ComSpark Podcast - CIO for Worthington Industries - Central Ohio Tech Power Player Honoree
VP of Cybersecurity
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The CIO for Worthington Industries, Matt Schlabig, discusses training new hires and the importance of experience in your organization
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RF: We are here today with Mr. Matt Schlabig, who is the CIO for Worthington Industries. My name is Ron Ford. I am the Vice President of cybersecurity for Belcan, and a member of the comSpark executive committee. I will be your guest moderator today. Let's get started. Matt, how are you today?
MS: Great, thank you for having me.
RF: Matt, how long have you been the CIO for Worthington?
MS: I've been in place at Worthington for seven years as a CIO.
RF: Great. Um, what do you attribute to your longevity as a CIO? I mean, typically when you look at executives in the IT space, you're looking at an 18 to 24 month career span.
MS: Yeah, we always joke CIO stands for “career is over.” Um, I think for me personally and for my team, it's, it's strong business relationships, consistent delivery, high quality, and building a good culture with a good team. That is very important.
RF: That's great. What was your first assignment as a technology executive?
MS: When I started at Worthington Industries, we were relatively far behind in a lot of things. So, we had to build a new data center, had to upgrade a lot of infrastructure virtualization, we did a, just a bunch of, of new, uh, new projects. Our phone system was 30 years old. We had to replace that, you know? So, we went from being, uh, way behind the world, caught up now. We feel pretty good about where we are.
RF: Good for you. And is there any one person you'd like to call out that really was an early mentor or person that gave you your first big break?
MS: Uh, I get most of my advice and counsel from our Senior Vice President of manufacturing. His name is Virgil; he has been at Worthington for over 45 years. He really helped me and coached me on how to navigate a very family-oriented, traditional company, gave me a lot of great advice. I learned probably more from him than I've learned from, from anybody.
RF: Great. As being an, an executive for such a long period of time, um, how have you seen your role change as an IT executive over the years?
MS: We've gotten away from, uh, traditional order taking, to where we're actually working with the business. We have almost 40 plants. We go to the plants, we work side by side with our shop floor employees. That's where all the ideas come from. Um, and then the satisfaction we get implementing solutions and seeing our, our solutions in place is, is really satisfying.
RF: Fantastic. Well, if you don't mind, I'd like to switch directions and just talk about the, uh, Central Ohio region. What do you believe are some of the biggest challenges in working in Central Ohio?
MS: For us, low unemployment – and it’s probably the same for everybody – but it's really, for us, finding the right people, and not just finding the right people, but finding the right people at all levels. Even college graduates to more experienced people, you know, finding people that are curious, want to learn. Um, it's been a challenge. As you know, everybody has a job. It's – we make an offer, they may already have three offers on the table. So, that's been our biggest challenge.
RF: Okay. What does Central Ohio and the larger area need to do to become a tech hub and attract talent?
MS: I think we're really getting more and more with the colleges, getting them trained. For example, we're doing Robotics Process Automation. There's not an RPA degree in college. Um, a lot of the analytics we're working on, they're just, the colleges are finally starting to teach that. And then the company's, Worthington, Worthington has a very strong intern program and a rotational program with new hires. So, more companies could do that. It's great to have a new hire, especially younger ones who have experience with different companies, and strong intern programs are really key for Central Ohio to have in partnering with the colleges.
RF: Great. Now, moving in, specifically into Worthington in, in your career – so you've done a lot of upgrades, innovations and stuff at Worthington. How do you see technology changing in the next three years?
MS: Yeah, so, you know, we, we’re a traditional ERP company. We've maximized our ERP and optimized it. There's not much more we can get out of it that's gonna really change the game, be a game changer or change our stock price. But our analytics are, um, you know, advanced technology that we're deploying – robotics, manufacturing automation, human augmentation – those are the areas that we're really having a larger impact.
RF: Great. There's a lot of buzz in the news these days about companies being hacked, critical data being, being taken out of the organization. Is this something we should be worried about as consumers?
MS: Yeah. Yeah. Obviously, yes. We really focus on our employees when they're onboarded. They take cybersecurity training, there's cybersecurity training refreshed every year. We do internal phishing. Um, we do education, we share stories. Um, the employees are our biggest defense. Um, and then the traditional events, threat monitoring, all those tools that you need to really, uh, to guard, guard your employees, your information, your intellectual capital – those are important. Protecting devices, um, those are also important. You know, obviously the traditional secure perimeter. And then the biggest thing for security, for us, is being ready. You read the news, people get compromised. And what's, what's in the news though, is how the companies respond. Did they respond timely? Were they honest? Were they open? Who did they respond to? So, we have, uh, we're, we've done at once. We're going to build it even more – a formal incident response plan.
RF: Wow, that's great.
MS: It's who needs to get involved, up to just me or the board of directors. So, we’re really working hard to prepare for that day, if it ever comes, to be ready.
RF: Good for you. How has cloud technology changed the approach to security for Worthington?
MS: Uh, it's complicated it. There are products, whether it's Office 365, um, we have hybrid cloud solutions, so not only protecting ourselves, but ensuring that the cloud providers are protected. Um, that's, that's been a big, big topic for us.
RF: Great. Um, in regards to disruptive technologies, in your opinion, what is one of the most exciting disruptive technologies that is beginning to impact our everyday lives, or specifically Worthington?
MS: Augmented reality is something for us. So, we have a lot of use cases where we have experts, but they may not be at our plant. But they could be available via phone via – we have these tools that you can wear, these glasses with cameras on them and, and you can project smart glasses, you can project, uh, maintenance diagrams, you can talk to the technician trying to figure out what's wrong with a piece of equipment. You can see what he's doing, you can have, talk to him and write diagrams. So, we don't really necessarily have to be there all the time.
People at Worthington, especially – just like you'll see anywhere else – our workforce is aging, and they're getting ready to retire, and there's not a lot of maintenance people out there with 20 years’ experience on manufacturing equipment. So, we're trying to get more and more to a point where we have an expert who can talk to multiple people at multiple locations to help them, whether it's preventative maintenance, whether it's safety inspection, whether it's fixing a problem, they can, can quickly do that and get our machines back up and running.
RF: Boy, that is, that is a great use of disruptive technology, stuff that's really innovative. Um, as, as a leader, what advice would you give to an aspiring IT executive
MS: Know your stuff. I mean, it's, it's so hard to, keeping up with everything, but you need to spend time learning every week, um, putting time aside, understanding what's out there. That's one big advice I would give them, and also building, building relationships with your own team, a team that you can trust and count on, and then building relationships with your business partners – anywhere from the guy on the shop floor to the president. Building strong business relationships is, is paramount to success.
RF: Matt, I couldn't agree with you more. That's the one thing most people tend to overlook, is that we are in a relationship business.
RF: absolutely are. It's been great having you here today. Thank you very much for meeting with me. This interview has been with Mr. Matt Schlabig, who was the CIO for Worthington Industries and me, Ron Ford, the VP of cybersecurity for Belcan and a member of the comSpark executive committee. To learn more about this, visit comspark.tech, and goodbye until next time.
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