NiSource Discusses Growing Cybersecurity Concerns Across All Industries and the Importance of Staying Vigilant
Mike Rozsa - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree
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The CIO for NiSource, Mike Rozsa, discusses growing cybersecurity concerns across all industries and the importance of staying vigilant.
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JF: We're here today with Mike Rozsa, who is the CIO at NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas. NiSource is an organization based in Merrillville, Indiana with executive presence here in Columbus, Ohio. NiSource employs 8,500 people. My name is Jeremy Florea and I'm with Stafford Technology, and I will be your guest moderator today. Let's get started. Mike, you've been in the CIO role for a year now. At what point in your career did you decide that you wanted to become a CIO?
MR: Thanks Jeremy. I would say, I don't know if there was necessarily a defined point in time. I would say there's a…I was in my previous role prior to this was, uh, I was with a company for about 20 years, and I literally came up through the ranks at that company. I was started off as a as a programmer, and then I became, ultimately, a direct report to the CIO there for about 10 years and I ran their business applications area. So, in that time we were, you know, we did a lot of innovative things and we grew that from a technology perspective. We grew it pretty significantly. And uh, and I would say maybe in the last, you know, four or five years of that particular role, I started thinking, “Yeah, I think I'd like to be able to do this for other companies in a more senior leadership role that I had.”
JF: Thank you. Great success story there. What advice would you give to aspiring IT leaders, uh, as it relates to what they need to do to prepare themselves just for their own next step?
MR: Sure. Um, I would say you need to obviously stay current on technology trends and know what's out there, what's the art of the possible and things are…that’s not trivial. That stuff changes all the time and it's growing incrementally. But more specifically, you need to think about the ways that technology can be used in that particular business area. Um, you know, the hardest part I think is getting over the novelty of the new technology, whether it be augmented reality or, or something related to some of the cool things we can do with analytics these days and start really thinking about how can I really leverage the use of this technology in our day-to-day business practices for whatever company I'm, I'm working at? And then, always be prepared, right? At the, you know, be awesome at the job you're currently assigned to do and, you know, as opportunities will present themselves, be ready to step into those opportunities.
JF: Yeah. Thank you. In your opinion, what is one of the most exciting disruptive technologies that is beginning to impact our work or lives?
MR: So, there's a lot, and I already mentioned one was augmented reality. Um, and you know, some folks will think about, um, you know, some virtual reality has been around for a while, but augmented reality is where you can overlay real life things with, with some really useful information. So that's, uh, to me, augmented reality is, uh, helping a lot of businesses with things that would normally have to go to paper manuals or rely on some seasoned experts, that's really helping to bring along a new workforce that that'll be more productive.
I think, obviously, everything's getting sensors on it and every, the whole internet of things is changing the way that customers experience all of our products. I think there's a, there's going to be growing expectations about what we're able to deliver. Um, you know, I've, I've been in the utility space for a long time, and in utilities, it was largely just, uh, you know, you produce a product, you know, registered the consumption of that product times a rate and you produced a monthly bill and there was not much visibility into, you know, as you go along what, how that we, how we were using the product and, and now the expectations are different. They want to know mid-month, how am I doing, how much electricity am I using? How much gas am I using? And uh, and what can we do differently to adjust on the fly? And, you know, we're getting to the point now that the technology is allowing us to provide that different level of customer experience that for years, for decades, just wasn't available to them.
JF: Thank you. There is so much in the news these days about companies being hacked and critical data being stolen. How worried should we really be?
MR: Oh, very. Right? You know, there's a, again, I've mentioned, I've been in the utility space for a long time and we've, uh, there's, there's a lot of, a lot of bad actors out there that are, that are looking to do a lot of disruption to, especially U.S. based, but really anywhere in the world. And where do you get a lot of disruption in, in our, in our world? It’s to affect the fact the utilities, affect the power grid, affect the gas distribution grid. And so, there, there's not only the utilities themselves that they target, but they also target people who do business with the utilities. And uh, and, and that's true for any industry. It's not just the industry that they're going to target, they're going to target, um, you know, people who do business ancillary and so, any way they can to get in and disrupt that world. And they're getting smarter and smarter about the ways they approach that.
So, everybody needs to be diligent and this is not an IT issue anymore. There's…they're leveraging, uh, very advanced techniques to get people who you wouldn't even necessarily expect, uh, that could be targets, they're targeting, because they want those credentials to get into the corporate networks and do disruption. So, um, everybody needs to play their part on being diligent in trying to stay ahead of this, but it's, um, it's a real problem. It's a real challenge. Especially in my industry, but it's really across every industry.
JF: That's very insightful. Thank you. How do you want to improve your organization in the next three years?
MR: At NiSource, we are going through a bit of a technology change. Uh, we, we've been using a lot of the, I'll say, legacy technologies for a number of years. So, we're in a unique position that we're going to be able to, uh, to leap frog some of the, some of the activities that some companies took, uh, over the last four or five years, and we're going to be able to go straight into doing some unique customer experience, kind of, uh, projects. Um, we're going to be able to take, uh, some of our workforce and automate a lot of what they do and, and we're also, the approach that we're going to use.
Uh, NiSource has traditionally been a standard IT waterfall type of development shop. And, uh, and I've got a lot of experience implementing agile development, and I've got people pretty excited about implementing that at NiSource and a lot of, a lot of buy in, a lot of people genuinely excited about just approaching IT project delivery in a very different way. And, uh, so I'm excited about bringing it in lean techniques and agile techniques and changing their project delivery experience, and all the while also doing some really cool technology, uh, adjustments that they probably didn't think was possible just a few years ago.
JF: Wow. Uh, professionally, what makes you the most happy?
MR: Um, I would say what makes me the most happy is when I take, when I see people who are maybe, maybe they're not as excited about, about doing some change, you know? People are used to doing things the way they've always done them and they, people are, human nature is naturally resistant to change. And, when we can introduce things like I just talked about, like, like agile, like lean techniques, and you're naturally going to have people who were initially resistant to that, and when they start getting excited about it and they start using the language and they start asking to do problem solving techniques, let's do a Kaizen to fix this problem or whatever, that's when I get excited. When people are now transformed into being excited instead of afraid of the change? That's what gets me really excited.
JF: Well, Mike, Thank you very much for your time. This is Jeremy Florea and Mike Rozsa. To learn more about us, visit comsparktech. Goodbye, until next time.
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