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The CIO as cheerleader/ collaborator/ therapist/ technophile/ entrepreneur

Bob Brown | May 22, 2015
Wayfair CIO tells what the job is really like; Arbella Insurance CIO zeroes in on IT security

Jack Wood, CIO for home goods e-commerce powerhouse Wayfair, wears many hats and he doffed them all at IT Roadmap in Boston this week.

The event's keynote speaker described himself as a combination cheerleader/collaborator/therapist/technophile/entrepreneur and suggested that IT leaders and those pursing such a career path at any fast-growing business might find themselves in a similar situation. (Not to say there are many companies growing as fast as Wayfair, which in 2014 boasted year-over-year revenue growth of 44% to $1.3 billion.)

Here's a quick rundown of Wood's roles:

*Cheerleader: Wood says his cheerleader skills are on display when it comes to hiring. Or as he put it, "hiring, hiring, hiring." The company has 400 engineers already and is hiring one a day for the rest of the year. The market is competitive, but facts such as Wayfair's wide adoption of free and open-source software such as FreeBSD and embrace of popular languages like Python and Java makes the company a place programmers want to work, said Wood, who is also very tempted by the Postgres object-relational database management system. Among other things, programmers today like to get their name into the open source community by contributing updates, he said. "It was like being part of Greenpeace back when I was in school."


*Collaborator: Wood at certain times during his career has heard daily complaints about silos forming within a company, about people throwing trouble tickets over the wall in hopes of getting them addressed by IT. "Your job is to reduce silos," he said.

*Therapist: Currently, this mainly involves keeping IT security staff from climbing out onto the ledge, Wood said. He discussed encouraging employees to get out and see what's going on in the business, to change jobs every so often and even to interview for jobs to get a sense of what they're worth in the market.

*Technophile: While CIOs deal with both the business and tech sides, Wood said he considers himself a techie and has worked at IT companies like Lucent and Akamai previously. He said he makes sure that he's out in front on technology trends, such as the cloud, where Wayfair plans to put its next data center. And while the cloud looks like the way to go, Wood said it's no cinch: the bulk of the company's code needs to be rewritten to work in the cloud. Wood also took a strong position on Wayfair's content delivery network strategy, boldly pulling them out of Akamai even after he came to Wayfair from that company (Akamai is the "Cadillac" of CDNs, he said, and Wayfair couldn't justify that with limited funds). Once Wayfair got itself into a better financial situation, it returned to Akamai.


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