CIO Spotlight: Blake Hankins, CyrusOne
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CIO Spotlight: Blake Hankins, CyrusOne

Name: Blake Hankins

Company: CyrusOne

Job title: Chief Information Officer

Date started current role: November 2011

Location: Chicago, Illinois

Blake Hankins is the Chief Information Officer at CyrusOne. As the CIO, Blake is responsible for all aspects of Information Technology including infrastructure, system administration, development and network. Additionally, Blake heads Project Management and Compliance activities. Prior to joining CyrusOne, Blake worked at Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions as the Director of Business System Development and at Cincinnati Bell as the Director of IT Audit, Compliance and Revenue Assurance.


What was your first job? I started my career as an IT Auditor. My first job was in 2001 as a Staff IT Auditor at Arthur Andersen in Columbus, Ohio.

Did you always want to work in IT? No, I used to want to work as a CFO so my primary degree in college was in Finance. I added the IT degree as I thought it would help with my finance ambitions.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Management Information Systems from Miami University in Ohio. I have the following certifications:

  1. Audit Management Systems Certification (ISO/IEC 19001: 2018)
  2. Leading Management Systems Audit Teams Certification (ISO/IEC 19011: 2018)
  3. Information Security Certification (ISO/IEC 27001: 2013)
  4. ITIL v3 Foundations Certification
  5. CISA & CIA Certifications (Inactive)

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? I went to college to be a CFO but added the IT degree. After graduation, I went to work for the biggest accounting firm Arthur Andersen, but was laid off 5 months later when they shut down. I then worked in the auditing department at Macy's and Deloitte. After Deloitte, I realised I wanted to do something different, so I joined Cincinnati Bell's IT department. Cincinnati Bell spun off to become CyrusOne.

The Andersen time was really valuable in my career as it gave me the confidence to make big changes. Throughout my career I have always thought that if something didn't work out, the worst that I would have to do is wait tables at Don Pablos (Mexican restaurant chain) again like I did after Andersen. I still have never worked in Finance and no longer want to. IT was the right career choice.   

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? I think Artificial Intelligence and robotics will be driving IT investments in the coming year, which means a focus on automation and process efficiencies.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? CyrusOne's top priorities for the year are international expansion and growth. IT's role will make sure IT systems and infrastructure will scale overseas and will help with efficient operations. Additionally, data is key in business decisions and we focus on exposing data in dashboards, real time reporting and business analytics, both for our executives and our customers.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? I think it depends on the person who is CIO and the role the company lays out.  For me, I have additional responsibilities outside of the traditional CIO role including physical security and customer compliance.  There's overlap with project management (compliance) and processes/systems (security) which makes sense, but it is really based on the person and company.

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, I'm leading a digital transformation as it relates to customers. We are in the midst of developing a product to sell to our customers which exposes the data we manage and are responsible for. By exposing that data in real-time through dashboards and reporting, we are able to improve customer satisfaction and help the bottom line.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We have KPIs and metrics to run our business and show the value of IT. Response time, equipment compliance, and throughput are some of the metrics we use to show how IT is helping the business.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? A good culture fit for the organisation is someone who is flexible and willing to dig in and help where needed. Hiring is the most important thing to focus on. Hiring good people who fit the culture I'm creating does wonders for cultivating that culture.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? The most technical leadership roles are the most difficult to fill because it's hard to find a something with a strategic mindset who can also dig in and understand the technical aspects in order to come up with a plan to execute.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Don't be afraid to fail.  Failing is where you learn the most and jump off for your next success.  

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff.  Yes, I always try to have my direct report in place to be my successor, if needed. If I were to leave today, there are 3-4 people who could step in and do my job. Having those people able to setup has been the secret to my success as multiple people are working hard to achieve goals and to make me, as well as the team, look good.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Don't be afraid to take a position that is not in your desired career path. Having diverse experiences will only broaden your skill set and make you more attractive for top roles.

What has been your greatest career achievement? One achievement that I'm particularly proud of is the automation of the order to cash cycle at CyrusOne. We took a very manual process and with the implementation of Salesforce.com and other related systems, were able to completely automate the process in 18-24 months including the automation of order, pricing, approvals and implementation of those orders.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I probably would have gotten my MBA. Other than that, there's not much I would have changed.

What are you reading now? The Phoenix Project - A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win.

Most people don't know that I… love to build a good budget or business case. You can take me out of finance, but you can't take the finance out of me.

In my spare time, I like to…Travel.

Ask me to do anything but… enter data twice. One of my covenants as CIO is data should only be entered once, then integrated or automated for other uses.

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