CIO Spotlight: Mark MacNaughton, EVERSANA

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? “Technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and you can’t stay still.”

Headshot of Mark MacNaughton, CIO at EVERSANA
EVERSANA

Name: Mark MacNaughton

Company: EVERSANA

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: November 2018

Location: Cincinnati, OH

Mark MacNaughton is the Chief Information Officer at EVERSANA, overseeing the platform’s technology operation, including its global application development, IT infrastructure, security, compliance, and data and analytics. Mark brings more than 30 years of experience implementing multi-million-dollar technology-related solutions and infrastructure for clients, including most recently serving as Senior Vice President at a global medical device company. MacNaughton holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Miami University in Ohio.

What was your first job? I was a locker room attendant/pool cleaner at my local public pool.

Did you always want to work in IT? My career in IT actually started with my inability to master Trigonometry my junior year in high school. I dropped out of the AP math program, which left an open slot in my schedule. I took a class in Basic at the local community college and was hooked!

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? My undergraduate (and only) degree is a BS in Systems Analysis Miami University in Oxford, OH. Back in the day, I had several certifications in DB2 and Oracle, but those are long lapsed.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My first job was with Accenture (then Andersen Consulting). That was the perfect first job for me as I had no idea how I wanted to apply my technology skills. I got to see many different industries including retail, financial services, public utilities, defence and healthcare. Healthcare is where I ended up spending the latter half of my career. I was drawn to healthcare due to its connection to the patient. Unlike other industries, we are all consumers of healthcare.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? I think there are two.  Uncertainty around the general economic environment will make us take a very hard look a return on investment. The second will be the rapid migration of healthcare and life sciences to digital engagement, which was jump-started by the COVID pandemic.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT?  Security and stability are always table stakes, but EVERSANA’s CEO is extremely bullish on automation and data. Continuing to look for ways to automate and capture and use data are on the top of the list.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include?  I can’t think of any it should not include. By nature, CIOs often have significant breadth across the organisation and there is a natural connection with an organisation’s COO or other operating functions.   

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 work in close partnership with the leaders of our Digital Technology, Products and Data teams. I lead the efforts around internal digital efficiency efforts and support them in revenue producing efforts. This balance has really helped us focus on both sides of digital transformation.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We are about 18 months into our digital journey. For internal efforts, we track KPIs such as time saved and in the case of automated monitoring, outages avoided. For the more commercial efforts, revenue/margin are the primary KPIs, but customer satisfaction is also tracked.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Like many companies, we have a set of cultural values. We start by asking focused questions during the interview process. However, I think you really have to see how people live the values, especially under duress. Recognising people who exemplify the values is equally as important as pointing out when they are not being followed.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? The talent market certainly has been tight for the last two years, but without a doubt, jobs in information security are hardest to fill – especially manager and above.

What's the best career advice you ever received? I was looking to take a role managing the server and network team at a prior company, as I had never managed a team in that area. My boss at the time told me what I needed to go the other direction and take a more business facing role. She asked me to take on a segment CIO role where I had a dotted line reporting relationship to the president of the segment. While this took me way out of my comfort zone, it really helped me to talk about technology in business terms.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. The hardest transition to senior leadership is stepping away from the tactical – your focus needs to be on developing people, setting strategy and priorities and allocating resources – the most precious resource being your teams’ time. Beyond that, you have to let developing senior leaders manage their teams to achieve agreed upon objectives. 

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Try many different things early on in your career and don’t be afraid to learn and take risks. Technology will continue to evolve at a rapid pace, and you can’t stay still.

What has been your greatest career achievement? I don’t know if it is my most significant, but my most memorable is when I was living in San Diego in 2008. Severe fires broke out and started to sweep towards the data centre. We were running on generator, but for obvious reasons could not bring in a truck full of diesel to refuel.  We ran a series of emergency full backups, and I ended up calling the CEO who flew in the corporate jet so we could get the tapes to safety. The national guard had evacuated my family and I couldn’t return to our house, so I ended up sleeping with my two dogs in a friend’s garage.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have gotten a master’s degree or an MBA. My wife was required to get one for her job as a teacher and we had just started to have children and couldn’t manage both of us doing it at the same time. After that, I just got too busy with work and family.

What are you reading now? I just finished What We Owe the Future by William MacAskill. It was an incredibly thought-provoking book.

Most people don't know that I… l (kind of) to play the Ukulele.

In my spare time, I like to…mountain bike and fish.

Ask me to do anything but… group edit a presentation.