Learning en route: A conversation with CTO John Wondolowski

John Wondolowski has been in the CIOs inner circle for years now. Now CTO of Solutions II, Wondolowski spoke to Pulse CEO Mayank Mehta on AI in cyber security, open point solutions and what excites him most about newer enterprise products.

Mehta: We’re very excited to have John here with us today. Thanks so much for taking the time to join. In terms of the advice you would give directors and VP on the platform, how would you think about helping them navigate their career in getting to the C-suite? 

Wondolowski: It’s about partnering outside of the business. It’s about valuing your people inside of it. It’s about having an absolute unquenchable desire to learn. Learn about technology, about business, about people, about managing and about leadership. You’re going to elevate because when you learn you’re adding more. You have the opportunity to add more and more value in conversations. 

At Central Garden and Pet I learned firsthand how distribution centers work. I worked in a distribution center, side by side with some with some of the people, to really learn how the systems were being used and how the systems were supporting the front line people.

“Each company’s ability to retain to attract and then retain just becomes unmanageable. So the old phrase ‘you’ve got to do more with less’ fits.”

Mehta: Let’s transition to trends that are emerging in cyber security as we head towards 2020 that people should be aware of.

Wondolowski: The pain points really are around how much you can do. Let’s assume a security information event management system in place and you’re getting alerts. On the one hand you don’t want all those alerts to look the same. You want to apply some intelligence to it. But also, along with AI and machine learning, not only will you be able to better correlate, add better context to security alerts, you could  take those alerts, or take those vulnerabilities and automate responses to those things that you want to be able to remedy, resolve or address.

We have a huge gap in the availability of trained and qualified security for cyber security professionals and the amount of unfilled jobs is tremendous. Each company’s ability to retain to attract and then retain just becomes unmanageable. So the old phrase ‘you’ve got to do more with less’ fits. We have less cyber security professionals, we’re going to do more with them. I’m not alone in thinking that AI and machine learning will play a role. Maybe not in the current form. Maybe it has to be refined over the years but it can do some stuff today. It’ll be even better going forward.

Mehta: One of the things that’s come up over and over is point solutions versus platforms. From a cyber security point of view, how do you think about balancing the two? 

Wondolowski: In today’s world, even though there’s complexities that didn’t exist years ago, there is one thing that has made platforms a lot easier to attain. And that is that nearly everything available now is open. Much more open than it was eight years ago. If you think of just in terms of data center and proprietary operating systems, that’s pretty much your legacy systems with proprietary operating systems. But for the most part, we’re past that and we’re into open data centers now. 

“[R]esearch firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC perform an incredibly valuable role. Candidly, some of it may not be tremendously independent, but it’s directionally accurate.”

My recommendation is you have to only buy open technology solutions that can seamlessly become part of your platform. I think that’s very different than 10 years ago when an IBM platform solution that included everything from the sin to the patching was the way to go. Put the best point solution it in place and hope that it fits together or look at the top point solutions and pick the one that is the most open.

Mehta: Business leaders are often involved in these conversations as well. So how do you see leaders approach shadow IT?

Wondolowski: There’s no real easy answer there. My belief is traditional enterprise IT has technology silos, data silos, with technical debt, that conspire to keep you from being quick and agile and being able to handle more demand than you ever could in the past. So you can get to these projects because you have this defined future state. You’ve got to knock down the silos. you’ve got to pay off your technical debt. When you do, you’re going to free up resources to do more. It’s not going to fix the problem overnight. It may not fix the entire problem. But it’s going to start fixing the problem.

One last thought. Once you really work on your technical debt, once you’ve knocked down the silos that are holding you up on your agility and you’re able to handle more of your demand, then you have to evangelize the value of the integrated data. Data is the new oil. If you can centralize that and if you can help the top of the organization in the C suite, you can really talk about the value to the company from the insights. 

What are your thoughts on Shadow IT? Join the conversation by becoming a Pulse-verified member

Mehta: What are some of the resources you use to drive your research and your own decision making? 

Wondolowski: The research firms like Gartner, Forrester and IDC perform an incredibly valuable role. Candidly, some of it may not be tremendously independent, but it’s directionally accurate. So if you can correlate Forresters wave with Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, the five leaders are going to fall out. 

You don’t always have to be working with leaders. The space leaders two years ago and magic quadrants and enforcer waves are, in general, struggling with the explosion of data. The data is spread across hybrid cloud today to be able to perform their function, which is data protection. So you have to look at new vendors who are doing things in new ways, because who would have thought that you could virtualize data? 

A smart CISO’s combat against cybersecurity: Outsourcing

Mehta: One last question. What are some of the newer enterprise products that you’re excited about that you wouldn’t mind sharing with the community here?

Wondolowski: You’ve always got to keep a wide view on what you’re looking at. One of the things that we’re really excited about the future is in robotic process automation. Specifically, we work with automation anywhere. I know that when I say robotic process automation to a group of 15 CIOs a year ago that 10 of those CIOs think that I’m talking about the factory floor. But it’s all about business processes. We’ve been doing business process automation and business process management probably for 20 plus years. But this is different. And the ROI and value once you start putting this into your organization becomes eye-opening. 

Mehta: That’s really helpful John, thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. 

Wondolowski: I appreciate it. Thanks for the time.


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