VMware CIO Jason Conyard speaks about how he approaches the role of the CIO through a people-centric philosophy.
“We want to enable and empower our customers in new and exciting ways, but to me that starts with us looking at the people who work inside of the company.”Jason Conyard, CIO, VMware
Companies may compete on customer experience, but they will not be able to deliver unique and positive value without first building a compelling employee experience. To create the employee and customer experience needed to thrive in this environment, VMware’s Jason Conyard believes modern CIOs must take a people-centric approach to their role.
Jason is the CIO of VMware today, but he hasn’t always been in the C-suite. In fact, his journey to CIO might be most influenced by his time washing windows for his father’s business. It was the experience of watching his father interact with people of all walks of life that taught Jason the value of putting people first.
That philosophy has stuck with him throughout his career. Former colleagues have mentioned, along with Jason’s “broad and deep technical skills,” his “uncanny ability to engage everyone from hands-on technical engineers to C-level executives.” Whether it was leading product rollouts for mass market distribution or running engineering teams for financial services firms, Jason has kept relationship building and empathy at the center of everything he’s done.
In a 40-minute chat with Robert Ruelas, VMware VP, End User Computing, Jason explains why nurturing strong relationships is the key to empowering employees to deliver the best customer service possible. He also emphasizes the importance of building a diverse and equal team and outlines how reducing friction in the employee experience helps meet changing business goals.
The video below contains the full interview, and excerpts from the exchange follow.
Delivering customer-centric experiences
Robert Ruelas: Right before the CIO role … you were responsible for the colleague experience and employee experience. How did that shape and mold your perspective … and prepare you for the CIO role?
Jason Conyard: We want to be a successful business. Yes, we want to enable and empower customers in new and exciting ways. To me, that starts with looking after the people inside of the company and giving people what they need and doing it in a way that excites and energizes people.
I’m fortunate that I work at VMware, where we have some amazing products and solutions that we can really go to town on. We can put them in the hands of our colleagues, and we can get them to experience them first-hand. Sometimes that leads to interesting and exciting conversations with the product teams about how we can do better.
Looking after colleague-facing solutions in the past has helped shape my mindset about how we think about technology and deliver value.
Creating diverse and equitable teams
Robert Ruelas: In VMware, diversity and equity and inclusion is a big deal in the company. It’s a big part of our culture. It’s about accepting people as who they are and creating an environment where people can be who they are and come as they are.
Jason Conyard: If we want to deliver the best value and capability to our customers, we absolutely need to have the very best talent. And I don’t mean the best talent in one part of the world or the best talent that looks or thinks a particular way or believes a particular way. I mean the best talent, full stop.
That means you have to look everywhere, and you have to be open to finding people who think differently. In fact, I think that’s essential, because if people are only going to validate the things you already believe you’re not really going to move the ball.
Those of us fortunate enough to be in the knowledge business … have been able to work at home to varying degrees. That’s also opened up this new opportunity for us to think about our workforce and where that workforce is and where people work and how they work differently. That amplifies our opportunity around diversity and inclusion because it allows us to look in unusual places.
We talk about diversity and we talk about equity, which is treating people equally and with consideration. Why on Earth would you go to all the effort of finding all this diverse talent if you don’t pull it into the conversation, if you don’t listen to what people have to say?
Robert Ruelas: The reality is if we’re going to continue to be an international company, we’re going to have to be able to relate to people around that globe. It starts right here.
Reducing friction in the employee experience
“If you want to be at the top of your game as a company, you’ve got to have really vibrant, rich talent … you’ve got to give your team the freedom to imagine and think and create … so, yes, experience is deeply important. Yes, creativity and innovation are important to me. But ultimately those things translate into productivity and people being able to do their best work in a sustained way.”
Robert Ruelas: You’re big on delivering a customer-centric experience, but how do you decide what to do or what to prioritize in terms of delivering a richer customer experience?
Jason Conyard: When I was responsible for VMware’s colleague experience and technology team prior to this role, there are a number of things I was thinking about. How do we create an experience that really enables people to do their best work, that reduces the friction that gets in the way of people starting their day? From the moment they open their laptop all the way through all the business things that they need to do, the tools they need to interact with, all the way through to going out for coffee and having their office in their pocket.
We’re getting people to think differently about how we deliver IT solutions and really encouraging those teams to stretch their imagination to be creative and innovative.