CIO Spotlight: Dean Seiveno, Fennemore Craig

CIO Spotlight: Dean Seiveno, Fennemore Craig

Name: Dean Seiveno

Company: Fennemore Craig

Job title: Chief Information Officer

Date started current role: June 19, 1995

Location: Phoenix, AZ

As Fennemore Craig's Chief Information Officer, Dean Seiveno oversees aspects of the firm's Information Systems, Records Management and Knowledge Management sections. He began his career at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California as a systems analyst. For over 22 years, Seiveno has provided the technological leadership and vision for the firm.

What was your first job? My first job in IT was with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the Facilities Division.  It was an internship that I worked at while I completed my degree.

Did you always want to work in IT? IT was more of a career that I embraced, rather than pursued. IT degrees when I went to college were geared more towards programming, and while it was interesting, I knew that full-time development was not where I ultimately wanted to be.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I graduated from DeVry with my B.S. in Computer Information Systems. I have had a fair amount of training in my career, but never pursued certifications. I will be obtaining my CISSP certification in 2019 for business reasons.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I would not consider my path a long and winding road.  I worked at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory before moving to Arizona to work with Fennemore Craig. I have done a bit of everything in IT from software development, network and database administration, and security.  I count myself very fortunate to have worked at two very different, but prestigious organisations.

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

  • Security - both technical and risk management
  • Data analytics - Supporting and driving the business goals and development efforts within the organisation with data-driven insights.
  • Infrastructure / Cloud - Hybrid adoption of technologies and services based on supporting the functional and security requirements of the organisation.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT?

  • Innovation - In every aspect of the organisation and that does not mean that IT or technology necessarily has to play a large role in the innovation effort
  • Technology which supports the business goals and objectives of the organisation
  • Constant improvement - To never tire of wanting to improve our business and the ways in which we all provide our expertise and services in delivering it.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? I am a bit jaded with my answer on this one.  I think everyone is different, and has different strengths and talents.  Good organisations, even great ones in my opinion will capitalise on the strengths and talents of each individual, including the CIO even if it means something they are responsible for may be outside of the typical CIO responsibilities.  I think longevity of service in an organisation also impacts the responsibilities of a CIO.  If a CIO is good at what they do, their strengths could and should be applied in different areas of the organisation to achieve greater results.

See my first point.  I believe that responsibilities and job duties are great on paper, but when it comes down to it, good people end up taking on additional responsibilities and tasks because they are engaged, and they care.  They use those characteristics to apply their experience and talents to whatever task is presented to them and usually end up assuming those responsibilities when they have done a good job with them.

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 don't think it matters what industry you are in, digital transformation is a part of every leader's mandate.  I would say that we emphasise the customer experience and operational efficiency, which in turn affects revenue growth. Technology is, well, sometimes not up to operating at or meeting our expectation level.  Emphasising great customer experience no matter the project or task is at the heart of all that we do.  We are a service department, and as such, we should always be striving to provide the highest level of service and satisfaction to everyone in our organisation.  We utilise project management heavily in all that we do.  As part of those processes, we focus on operational efficiency, which provides us with the ability to balance efficiency and experience. Operational efficiency in our organisation is a huge component of customer experience and cannot be decoupled.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We do maintain some measurable KPI's so that we can review with individuals and project teams regularly.  Developing and using KPI's within our department is an ongoing effort.

What does good culture fit look like in your organization? How do you cultivate it? Good culture fit isn't any one characteristic in my opinion. It is a blend of characteristics and qualities, but in essence encompasses a strong desire to do the right things, for the right reasons. Cultivation by nature takes time. Every person has a responsibility to cultivate good culture within the organisation, and myself as the CIO should exemplify and communicate it often. In my opinion, so much of cultivation comes from good communication. Good communication is hard to find and probably one of the most difficult things as a CIO I have found trying to develop in others.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Development skills are the hardest to find and continue to become more critical in environments where integrations with on-premise and cloud systems require it.  Again, good customer service is a skill and something that cannot be overstated.

What's the best career advice you ever received? The best advice I ever received was to love what you do, whatever you choose as a career.  Do the best work you are capable of doing and let the results speak for itself.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high‐performing staff. Yes, I have worked for my entire career with a succession plan in mind and with processes in place to ensure that succession planning, even down to the project level is being accounted for. Having good project management in place to ensure that tasks related to cross-training, documentation, mentoring, etc. are all included.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Seek to know the business just as much as the technology that drives it. My advice to aspiring IT leaders is to look in the mirror and ask yourself some of the following:

  • Are you equipped personally or built to be an IT leader (contrary to popular belief not everyone is)?
  • Are you technically ready, at this point in your career to be an IT leader, and if not, what do you need to work on or cultivate to get there?
  • Are you a good communicator, both in writing and verbally?  If not, you will have a tough time being a leader.

What has been your greatest career achievement? My greatest career achievement is not anything that I have accomplished really.  What I consider to be great is the positive feedback that I receive about how I conduct myself both professionally and personally and the consistency of results that we achieve as a team.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Not much really.  I constantly try to improve from project to project and year to year.  Looking back frequently to see how small adjustments can be made to continuously improve the projects and enhance our goals keeps me from having to make large adjustments later.  Making those adjustments the new standard keeps myself and the team moving forward, continuously improving.

What are you reading now? Just finished reading "The next person you meet in heaven" by Mitch Albom. I know, it is not related to technology, but the first book "The five people you meet in heaven" and this one, the sequel are fantastic reads.

Most people don't know that I… Like to write, not for public consumption, but have written some poetry and other things for personal gratification.

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my family, my grandkid, almost kids with my second on the way later this year.

Ask me to do anything but… Pick weeds. I hated doing it as a kid, and even more so as an adult.


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