The finalists for WashingtonExec’s Chief Officer Awards were announced April 15, and we’ll be highlighting some of them until the event takes place virtually May 27.
Next is Chief Information Officer Award finalist Blaze Mathew, who’s vice president and CIO at CTIS. Here, he talks professional achievements, career turning points, career advice and more.
What key achievements did you have in 2019/2020?
I played an integral role in helping CTIS to achieve three ISO certifications simultaneously — ISO 9000 (Quality Management System), ISO 20000-1 (Service Management System) and ISO 27001 (Information Security Management System).
In addition, we maintained our FISMA compliance security posture on CTIS’s key government contracts. This includes maintaining and reporting SLAs for clients on a monthly basis.
We also had great success ensuring a seamless transition for teams to work from home during the COVID pandemic, while continuing to successfully deliver on projects and corporate initiatives.
What has made you successful in your current role?
I have a passion to serve and ensure that all company clients, teams and projects succeed. My ability to care and motivate others is instrumental to my success as a leader.
I am proficient in utilizing limited resources and tight budgets to maximize outcomes and services.
I trust in God and people while working with our high-performance agile teams.
What was a turning point or inflection point in your career?
I have had many turning points in my career.
One of them was many years ago, when I made the transition from engineering to IT operations and started managing a wide spectrum of IT operations and security for CTIS and its key government projects.
By embracing the continuously changing IT landscape, I have been at the forefront of evolving technology, including virtualization and cloud services.
Implementing the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) at CTIS helped foster an integrated 3-month planning perspective. This has enabled us to better plan our architectural runway and driven necessary monthly infrastructure and security upgrades/updates.
Lastly, I would say having strong partnerships with our primary vendors has helped on many occasions.
What are you most proud of having been a part of in your current organization?
I am proud — but more so thankful — that my work and efforts, which include managing the integral IT infrastructure and security services upon which cancer research relies heavily, ultimately contribute toward finding a better cure for cancer.
Also, I am very proud of my team and the family at CTIS. They have always come through, even during the toughest times.
How do you help shape the next generation of industry leaders?
A critical factor is always to have a systems thinking approach (i.e., seeing the bigger picture, its interconnections and consequences) to solving large, complex challenges.
Solving an immediate problem in one domain should not cause inefficiency or risk in another domain, either now or in the future. I expedite cloud-first strategy, especially for commodity services. I continue to invest heavily in my people and IT security.
What’s one key thing you learned from a failure you had?
I have learned to concentrate on outcome-based practices, instead of just evidence-based practices. This helps us to focus on the “why” and eliminates process drag and associated waste, thereby making processes more efficient as we refine the shortest path.
Another lesson is to always know your weak areas across domains and to work hard to fortify them.
What’s your best career advice for those who want to follow in your footsteps?
Once you surpass a certain level, your outcome is heavily dependent on your team. So, spend time to hire the best candidates, and invest in their development. Stay abreast of the latest technological advances and evaluate them to enhance your ecosystem. Be honest and truthful in your work (and you will also sleep well at night).