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7 Questions with Kevin Ruthen
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7 Questions with Kevin Ruthen
Name: Kevin Ruthen
Current title: CTO
Current organisation: Support.com
Chief Technology Officer for Support.com who is responsible for product, engineering, information technology, hosting and critical systems. Focused on spearheading innovation and growth strategies for internal, enterprise-customer, SMB and consumer use, harnessing his extensive experience in digital transformation and delivery excellence. A technology thought leader who is passionate about providing a stellar tech support experience for all customers.
Previously, served as Head of Technology for the American Institute of Physics Publishing, and prior to that was a Global Managing Director for Unisys. Over the course of his career, Kevin also held several senior technology positions at PriceWaterhouseCoopers Consulting, IBM Global Services, and Prudential Securities.
Kevin holds a Masters of Science in Information Resource Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Information Management from Syracuse University.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Striking the right balance for investment and use of resources to address current business technology challenges vs new innovation. This also includes being able to get buy-in and support from different business stakeholders that are focused on meeting current business commitments, even when they are not really concerned or immediately incentivized to embrace innovation. I find that it’s important to openly communicate and look towards the future in a collaborative way with those stakeholders. It comes down to embracing and officially recognizing innovation needs to be made a strategic priority and a reasonable percentage of protected time and investment made towards achieving it. Innovation should always be done iteratively while embracing agile concepts of failure often but quickly. Quickly gain critical feedback and pivot to success.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I quickly recognized early in my career the importance of collaboration. I was able to successfully collaborate and foster relationships so that the technology area was seen as a strategic partner and not just a necessary cost center. In addition, I always strive for continuous improvement and emphasizing that with the folks I lead. I’ve always strived to balance my technology skills with business skills and effective communication.
This foundation allowed me to successfully build new practice areas within IBM Global Services, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Consulting, and Unisys. I then determined I wanted to broaden my experience from large consulting/services organizations within specific practice areas to branch out to have responsibility for all technology areas as well as to work for more product focused organizations . This led me to become Head of Technology for American Institute of Physics Publishing followed by becoming Chief Technology Officer for Support.com. One consistent ability and experience I have mastered regardless of size of organization is to do more with less in terms of investment and resources.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I start my day with some brief personal meditation reflection along with identifying at least three top priorities to accomplish that day.
As most folks I try to strike a proper balance between work life and family. However, I have always thrived working in not a formal rigid environment of set hours and always in office. I find it’s necessary to be agile and have a flexible work hour schedule as well as a combination of working remotely as well as at an office site. I also often work with global resourcing in different time zones. I enjoy having a work schedule that changes based upon that day’s demands. I then try to fit in family and personal health time. I also find that when I am not spending hours commuting, I am able to be that much more productive at work.
I then end the day with some reflection of what went well and what can be improved upon going forward.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
How to effectively lead from the side and not always from the front. This entails empowering and supporting others to be able to lead an initiative from the front while from the side providing guidance, encouragement, helping to remove barriers, and making sure they have what they need to succeed. This has resulted in being a more effective respected leader as well as new leadership growth for the organization.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Start with Why by Simon Sinek has had a real influence on my leadership approach. Why describes the mission or goal of a business. A key takeaway from the book is that most employers motivate their employees to take action by offering incentives or with threats. However, good leaders inspire workers to take action. These workers go the extra mile without the need to be prompted because they know what they’re working towards, they know the company’s why and therefore understand their own why, leading them to feel excited to do their best work as part of a team.
For any new project / initiative I always start by conveying why we are doing this, how it aligns with the organizational strategic goals, and the expected business value impact it will provide. This provides the core foundation understanding and common relational bond with the team.
This book and its perspective have helped me grow into an even more effective leader. I leveraged this for a new Data Exchange Platform project at American Institute of Physics and how it would benefit the organization’s mission to foster new scientific research.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
This is accomplished by embracing collaboration and fostering relationships across business areas. It’s essential to have the Technology area seen as a true partner for business areas and not the typical cost center/ necessary enabler. Through active listening, understanding, and collaborative brainstorming the foundation to build and expand leadership capacity will emerge.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I recall a time at a previous organization where the CEO strongly desired new innovation as well as the adoption of agile delivery. I recognized through interactions and observations with different business areas that the necessary culture to support this did not yet exist. I emphasized to the CEO that culture eats strategy for breakfast. If we don’t implement, communicate, reinforce, and truly live a culture that embraces innovation and agile delivery then the organization strategy will never really succeed. A common understanding and steps to shifting the culture then leads to new innovative products and revenue.