Just before giving the presentation during a very special TechPoint Tech Thursday in conjunction with Indiana’s Entrepreneurship Week Celebration, Teradata Marketing Applications CTO Tommy Richardson sat down with us for an interview.
We talked about the changing role of the CTO throughout his career, which started as a computer specialist in the Army National Guard leading up to runs with a couple of startups and Chief Technology Officer roles with ADP, Siemens and now CTO at Teradata Marketing Applications.
Since Tommy has experience with startups and Fortune 500 companies, we thought he would have some interesting things to say about being a leader in today’s fast-paced tech industry. He didn’t disappoint.
How has the CTO role changed over 15 years?
“I think it’s changed a lot. I think if you look at technology leaders today — whether you’re a CTO or CIO — you’re really more of a business leader, you know. You’re helping drive the business with technology — enabling the business with technology.”
“Now people really see IT as an enabler. Certainly if you’re in a product development role, you’re building software, building product, you’re very much driving where the company is going …”
“The CTOs are really getting out of the data center, they really got a seat at the table and I think a very important seat at the table because every business today is struggling with leveraging technology and taking technology and really helping drive their business.”
“Think about some of the things that are just completely changing whole industries today — Airbnb, completely changing the hotel market, think about Uber changing the taxi market. I mean, I think folks have proven that if you leverage technology you can create a ton of opportunity for the company, and I think a lot of companies are figuring that if we don’t do it, these startups and these other companies will.”
What lessons would you tell your younger self?
“Embrace risk. Don’t hide from it, don’t be scared of it. Figure out how you can do it … how you can do it in the lab, how you can do it in the reasearch facility … try it out — small pilots, small betas — and roll it out and see if it works. And if it doesn’t work, then change it and start over again.”
“I think in a lot of cases, like myself as a CTO, maybe even others, I was trying to get everything right being a little too risk adverse, and now my older wiser self, which you think would be the opposite of that, I’m like — let’s take a little more risk!”