CIO Spotlight: Sean Wechter, Qlik

CIO Spotlight: Sean Wechter, Qlik

Name: Sean Wechter

Company: Qlik

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: December 2016

Location: Wayne, Pennsylvania

Sean Wechter is the CIO for Qlik, a leading data and analytics platform. Wechter leads the worldwide IS, Security, and Business Systems teams, and is responsible for formulating an innovative technology vision, encompassing long-term planning and delivering high impact results every quarter. He also ensures that the company's global IS strategy is in compliance with Information Protection requirements, managing IT security, recovery and enterprise risks.

What was your first job? My first job was at Philips Electronics on the Interactive Media team, where I was given the opportunity to build websites for a variety of companies and individuals, from musicians to Fortune 500 businesses. This experience truly reaffirmed my passion for technology. It opened me up to a dynamic, never ending stream of innovation where things never got stale or routine. I was, and still am, constantly wowed by the capabilities of technology and how it enables us to make the previously unknown, more readily known (weather, traffic, fantasy football point projections, etc).

Did you always want to work in IT? IT has been my passion ever since I got my start in technology. I love the dynamic nature of the industry and still can't believe I'm getting paid to do what I love.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I hold an MBA in management and a B.S. in finance. From there, I found my passion for IT and was able to translate it to many areas of my career. I became a certified Java programmer and built out a patent in fraud detection for consumer electronic devices.

The goal of my patent was to create a security system to surround cable boxes, so they would be disabled if anyone tried to tamper with them. My love for technology drives my desire to innovate and create products that are both practical and reliable.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. At a macro level, I took a pretty straight path to where I am today. However, when I look at choices individually, there were many career decisions were not anticipated or premeditated. I've lived in multiple areas across the U.S. that I never intended to live. But when you get a job offer in Silicon Valley during the Dot Com era, you take it and don't ask questions. It's been all about focusing on a single goal, but having the ability to pivot where necessary and when opportunity arises.

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Moving to real-time data decision making is a goal we share with our customers. Although we are heavily data-driven already, we want to become even more so and that means access to real-time analytics data and pushing analytics to "the edge," so every department can learn more about the performance of their piece of the business, gain insights and continually improve.

We've recently acquired multiple technologies in Attunity and Podium (now Qlik Data Catalyst) that combine to deliver data integration capabilities to our analytics products. While we are offering these solutions to clients, we'll also be integrating these technologies into our internal IT ecosystem as well.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? As we look to 2020, our top priority will be continuing Qlik's transformation to multi-cloud and subscription-based model. We are seeing the shift to a subscription-based economy really take root in the enterprise. For software companies, transforming to a subscription-based model empowers customers to buy what and how much product they need, when they need it. From an IT perspective, this allows our company to prioritise our customers and give them exactly what they want.

Given my time working as a consultant at Gartner, I know customers want flexibility and choice in their products, and prefer to avoid vendor lock-in. I'm conscious of what we ourselves buy for our IT needs, and we think about this as well when offering deployment choices to customers. As a CIO I always want to ensure that we're helping customers deploy our software in the way that suits their needs and business.

At Qlik, although we operate under a cloud-first and subscription-first model, we of course still offer and support on-premise solutions as well. Our hybrid-cloud model is designed to support our customers' needs by providing flexibility across our subscription, SaaS and on-premise offerings.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? Overall, I think we need more technology focused training for CIOs. Today's CIOs need to be agile and understand both technology and managerial processes. The training available to technology employees generally is very generic and managerial in nature, which doesn't always suit the career we're in. To be competitive as a tech company, we need to push individuals to have technical knowledge in order to succeed.

In the big data world, it's imperative to have the technical training necessary to critically think, access, manipulate and create data. There's an aspect of needing to be more data literate in today's world that could be enhanced with more technical training. I firmly believe when we properly train our employees, including CIOs, it amplifies the team's performance. 

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? Digital transformation is crucial to our business, and when planning our transformation we emphasise the entire spectrum of customer experience, revenue growth and operational efficiency. As a CIO you're always balancing growth vs. operational efficiency. So, when you invest in new technologies, you consider how they help deliver unique customer offerings that boost revenue growth, while keeping in mind how they can simultaneously increase efficiency around existing processes. When companies focus on customer experience it naturally leads to revenue growth.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? We are a data company at heart and are very good at collecting, analysing and arguing with data, so we do look at metrics like KPIs to measure the value of IT. We certainly use data to better our business models and fill in performance gaps.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Our company culture is about global diversity. Most of our teams are highly distributed, and operate heavily through video conferencing to enable collaboration and communication. This helps us create member connectivity across the globe while giving us access to great talent wherever they reside.

Recently, there's been talk in the industry about building data driven cultures, which is great; but it's important that you first create a data literacy standard in order to build a data-driven culture. Data literacy allows for more critical thinking and questioning of your data, and it helps eliminate problems when communicating globally - things are less likely to get lost in translation when teams look at challenges factually. You must be data-driven to survive in the IT industry, and I'm lucky to be at an organisation where there is a clear blending of data literacy with a data-driven culture.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? As our technologies continue to evolve, I anticipate we'll have roles that require specific skills working with niche technologies will be increasingly hard to fill. For example, employees who have specific skills like contract life cycle management will be invaluable.

What's the best career advice you ever received? My grandfather and father instilled in me two key themes that I've carried throughout my life: hard work and enthusiasm. In order to succeed you must be able to roll up your sleeves and work hard, but never fail to be passionate and enthusiastic about the job you're doing. Without those two traits, it doesn't matter how smart you are, it will be difficult to succeed.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. Yes, we do have succession plans that we continue to evolve. I find the biggest challenge is creating rotations and tours of duty to build skills, so the next generation is ready to perform.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? Any career is all about relationships. Build your talent pipeline early and keep in touch with connections so people will want to work with you again.

What has been your greatest career achievement? At Qlik, I am most proud of our back-office excellence program where we simplified our product offerings, our processes and our enabling technologies.  We took several processes from 7 days to 10 minutes for our employees and our partners.

Prior to Qlik, I am most proud of being one of the four original founding members of the Emmy award winning team that built the back end for the largest cable system in the world, Xfinity X1. Seeing the customer and shareholder benefits from such a program was very rewarding!

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have realised that technologies come and go but leadership and accountability in key domains are what produce successful outcomes. Get the right person in the right role and things will come to fruition fast.

What are you reading now? Python automation textbook.

Most people don't know that I… Code every day.

In my spare time, I like to…Travel with my family.

Ask me to do anything but… Give driving directions…let's just say, I would be in big trouble without Google Maps.


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