Manifest Solutions Discusses the Flexibility of Cloud Solutions and the Importance of Keeping Your Data Secure
Chris Judd - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree
CTO and Partner
Founder and President
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The CTO for Manifest Solutions, Chris Judd, discusses the flexibility of cloud solutions and the importance of data security.
Hello, and welcome to the comSpark podcast, where you will get to meet today's technology thought leaders. To learn more, visit comspark.tech.
BK: Hello, we are here today with Chris Judd, who is the Chief Technology Officer and Partner at Manifest Solutions. Manifest Solutions is an organization based in Columbus, Ohio with about 100 employees. And one unique thing I've learned about Chris is that he's one of 236 Java Champions in the world. My name is Bryan Kaiser and I am with Vernovis. I'm the Founder and President of the organization. I'm also part of the executive host committee for comSpark, and I will be your guest moderator today. So, let's get started. Chris, thanks for being with us. Um, in your, in your opinion, what is one of the most exciting disruptive technologies that is beginning to impact our work or lives?
CJ: Okay, thank you. So, as a consulting company, uh, one of the great things is I get to interact with a lot of different clients and I get to be the, kind of the center. And so, I get to see a lot of trends going on. So I think the, the two biggest trends that I'm seeing these days in our clients are definitely the cloud, and better use of data, whether that's big data, artificial intelligence, and those types of sources. So, one of the things that I think is pretty amazing in the cloud space is, as companies start to adopt it, they'd seem to get these benefits. So, we had one recently that was getting close to that five year refresh on their hardware and they finally decided to evaluate the cloud. And after they did a big lift and shift, they actually got twice as much performance and paid half as much than if they would have just rebuilt all-new physical infrastructure, and they added the benefits of the flexibility that the cloud offered.
BK: That's great. Do you feel like every client should be moving to the cloud or are there certain circumstances? Are there hybrid approaches? Are there – all in or all out? What are you seeing out there?
CJ: Yeah, so I think not every client should definitely move out to the cloud. But I think probably the majority of them should, and there are a lot of large organizations here in Columbus that are doing a hybrid approach. A lot of them are using the Pivotal Cloud Foundry to do some of the same stuff in their local data center as well as run those same applications out in the cloud. And it also gives them portability between the different cloud vendors, so maybe to either Amazon AWS and maybe tomorrow they’re Azure and maybe down the road they may be Google, but it gives them some of that flexibility instead of being tied to those services.
BK: Yeah, that makes sense. And you know, with these, all these cloud options out there, what about security?
CJ: So actually, I think the security out in the cloud is actually probably a stronger scenario than in-house. For one, you have a collective intelligence in those cloud providers. I mean, that's what they do day in and day out. Where, I think when you have a local data center, people's attention is diverted to lots of different areas. It may be doing mail servers one day, database servers the next day, standing up hardware the next day, and so they don't get those economies of scale.
BK: That makes sense.
CJ: And they're also being vetted by, uh, government agencies, are being vetted by other clients too, to make sure that they are meeting the standards that we have set forth in security today.
BK: Sure. Great. So how do you fuel innovation efforts on your team or maybe even some of your clients? What's that look like?
CJ: So, I think the biggest part of innovation right now is innovating our talent pool. Uh, I think everybody's struggling to find good talent and I think we're evaluating different alternatives today. So maybe, uh, the, a four year degree is not for everybody, but I think um, maybe the short term boot camps aren't necessarily the option either. Uh, there's, there's got to be something else. And I think more organizations actually need to take time to do more training internally to give them the skills necessary.
And maybe, um, what I see kind of in that hiring mode right now is, there's a checklist. If somebody doesn't meet all the items on the checklist, then they're not going to hire them or bring them in as a consultant. But what if they have 90 percent and then you have some other training or something else to gain that other 10 percent? I think that is where people really should be focusing, because we have plenty of people do the work. Uh, we just need to make sure that we get them up to speed so they can do the work properly.
BK: That's good. Right now there seems to be a plethora of open jobs and consulting opportunities. The economy feels pretty good there, especially in the technology space. At the same time, there seems to be a shortage of people to do those jobs. There's not a shortage of people available. There's a shortage of people available with technology skills. What do you, why do you think there's this big gap and what's the constraint holding it back?
