Computer Futures

TECH Talks: The One Thing featuring Jeff Witt

When it comes to business, whether you're running a business and hiring IT talent, or you're the talented software developer or JAVA engineer they're hiring for the project. it all comes down to 'one thing.' In this week's TECH Talks, VP of Computer Futures, Danny Cohen, sits down with Jeff Witt, Senior Engagement Manager at Vanguard, for a lesson from the business blackbelt.

Jeff Witt has a unique ability to motivate teams to deliver their best by combining his business acumen and credentials of an MBA, with his disciplined martial arts training as a blackbelt. He supports his teams by instilling an environment that is open, continuously improving, and dedicated to achieving personal and group goals. 

Jeff’s background in business with an MBA from Drexel University and a history of building lasting ways to motivate teams that deliver their best. He’s coming up on 13 years at Vanguard, as the Senior Engagement Manager, and during that time he’s developed employees, built loyalty, exceeded metrics through experimentation and continued team improvements. His passion is for supporting teams and he enables them to pursue their passions by creating an environment that is open, pushes for continuous improvement, and provides the support dedicated to helping individuals achieve personal and group goals. But this is only half of his story. The other half includes a dedication and drive to achieve as a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt. This is a level most can only hope to accomplish and we’re going to get an inside look at Jeff’s road map to success.

 

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JEFF

Just three things,
What are you deeply passionate about? What can you be the best in the world at? And then importantly too, what drives your economic engine? You'll never work a day in your life if you figure out that intersection.

DANNY:

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, wherever you are in the world.

This is a SThree TECH Talks, hosted by obviously the one and only Danny Cohen. So TECH Talks was created out of the need for a deeper conversation that spotlight the voices of today technology leaders and experts. Our mission is, as you know, at SThree is to bring skilled
people together to build a future. And hopefully we do this through these conversations and really by sharing these exclusive interviews with business owners, technology experts and executive leaders.

We hope to help you navigate the fast paced challenges happening in the market. So with no further ado, I'd like to introduce the star of the
show, Jeff Witt. I'll do a little introduction. So it's nice for me to kind of introduce the star. So actually, before I go into this, I actually met Jeff at the Tableau conference. He's a master blackbelt and he was speaking at sessions there. But we're fortunate got to meet.
And then actually, I asked Jeff to come
into our organization to help us on our
strategy because he knows how
to improve all businesses.
But let me let me tell a little bit about
Jeff's background in a much
more formalized manner.
So Jeff is a background in business with an MBA
from Drexel University and a history
of building lasting ways to motivate
teams that deliver their best.
He's coming up to 13 years lucky number 13
at Vanguard as the Senior
Engagement Manager.
And during that time,
he's developed employees, built loyalty,
exceeded metrics through experimentation.
I'm interested to hear more about
that and continue team improvements.
And his passion is for supporting teams and he
enables them to pursue their passions
by creating an environment that's open
pushing for continuous improvement
and provides the support dedicated
to helping individuals achieve
personal and group goals.
But that is only half of the story.
Oh, boy.
Danny, where do we go from there?
Well, the other half. So the other half
includes a dedication and drive to achieve
as a lean Six Sigma master blackbelt.
This is a level most can only
hope to accomplish and get to.
And we're going to get an inside
look at Jeff's roadmap to success!
You like that introduction?

JEFF:

Yeah, I hope I can deliver for you
a little better now because no one's
ever said anything like that to me. I don't know.

DANNY:

Hey, you know where our conversations go.
We're just going to take the sky's
the limit when we're going to you guys.

There you go, baby.

So firstly, Jeff. Love if you can tell us a bit about yourself. And then how did you actually get into technology?

JEFF:

Yeah, I guess when just listening to how you introduced me, I think my big thing is I want to help pursue understanding and then drive
innovation with whatever it is. So I want to make sure that we're able to understand something and drive innovation.

I guess I probably got my introduction into technology in the 80s whenever I got an Apple 2GS and I started writing code in basic. Probably one of my favorite memories is when I created a behind-the-scenes calculator so that when my dad did taxes, it put in letters instead of numbers, which there was some consternation there. But after that it's always been the pursuit of understanding. And then with technology, we're only bound by our ideas and then the memory that we have to do it. So it's always making sure that we're fitting and we're understanding what our needs are and then delivering something to make it happen.

