-connected learning.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? The role of the CIO is fundamentally changing. The role is shifting from operational to transformational. This change represents more than a shift in responsibilities but a fundamental shift in focus.

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? Wiley is transforming as a business and technology is leading the way. One of my main focuses is the DevOps transformation. One of the amazing things about the DevOps is that it allows us to deliver value to our customers more quickly while improving stability and performance.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? As a mid-sized company with a long history, we have technologies that span the maturity spectrum. From cash cows to rising stars from CI CD in AWS to mainframe applications. As a whole we are now a few years into our transformation journey which is building technologically advanced processes and systems.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Wiley is an organisation that cares deeply about its people. We build a culture that values learning and the well being of our team while having a passion for driving progress for our mission.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Security and privacy threats continue to grow and the market for this talent has become increasingly tight. We are lucky at Wiley to have an amazing team keeping Wiley and our customers secure.

What's the best career advice you ever received? You are the only one responsible for your career. Early in my career my employer had these individual development plans where you detailed out your strengths and weaknesses as well as your short, mid, and long term goals. This document has stayed with me through that job and many others afterwards. This plan has led me through the path of my career and led me to where I am today. I had to realise that no one else would be responsible for taking the next step. I had to not only have the vision of where I wanted to go but be able to take the next step in that direction.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Continuity and longevity are key for Wiley and we have programs for identifying key talent and successors throughout the company. I am lucky to have an amazing team with key members who could step in for me at any time. The challenges, specifically for the CIO role, are finding folks with both the breath of technology experience and the leadership skills needed. 

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Understand where you want to go in your career and take the next step in that direction. Take the next job not because it is where you want to be but because it is a step in the direction you want to end up.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I am tremendously proud of my team’s work in the face of the pandemic and every other challenge over the past three or so years. Our technology team has not only managed to keep the business going through the pandemic but we have been able to grow and transform at a faster pace than ever before.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I am extremely fortunate to be where I am today. I have an amazing job, an amazing team here at Wiley and an amazing family at home. It is hard for me to say I would change anything because if I did, I wouldn’t be here today. That is not to say I did not make mistakes, I made plenty, but I have learned from them, and they have helped me develop into the leader I need to be today.

What are you reading now? How to Measure Anything in Cybersecurity Risk by Douglas W. Hubbard , Richard Seiersen , et al., The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth Book 1) by N. K. Jemisin, The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim, and Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro

Most people don't know that I… once rode my motorcycle from Seattle to New York.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my family. I have a wife and eight-year-old daughter and, one of the silver linings of the pandemic is that I have gotten to spend more time with them. I am also passionate about martial arts. I practice Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jui Jitsu. I also play upright base although, admittedly, not well.

Ask me to do anything but… Paperwork. I am allergic to bureaucracy.