Dan Hushon has been looking toward the future of technology since he was a kid. When he was twelve years old, he spent his free time exploring the ARPANET—a very early Internet precursor—on a Wyse 52 terminal with a 150-baud modem. Soon his parents gave him his first computer, which he meticulously took apart to learn how everything worked. He began to “break” simple computer games by recognizing common patterns in their software.
That early introduction to computers led Hushon to build a program for security cameras that he sold to nuclear power plants, banks, and pharmacies. Later, as the chief technology officer for Sun Microsystems, he helped build one of the first clouds, called Sun Grid. “At the time we called it utility computing,” says Hushon. “We charged $1/CPU-hour but fully automated the provisioning of each tenant.” When he moved to EMC, he brought big data into the company’s portfolio and had a key focus on cloud computing.
Now Hushon employs that same curiosity and desire in his current role as the CTO of CSC, a company that provides next generation IT services and solutions for global clients, including Fortune 1000 commercial businesses, federal and state government and non-US government agencies.
“I came to CSC because I recognized that the company could help customers understand this impact of the intersection of cloud computing and big data analytics, putting both in the hands of employees and consumers alike, with remarkable value being produced,” Hushon says.
Hushon’s vision to empower both employees and consumers drives his leadership, as he strives to be not just a great technologist and strategist, but a great marketer too. One of his marketing efforts was borne out of social media theory. Hushon reasoned that CSC could spread the word of their products to a number of people quickly, but he felt that method was not interactive enough. Potential customers couldn’t get quick answers to their questions. His solution: internal town halls broadcast on Google Hangouts and CrowdChat.
Dan Hushon’s Principles in Action
Successful technology operation requires agility with efficiency. In order to boost staff productivity and generate new ideas, Hushon has introduced an aggressive DevOps program. Around CSC, it’s known as Automation 2.0; this “robot” can be handed complex instructions and ordered to perform a function, say, 100,000 times. The robot can not only complete more complex tasks than people can, but it can also record its process with a great deal of detail. Now CSC colleagues have an opportunity to optimize their software skills, check code, and program the robot so they can automate the delivery of various enterprise services. Most importantly, these “instructions” are shared across multiple clients, with constant improvement.
“This frees up capacity for us to go and automate more and more of the ecosystem,” Hushon says. “By massively automating large segments, what used to be repetitive human tasks become better each release, and our talented people are freed to work on other, more complex tasks.”
“We needed to create a more engaging place where people can ask those questions about our strategy,” Hushon says. “My number one way to create trust is transparency. So if I tell the marketplace where I’m going and why, then I think my team is more likely to believe it and carry the message forward to the marketplace.”
Hushon is also responsible for building a solid team structure. He takes a three-prong approach: there are “pioneers” (inventors), “settlers” (the successful inventors who take their work and run with it) and the “city planners” (who industrialize the service, like a utility). When one of these pioneers brings in a successful technology, he or she will lead a new set of settlers to this new world, and these settlers bring a new value to the firm. It’s Hushon’s job to make room for the new value to enter CSC.
The “city planners” are the staff members who help the settlements grow together for efficient, operational structures. As Hushon puts it, they’re buiding IT utilities, removing snowflake solutions that only fit discrete situations in favor of common shared services.
“This has been a really important part of our thinking about the landscape so we can then architect the right ecosystem of partners around us in the different stages of evolution,” Hushon says. “The two key transitions in this process are really strategic role vectors: pioneers become settlers and then settlers become city planners. These different roles require different personalities with respect to risk, attention to detail, and of course persuasion throughout.”
While Hushon works to strategically build his in-house team, he also looks to outside partners, like AT&T, EMC, IBM, Microsoft, and VMWare, to attain the benefits of scale that CSC might not achieve on its own, and better serve its customers.
“We’re working with our partners and saying, ‘Let us bring your full innovation portfolio to our clients as though you were a CSC employee,’” Hushon says. “We’re on one team, we wear one badge. It’s just very different from the traditional supplier/provider relationship.”
“Until all employees, from the board room to the new hire, are digitally literate, I think the CTO continues to be a major sensory organ for the firm.”
Hushon sees all of these tasks—building his team, integrating relationships with partners, and leading the path to innovation in the marketplace—as part of the role of the modern-day CTO. And he’s still relying on the same instincts of curiosity and a desire to improve that led him to dissect his first computer as a young boy. He’s not quite certain what the CTO position will look like in the future, but he knows that it holds a lot of value for the organization.
“Until all employees, from the board room to the new hire, are digitally literate, I think the CTO continues to be a major sensory organ for the firm,” Hushon says. “The CTO is helping them to decipher what’s happening, understand those patterns and escort those patterns into the business in more understandable ways.”
Ultimately, however, Hushon envisions a future of digital literacy that could make the CTO role all but redundant, freeing up technology leaders to forge new paths for the business while the rest of the team takes ownership of their roles, seamlessly incorporating IT into the business. Right now, Hushon says, “the CTO is acting as a proxy for that much broader-based digital leadership.” Until the rest of the industry can catch up to his vision, Hushon plans to keep peering into the mechanisms and finding ways to improve.