DANNY:

I love it.
And, do you know what's funny, Jeff? We're quite similar then because I got technology, I used to have a calculator. I'd put the numbers in. I'd turn it upside down. So it would also produce something! - That's a joke.


So obviously with everything that's going on, what have you been observing in the industry lately due to obviously your unique position,
especially working for such a company like Vanguard.

JEFF:

Yeah, I guess working with Vanguard. Where we are in our environment and these uncertain times, a lot of working in finance has been about the government has come in with the CARES Act and has said, hey, we want to give some stimulus, we want to help out folks. So it's how does Vanguard respond and make awareness of the CARES Act to all of the people that might be needing to use it, taking loans and then making seamless usability? And one of the things that we had to do is to focus on digitization.

So we're, like being a global company and what are those things that we might have not relied on digitization before? And how do we ramp those things up? And that really has been the last three months of our lives. Anywhere from whenever a client needs advice and making sure that you have a Zoom call or a Teams call so that that person can feel
that connection. To how do we use tools such as DocuSign and electronic signature to make sure that we're getting those financially secure things and getting authentication done so we feel good about contracts?

 

DANNY:
Great to hear. Great to hear. Given everything that's gone
on with COVID, how has, what have been the opportunities that you've seen, but also what have been the challenges that you've faced?

JEFF:

I would say the opportunities and the flood of information and the sources. That we have this technology where
we're now all quarantined in a place where
we get flooded with information,
you've got your phone, you got your iPad,
you got your PC, you got your neighbors
yelling across the what like what they're
expecting and know what is the best
decision for you to make for your
for your environment.
And then secondly, with that,
making sure you're not making a long-range
decision with short-term information.

DANNY:

Absolutely.
And how do you know how to do that?
Because I know we have the same issue internally, Jeff.

JEFF:
There's communications everywhere and anywhere. And people just aren't reading e-mails these days. And we understand that. We understand there's so much information. And as you said, it's not the data with the urgent things that we think are important instead of the important things that are going to change the business overnight.
But how do you stay true to that? So I'm concentrating on both what has and have been encouraging folks on. What have we changed with our 2020 goals? Are we still able to meet them? And then also digesting with three week chunks of information. So I don't want to make a long-term decision with a something that could change within three weeks.

OK, like we're all worried about schools opening. We're all worried about these things. Well those are, or even family vacations can't make long you can't make those long-term decisions with something that could change in three weeks.

DANNY:

So how do you plan for the future then? How do you get out?
Because one of the key things for me to drive, you know, my people to do more and get them excited is not about what it will mean today, because that's the hard part is like, you know, go for the pain to get the gain. It's like one of those gym, you know, Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I do it because I know I'm going to get fitter. But if you can't look to the future and know what the opportunity is, sometimes it's you get demotivated. And so how do you keep sight of goals? How do you have clear objectives, even though we don't know what tomorrow will bring?

JEFF:

I use this book, 'Measure What Matters.'
And I reference and I keep it right here as well.

DANNY:

Are you the author as well? [CHUCKLES]

JEFF:

No, no, no, no.

That's John Doerr with some Google and some Bono and Gates Foundation insight. What it does is, what is your objective? And then what's the key result? And a lot of what humanity has lost right now, is the key results. And we keep thinking about the long term. We need the mirror.

We need to set the goals at the right level to achieve while we're in this status. If we don't, everything could fall apart. So what I encourage you to do and I've been doing a lot of activities with clients and also with my own team is going, we're going to pick one thing and we're going to really be in that one thing and we're going to destroy that goal. Then we're going to celebrate the goal.

Then pick the next thing off the list.

DANNY:

I love this. So two questions there, so
one:

Have you ever read the book
"One Thing"?

JEFF:

No.

DANNY:
Great book. I would highly recommend.
It's when you say "the one thing" I was like, he must have
read the book 'The One Thing.' So I would go and read the book 'The One Thing' because it talks exactly.

You can have a 1000 ideas, but get one thing. Focus on that. Get excited about that together. Like you said, celebrate the milestones, drive it together. So I think that is great.

But the second thing is you talked about your work with your
people and your clients. So tell me a little bit about what projects you're currently working on that helped to mitigate or adjust to the current situation we're in right now?

