OneAmerica’s José Martínez believes innovation starts with people
Technology may continually change, but José Martínez believes that one thing never will: business success is all about the people.
Recently appointed as OneAmerica’s SVP and chief information officer (CIO), José is responsible for the traditional objectives of a CIO: leading technology initiatives and driving business value to the organization. His approach, however, is not solely focused on attracting talent and developing IT skills sets; it’s focused on developing long-term relationships, both within the organization and with external partners.
“My goal as CIO, is to continue the momentum of driving an organization that thrives and prides itself on business partnership rather than just being a service provider of IT,” says José. “I want IT associates to think of themselves as business associates who specialize in IT, not simply IT specialists. There’s a difference.”
Brooke Benedetti, Senior Director of IT, has already seen the impact of this shift in thinking.
“José’s drive and urgency for execution is felt by everyone,” says Brooke. “There’s also a different focus on relationships. He’s getting to know each team, how they function, and how they are best suited to absorb information and change. He learns how people feel valued and then leverages that relationship effectively to everyone’s benefit.”
José believes when associates think about challenges from a business perspective, they can better understand the impact and provide better solutions. Brooke agrees.
“I value understanding what my business partners are going through on a day-to-day basis,” says Brooke. “Understanding and valuing the skills they bring to the table will ultimately help better service OneAmerica clients and policy holders.”
“And what we want to do in IT is educate our business partners about what our competencies are, in turn helping them better optimize the functions they own,” says Brooke. “We’re moving away from simply taking direction and accomplishing a particular task, but rather acting as thought leaders at the table by bringing industry best practices so we can truly support their goals and objectives.”
“I believe that’s a fundamental shift in how we’re thinking about IT because that’s going to drive a different level of partnership, communication, and collaboration,” says José. “At the end of the day, this shift will drive growth and business for OneAmerica.”
New and Exciting Initiatives at OneAmerica
Since filling the interim CIO position, José has focused on a few key initiatives to help bring value to the organization. The first is shifting the culture to focus on ensuring associates feel motivated, are passionate to come to work, feel challenged, and feel purpose. In order to do that, José has focused on providing a “North star” for each employee.
“We are working on creating IT strategies that give our associates a ‘North star’ every day so they know how they make a difference,” says José. “It gives the IT team an understanding of why they come to work every day. That’s a huge focus point for me as a CIO.”
“Not only is José really relationship-focused, both with our business partners as well as our IT associates, but he has a real sense of urgency and a drive about him that I think bolsters execution in general,” says Brooke. “It’s really fun to watch him grow in this role.”
Other exciting projects include work on cloud strategy and assessments, cloud infrastructure migration, new data architecture, finalizing integrations, application and infrastructure upgrades, implementing and improving the cybersecurity program to strengthen their security posture, and a new focus on their robotics and innovation programs.
Last year was the company’s first year with the robotics practice, launching five robots. This year, OneAmerica will look into launching between five and 10 more robots throughout the company. Brooke was hired about a year and a half ago to build the robotics and AI program in the organization.
Finally, José is focused on creating a corporate communication strategy for IT, both internal and external. “I’ve been working with my staff on talent development strategies as well as staffing strategies,” says José.
“We’re thinking about how to collaborate differently with universities; how do we look at our internship program differently, or our staffing initiatives, both within OneAmerica from a talent acquisition perspective as well as with third-party partners. The team’s excited because they see a good vision and we’re executing toward it,” says José.
“José has stepped into new roles twice now in rapid succession, transitioning from VP of Infrastructure and Application Support to VP of Business Relationship Management and Enterprise Architecture, then into his role as CIO,” says Brooke. “Seeing him grow and the way that he’s adapted to those changes, along with seeing an evolution in the mastery of skills in such a short time period is really inspiring.”
Why Indiana is Primed for Future Growth
Obtaining his undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, José began his career in Atlanta, Georgia, at IBM when IT started to boom in the mid-90s. When thinking about next steps, José and his wife decided it was time to be closer to family and move to Indiana to have “a nice foundation for our children.”
Moving from technical positions to account management to executive leadership positions throughout his career, José wanted to move to a smaller company where he could really move the needle with the range of his expertise. The mission of OneAmerica spoke to José, and the organization has become a big player in the tech space in Indiana over time.
Having worked in a variety of tech positions from his time at IBM to Interactive Intelligence (acquired by Genesys) to now, José had plenty to say about why Indiana is primed for future growth and what makes the state different.
“Indiana’s unique, and we have ‘the crossroads of America’ tagline for a reason,” says José. “In addition to being at the center of the country next to some major cities, it’s just as easy to get to the West coast as it is the East Coast. It’s really beneficial.”
Like many, José believes the standard of living is a big differentiator for Indiana and it was part of the reason his family decided to move to Indianapolis. But Indianapolis has changed quite a bit since they moved in 2005.
“When we moved up here, Indianapolis was not the tech hub that it is today; it’s really boomed,” says José. “I believe one of the reasons it boomed so much is because of our university relationships and the talent we have around the state, not just Indianapolis. We’re not far from an amazing amount of educational power.”
With schools like Purdue, IU, Rose-Hulman, Ball State, Butler, and Notre Dame, Indiana employers have access to a range of great technology talent in our state, with Northwestern, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, University of Cincinnati and others close by.
A big city with a small-town feel, “Indianapolis is also unique in the technology arena because of the culture. Everybody knows everybody,” says José. “The collaborative culture of the Midwest is different than other parts of the country. People ask how they can help each other.”
Lastly, José credits TechPoint as another example of how Indiana is unique and primed for growth. “An organization like TechPoint doesn’t exist in other states. The fact that we have an organization like TechPoint that’s bringing technology companies together is extremely rare, and that speaks to the culture of who we are.”
What José Has Learned Throughout His Career
Tying back to his philosophy at work, José believes that everything ties back to people and how you engage them.
“It’s all about the people,” says José. “You’ve got to invest and listen to your people.”
You can’t just look at it from the internal lens either. “If you only look at your employees and forget about everybody else, that can negatively influence you,” says José. “You can’t forget about your third-party partners because they are large components of what influences [your team]. It doesn’t matter if it’s an employee, contractor, or someone through a third-party; when you’re trying to make waves or transformations, you have to focus on all the people.”
José believes this largely comes down to culture. “You have to create a culture that is engaging, attractive, motivating, challenging, and purposeful.”
Brooke believes that José and OneAmerica are living up to this mission. “I’ve been lucky that in the year and a half I’ve been with OneAmerica, they’ve allowed me to explore not only robotics and AI, but I feel very welcomed to provide my perspective on other things like how to optimize the IT organization and our relationships in general,” says Brooke. “OneAmerica cares greatly about its people, from its associates to its clients and customers.”
“Technology is going to change, and it changes fast,” says José. “But what doesn’t change is the human nature behind it. Hire the right people, enable them, give them purpose, and step back. They won’t do their work simply because the boss says so; they’ll want to do it.”