CJ: Yeah, you're absolutely right. So, I think it goes back to that checklist. They want the perfect candidate that has everything on it. If they are missing one or two things, they figure that they're not the right candidate for them as opposed to looking at them of “They’re most of the way there. Well, let's just finish them off.” And then I think also, from the candidate side, from the talent side, people need to continue investing in this, in themselves.
So, one of the things I always try to do with my employees is to get them involved in learning opportunities. So, I try to read a book a month. I alternate between a technical book and a business style/leadership book ,and then I listen to about 10 hours of podcasts a week so that I'm gaining that knowledge and that insight from a lot of different people, and that really helps me to build mental maps I didn't have before and combine different types of things.
So, we invest in our employees by training them, especially the young talent coming in, sending them to conferences, encouraging them to listen to the podcasts and do the reading. And we also try to help them to the next level by getting them to actually speak at conferences and teach in our classes that we have internally.
BK: That's good. So are you saying soft skills and cultural fit is important?
CJ: Oh, absolutely. I don't think…I wouldn't even call them soft skills, right? They’re everyday skills.
BK: Would you recommend – so you have two candidates or consultants available for a job, or two candidates for a fulltime job. One has 90 percent of the skills, but probably not a cultural fit. The other has 50 percent of the skills, but man, they fit the culture. Who would you recommend to your client?
CJ: Oh, definitely the person with 50 percent. And what we also do too is, uh, most of our clients – our candidates aren't going to meet everything our clients have. So, we usually have a two-week bolt on ahead of time where whatever skill gaps they have, we give them training necessary to get up to that speed. So, we have a team of four people that our clients are with right now that have needs for Spark. We've never done any Spark work. So we took two weeks, invested in the technology of Spark so we could hit the ground running on day one. I think more organizations need to be doing that type of work.
BK: Sure. So that would be a potentially easy solution when you hear companies say, I want X, Y, and Z, but this person is missing Z. Well hey, let's just go get that person some training.
CJ: Yeah, and we don’t charge our clients for it either because it's not fair for us to do that.
BK: Sure, no, that's great. So, there is so much in the news today about companies being hacked, critical data being stolen. How worried should we be as an ecosystem out here in the business community?
CJ: Yeah. So, you've already brought up the security ones. So security is a huge challenge right now, and there's just so many moving parts in any type of application, infrastructure, everything involved, in that security is really critical. And going back to the training and talent development, part of solving that is through that talent development. But I often speak at conferences about security and I've done a lot of research on the security and it can be pretty scary. I have a statistic from a survey that shows that less than 50 percent of companies actually are doing any type of, uh, security audits and, uh, security planning threat analysis, those types of things.
And so, if organizations aren't doing that, if they're not teaching their talent to look for and scan for vulnerabilities, they are going to be in the cross hairs, because most of the attacks are probably not targeted. They're just happenstance. They’re convenience types of attacks. And then, who knows what type of data they might get. So, even if you think, “Well, I'm not the target,” they might use you to then attack somebody else too, which is not, it's not a position any organization should want to be in.
BK: Yeah. So over, uh, 50 percent of companies, or less than 50 percent of companies actually have some type of plan or even monitoring or doing something about it right now.
BK: Yeah. Uh, that's, that's quite an issue. And I think we're just scratching the surface on this whole cybersecurity thing and realizing that it's not necessarily just a technology issue, it's a business issue.
CJ: It is.
BK: About the whole organization as a whole and the health of the organization.
CJ: One of the tests I like to do is ask the organization, my newspaper tests. So, what would happen if tomorrow your organization showed up on the front page because you were breached? How would that impact your business?
BK: Sure. Well, we've seen how that has impacted other businesses, uh, of late. So what, uh, I got one last question for you, Chris. What keeps you up at night? What worries you?
CJ: I guess what's keeping me up at night is when I look at the talent pool that we have and I see some of the shortages, the organizations that need the talent and the talent that's available not matching that up. An organization not being able to really meet, meet their full potential and actually get their goals accomplished because they're waiting for that perfect individual. Or that individual who's not putting in the right effort or not the right focus to get those opportunities that they really need in order to apply themselves and make an organization successful.
BK: That's good. That makes sense. Well, folks, uh, we're wrapping up this interview, and we thank you for your time, Chris. This is Bryan Kaiser and Chris Judd. To learn more about us, visit comspark.tech, and we'll see you next time
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