JEFF:

Actually, one of the biggest things is that Vanguard has been in the news recently that we're partnering with the InfoSys on a digital platform. So emphasis is now for institutional business.

So we wanted to go, we wanted to partner with the tech company and they're a global tech leader because we wanted to make sure we're keeping up with digital enhancements and innovation. We're a financial company and we needed a partner along the way. We didn't want that tech drag. To pull us down, we wanted to make sure that we're on the forefront and giving the clients what they need. So a lot of what has what I've been doing over the last three or four weeks has been helping with that integration to make sure our clients don't feel anything. And then also on the day to day, make sure that we're listening. And we're making sure that the clients that are wherever they are are getting the service that they need through a digital channel, which is a much different than a face to face interaction.

DANNY:

Absolutely. And what has been your excuse me, what has been your feedback so far from the customers around the change, or is it still in its very early infancy that there's not is more about the internal people dealing with it? So far it's been internal, but it's the seamless.

JEFF:

So right now we're working on communication. We want to make sure that everybody is aware and we're in the communication is two-way to make sure that we're providing the right information about what's happening. And then also we're listening to the clients and going, 'hey, don't forget this' and 'don't forget that.' Because all that great feedback is going to lead to great solutions.

DANNY:

OK, so what I love, that!
I think communication, you can give someone the best news in a really bad way. You can give the worst news in a really good way. So in terms of communication, it seems like that's become the most important thing in the beginning of this. Why did you decide that?

 

JEFF:
We all need to be saying the same message. And everybody needs to have the single version of truth. What happens is when communication, and I think in our environment, again, it comes back to we hear so many different sources and don't know what to trust, if
we're all marching towards the same objective and we all hear it, that same story over and over again, we're going to be able to tell our peers and we're going to be able to ask intelligent questions if we're not getting that right message.

DANNY:

So I think this is, firstly, I really appreciate how open and honest you are about what you're going through and how you dealing with that. I think it's brilliant and it's great, you know, that sort of hope and belief that people will follow you into that, you know, into the promised land, so to speak.

But you're always going to have people who don't and there's always going to be naysayers, there's always going to be issues.

So how are you creating that voice of reason? So people are truly feeling apart of it and part of the solution rather than potentially part of the problem.

JEFF:

Yeah, it's making sure you recognize the feedback and address it. Make sure that that person's voice feels heard and someone has that concern. You've got to make them full somehow.

DANNY:

Yes, of course and you also need to give them expectations on what you're going to need to do with it.

JEFF:
Yeah, and it's really not just for this transaction, it's for anything. Whenever we're walking into a new role, whether we're talking with the new boss, whether we're now sequestered with four
other human beings or something. You need to make sure
that everybody is on the same page.

DANNY:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So one of the things I've always done and, you know, tell me if I'm wrong, but I've always tried to create an identity.

So when I first came to America, the identity was limitless. You know, the sky's the limit. We have the opportunity to change the world. And not only do we want to be needed by our customers, we want to be wanted. So how great can we make this both culturally and a strategy towards our goal of being the number one? And all we said was limitless. Every time we had a success story, we had our tagline limitless. So we all became part of this. We believe anything's possible.


And even if you didn't like it, you might. Well, at least at least I have this great ambition. Now, my motivation is different to others and we want to get them all part of this identity. So how do you work with identity and what sort of things, you know, in terms of your own mindset do you create and what's your kind of like default and methodology around it?

JEFF:

You know, because we've had these conversations before, it's really starting with, 'What is that that you're trying to achieve?' And one of the things I always go back to Jim Collins's book, 'Good to Great.' He's got something called the 'Hedgehog Concept.'

And if you picture a Venn diagram and folks can look it up, it's just three things:
 - What are you deeply passionate about?
 - What can you be the best in the world at?
 - And then importantly too, what drives your economic engine?

There are a lot of musicians out there in this world right now that are the best in the world, are deeply passionate about it, and if they're struggling with their economic engine. But you need to find those three things. You'll never you'll never work a day in your life if you figure out that intersection with that, that starts with your identity. And then as something new comes on, like we talked about, new information, communication, what are these other stimulus that are happening? And you can always bounce back to your hedgehog and say, am I still that? And is that still the intersection that I want to pursue or do I need to change my hedgehog? Probably you want to stay here.

