CIO Spotlight: Shahid Khan, Quantum
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CIO Spotlight: Shahid Khan, Quantum

Name: Shahid Khan

Company: Quantum

Job title: CIO

Date started current role: November 2018

Location: San Jose, CA

Shahid Khan is the Chief Information Officer for Quantum where he leads the Global IT organisation for Quantum and is responsible for its strategy and vision. Khan has over two decades of experience transforming IT teams and deploying enterprise solutions around the globe as well as extensive experience working with international teams dispersed in multiple locations and enterprise solutions for ERP, logistics, manufacturing and warehousing. Prior to joining Quantum in 2018, he served as CIO for Mattson Technology, where he was instrumental in successfully transforming the global infrastructure and redeploying the SAP ERP solution.


What was your first job? I paid my own way through school - so my first job was washing dishes in the college cafeteria and working as a systems administrator for the College of Engineering and Sciences while doing my undergrad in computer science. My first real job out of school was working for Microsoft in the ITG group in Bellevue.

Did you always want to work in IT? I actually grew up wanting to be a doctor. It wasn't until high school, when I was first introduced to computers, that I got hooked. The IBM PC was the new big thing and my first introduction to it was a program called WordStar for editing documents. From there I got into Basic, Cobol and Fortran and journey continued. In IT, the learning never stops, it really is a lifelong endeavour. Even today, the speed of innovation in Silicon Valley far exceeds the pace with which one can learn. And it keeps getting more interesting as time goes on.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I was studying computer science when I was picked up by Microsoft in my senior year. I worked at Microsoft for a while until I was introduced to the world of start-ups in Silicon Valley. Once I came to the Valley, I never went back. Yes, I do hold multiple active certifications: CISSP, CISM, CRISC & MCITP. Today's IT leaders have to be both technology and business savvy to make sure IT remains a competitive advantage for their businesses, so I regularly participate in boot camps and executive education to stay current with the latest trends in technology, management and security.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. My career path has been pretty straightforward, I began working in Silicon Valley for a start-up that provided engineering services and NPI for other start-ups and larger companies. It was a great place to work and there was lots of very fast-paced learning. We were featured in many of the popular computing magazines for our cutting-edge work. We were acquired by a larger manufacturing company that needed a Silicon Valley presence. Soon I became the head of IT for a company with eighteen thousand employees worldwide in more than 10 countries. I experienced my first IPO with them. Throughout my career I have been through M&As and a couple of IPOs and my area of responsibility grew from Director to Senior Director to Head of IT. I took a break in between and ran my own start-up for four years and it was a huge learning experience. After the global financial crisis, I ended up in a role where we needed to turnaround a failing business. We were able to transform the organisation in a couple of years and since then I have been specialising in doing corporate transformations. 

What business or technology initiatives will be most significant in driving IT investments in your organisation in the coming year? Quantum is one of the world's iconic brands in storage solutions. If there was ever a great time to be part of Quantum, it is now. We are growing, innovating and leading the market with our solutions. Being able to scale quickly is our biggest challenge right now and IT has a key role to play in it. We are in the process of re-inventing our brand and that means changing and modernising our internal process automation and collaboration tools to support our sales and marketing and extend to our partners and distribution channels. We are also working extensively on improving our security posture to become a natural fit for our more regulated customers and partners. Another area we are focusing on heavily is business analytics. At Quantum, we generate a lot of data from various sources in engineering, R&D, customers, service organisation, ERP and the list goes on. To consume that data correctly and derive actionable conclusions from it demands serious business analytics capabilities and we are very focused on this aspect.

What are the CEO's top priorities for you in the coming year? How do you plan to support the business with IT? Our CEO Jamie Lerner and our executive team is focused on growth and innovation. The biggest challenge for IT is to keep up with the pace and support this explosive growth while keeping costs in control.  We are always working with continuous improvement in mind.

Does the conventional CIO role include responsibilities it should not hold? Should the role have additional responsibilities it does not currently include? Definitely a lot has changed over time. To be successful a CIO, one should be able to quickly adapt to changes and address the challenges that they bring. IT today is not about setting up computers and infrastructure alone - that is maybe less than 30 percent of what we do. The success of a company depends on proactively making actionable data available to decision makers, so they can make the right calls. IT is the bonding glue between all departments, and I feel CIOs are experts with a unique cross functional perspective of all interconnections in a company. We have best visibility to most cross functional operations. Having a good executive team that knows how to lean on each other for help when required is important for a successful organisation and the CIO is like the wildcard in a deck of cards for the executive team.  

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 - even though I try not to use these buzz words because they can be overemphasised / oversubscribed and lose their meaning. However, we are definitely going through a digital transformation. The effectiveness of our current environment and how can we make it better is always on the mind. Businesses succeed when customers are happy and satisfied, which leads to revenue growth. You cannot achieve that type of growth unless you know how to run your business operations with efficiency. We are very mindful of the opportunities and balance that with our capabilities, tools and processes to support the ongoing growth and demands.

Describe the maturity of your digital business. For example, do you have KPIs to quantify the value of IT? KPIs are one of the most effective ways of gauging your organisation's success and effectiveness.  IT at Quantum is no different. When I started 6 months ago, IT was being run like a traditional IT department in many large organisations. The opportunity for me has been to turn this team of experts into a competitive advantage for our business. We have made a lot of progress in that direction and one of the overriding priorities for me has been to introduce KPIs to assess our success in achieving our goals.  I expect that by the end of this year we will have completely changed the way we work in IT at Quantum.

What does good culture fit look like in your organisation? How do you cultivate it? Transparency, accountability, teamwork and making sure we never let our colleagues down is the mantra we preach here.

What roles or skills are you finding (or anticipate to be) the most difficult to fill? Almost every role in IT is changing and getting more complicated. Today's tools are very advanced and the systems we are deploying now involve AI and machine learning. A lot of data analysis and business intelligence needs are arising, and their benefits are well understood, so finding the right mix of skills is always a challenge.

What's the best career advice you ever received? Failure only leads to success, so never be afraid of failure.

Do you have a succession plan? If so, discuss the importance of and challenges with training up high-performing staff. It is important, however I have been here only 6 months, so succession planning is not at the top of my list of immediate projects now. I've had the good fortune of having very strong mentors throughout my career. I wouldn't be where I am today without their invaluable guidance. Identifying and mentoring high performing individuals is a passion for me. Paying it forward is what I believe in. A few individuals who have worked for me in the past are now C-level executives and I take pride in the fact that I was part of their journey.

What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders? I read this the other day and it stuck with me: take care of your people and they will take care of the business. To aspiring IT leaders, I would say: take care of your team and if they do well you will do well also.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Building successful teams over and over again has been my greatest success.  I have been leading transformations for more than a decade and it has been a very rewarding and successful experience.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I don't dwell in the past too much. No regrets.

What are you reading now? "Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon's Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart" by James R. Doty, MD. It's a very inspiring story of a kid who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in the high desert of Northern California and ends up being one of the most compassionate and sought after neurosurgeons in the country.

Most people don't know that I…  would easily spend the whole night standing in a remote place waiting for the "right shot" with my camera.

In my spare time, I like to…spend the weekend doing long distance motorcycle riding, road trips and lots of photography.

Ask me to do anything but… but dance the Macarena at a wedding!

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