CIO Spotlight: Tony Bozzuti, F5 Networks
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CIO Spotlight: Tony Bozzuti, F5 Networks

Name: Tony Bozzuti

Company: F5 Networks

Job title: Senior Vice President of IT and CIO

Time in current role: 3.5 years

Location: Seattle, WA

Tony Bozzuti is Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at F5 Networks where he is responsible for information technology strategy, applications, cybersecurity and infrastructure. Bozzuti joined F5 in October 2014, from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where he helped establish international clinics and research facilities, and pioneered genomic data warehousing and personalized medicine initiatives. Previously, Tony was CIO of the Commercial Banking Division at JPMorgan Chase (through its acquisition of Washington Mutual), as well as Vice President of Corporate Technology at GE Capital Insurance. In addition, he worked at Signet Bank in Virginia as the Vice President and Manager of Financial Management Information Services.

 

What was your first job? Junior software developer for a brokerage firm in Connecticut called Advest.  

Did you always want to work in IT? No. Out of college, I wanted to go into economics or theatre, but I ended up falling into IT.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a bachelor's degree in Economics and Computer Science and an MBA in Finance from University of Connecticut. In terms of certifications, I am a Six Sigma Master Black Belt.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My career path spans multiple business functions and three industries. More specifically, I started off as a developer in the financial services industry, then went into Ops and joined the finance function of a bank. I moved into banking operations and managed consumer deposit products. After taking advantage of my MBA by working in financial forecasting, I decided to move back into IT because I was interested in how finance could better leverage data and speed up the cycle of analytics. I then took over data warehousing, enterprise data management, and systems of insight. From there, I moved into running IT applications because it was the next logical extension to get closer to the customer. I eventually grew into taking over all of the IT business. After spending 20 years in financial services, I entered the healthcare and research space as CIO of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and now I'm in the high-tech industry as the CIO of F5 Networks.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Digital transformation will be key in converting F5's business from a traditional seller of IT products to a seller of services through new consumption models such as the subscription model. Associated with that is our need to improve productivity through automation.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Digital transformation and converting F5 to a subscription business will be my priority in the year ahead, as well as maintaining focus on compliance, driving globalization, and ensuring we have the right go-to-market levers for our core businesses.

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 should de-emphasize commoditized IT functions such as boxes, wires and data centre management, as these are all areas in which we're moving to managed services for the TCO savings.  We need to emphasise strategic drivers to ensure we're more tightly aligned to business partners. For example, when I enter a room of IT and business groups, I want the two groups to be so tightly aligned that I don't know who's who.  The CIO should be a critical part of transforming the business.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasize customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? Yes, but rather than think of digital transformation as a binary concept, I treat it as a five-pillar model prioritising customer experience, productivity, innovation, security, and quality. 

To balance these pillars, I ensure that I'm listening and keeping a pulse on the organisation. As we look to the future of our revenue streams, we have to be listening for where we need to develop new go-to-market strategies or re-configure the mechanisms for sharing feedback and measuring progress.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? In terms of IT, F5 is early in the digital maturity scale, but we're getting much better internally at offering IT services in a digital format. For example, we're using products like Service Now, so all of our internal interactions are ticketed and managed via SLAs.  As far as KPI's that measure investment in IT, I see those in terms of the health of our business…KPI's such as renewal rate, customer churn, revenue growth etc. 

What does good culture fit look like in your organization? How do you cultivate it? The biggest thing for me is a penchant to learn. If you don't have the ability to learn and improve, then you're not going to be a good fit on my team. I also look for someone with the ability to balance self-confidence and humility, while understanding the dichotomy of discipline and bureaucracy.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? I find it difficult to fill roles that are the creators of work - meaning the leadership roles that require judgement around what to listen to, how to interpret what you hear, and then how to create priorities based on those interpretations. It's difficult to find top IT leaders that can do this.

When you get into the individual contributor space, it's difficult to find folks with security experience and those who can operate inside a multi-cloud environment.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Think of the process like the brakes on a car. Brakes are not there to slow you down - they're there to make you go faster. If you know you have brakes, then you can go faster around a curve. The most important driver of IT success today is speed and that is what process is all about. If you can't change products/services quickly, you won't survive.

"Breathe." A lot of things come into the CIO's purview and the range is so vast that I often find myself just taking three deep breaths before I act.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. One of the most difficult challenges with creating high performing staff is learning how to manage within a matrix. There is no way that an IT leader can be successful alone so it's important to learn principles about how to influence people and how to make deposits and withdrawals with people you work with. You need to be smart enough to know how to balance those "bank accounts."

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Volunteer for the job nobody wants to do. I've done that a lot in my career and it's amazing how much visibility that can give you.

Clearly state your goals to your boss. Managing your career is a big deal.

Know your capabilities. Come up with a list of things you do well and do less well. Play to your strengths and find team mates that can fill in the gaps. This reminds me of tennis player Jennifer Capriati in the 80s. She had a weak backhand but instead of focusing on improving her weakness, she played on her strengths to win.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Creating high performing teams. I could say building a new cancer centre in Africa, or completing a major M&A in Japan, but I couldn't have done any of that without creating high performing teams.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have moved the people on my teams that weren't high performing, off sooner. Great judgement is needed in balancing belief that people can grow and improve and recognizing that at times, the organisation's needs may outstrip the capability of the employee.

What are you reading now? Technology-as-a-Service Playbook by Thomas Lah and J.B. Wood

Most people don't know that I… Am an avid squash player.

In my spare time, I like to…Play the guitar and spend time with two kids.

Ask me to do anything but… Watch the paint dry. I'm not the type to oversee an operation that is not going to grow.

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