DANNY:

So why the Hedgehog, why specifically
the animal of the Hedgehog?

JEFF:

I forget. I mean, you and I would think of Sonic, but yeah, I don't think...

DANNY:

Yeah, probably Sunny because he runs and that's his special skill. But if you think about a hedgehog, they're good at one thing to protect themselves with their [hair] So coming back to the whole 'one thing' and creating an identity. So yeah, there you go. So OK, that's probably why. Because, you know what, I remember as a kid, oh, there's a hedgehog in the road and that's dangerous. But, you know, they need to protect themselves some way. So maybe that's their strength, their protection, their defense. I think you're right. The hedgehog is always going to be a hedgehog and it knows what a hedgehog can do and what it's good at.

So there you go. It's the year of the hedgehog. I like it. Okay.

So given everything that's going on and, you know, with obviously the pandemic, how do you think the technology industry has changed? Do you think it's been good? Bad? Well, obviously the pandemic hasn't been good, but what do you think's shifted?

JEFF:

So it's really a period of innovation. And we're going to, we're going to find three or five years from now, we're going to see this divergent in the road of the those that said there's no going back this is now here and we've got to go down a different road. And those that the brick and mortars that stayed there, it's not going to work out. So in three areas, the service, hardware and maybe acceleration for digitization, tell us stuff is taking off.

So, Teledoc, Telebartender. For us, personal adviser, where you have an advisor that you can contact at Vanguard as opposed to going to a brick and mortar bank or institution. From hardware, I think the phone right now is staying the same, but we've seen PCs when we are on video conference.

Is your son doing virtual reality in the background like this?

DANNY:

This is a great time! He's now doing it in front of me because I've moved house.

JEFF:

OK, fine. And then Home Office technology like we're here. And then the last thing is the digital acceleration. My brother's a Principle and they've gone to digital work from home plans and he's not in a very affluent environment. Some folks that didn't have WiFi are driving to public libraries and sitting in parking lots so that their kids can do homework.

DANNY:

Wow. My goodness. Wow, I'm not used to that.

JEFF:

But that's the world right now. So how do we get WiFi to those that need to be educated?

DANNY:

Absolutely.

So look we're coming to the end of it and I'd like to ask you one final question, Jeff. And I really appreciate, again, always all your time. So you talked about the future and you talked about like today, how people doing with innovation, obviously you know, you've got to have action and innovation to make things and to create change.

And sometimes it's like, well, how much do I have to innovate versus how much do I actually do? But, you know what? We'll learn that together. I think the whole world is learning in that right now.

But what do you think the future looks like? What do you think in terms of technology? You know, what do you think it's going to look like in, let's say, a year, two years now? I know how hard it is to predict anything, but I'd love to be able to look back and go 'hey' do you remember when you said this?

JEFF:

But my big thing is always getting
the right information to the right person at the right time. And I think this is going to help us accelerate from hindsight being data to insight to being what happened to foreshadowing. And we want to be able to anticipate needs as we go through this. Amazon saw the buying patterns change
and saw 'wear masks and hand sanitizer,' but they didn't know what to do with it. Yeah, we've got to be in a point where we can anticipate things not just where a virus might be popping up, but we can use this technology to anticipate things and where markets change it.

DANNY:

Yeah. Lovely. Jeff, thank you so much for your time, as always. It's always a pleasure. You know how much I appreciate you. I appreciate you, buddy.

JEFF:

Back at you, man.

DANNY:

And look, for everyone listening, Thank you so much for your time, guys. I know how busy you are.

Just remember, we've got all our websites this will be on. (www.ComputerFutures.com) and please check out our social media channels, whether it's LinkedIn, to Twitter, the Computer Futures #TECHTalks hashtag and obviously SThree.

So, again, one final question, Jeff. If you look at the one thing you would recommend everyone to do today? What would be the one thing you would recommend for everybody to do today?

 

JEFF

Listen.

Listen, and set your goals; reasonable goal. We talked about and let's just end with the 'one thing.' We're on to 'One thing,' Danny.

DANNY

Legend, love it.

Thank you so much, Jeff. Have a lovely day. And everyone, to all the community, Thank you so much again, guys!