TECH Talks: featuring CTO Bryan Mishkin

TECH Talks was created out of the need for deep conversations that spotlight the voices of today’s technology leaders and experts. Our mission is to bring skilled people together. 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.

VP of Computer Futures, Danny Cohen, sits down with Bryan Mishkin, CTO and a dynamic versatile business-focused technology executive with broad industry experience driving products from concept to customer, Bryan is a creative solution finder. 


(Read the transcript below)

BRYAN:(snippet intro)

Talk about the COVID situation, I think the biggest thing that's changed at really breakneck speed is the adoption of virtual and remote and that really kind of all of a sudden all those fears and those concerns that people had about remote work all have largely fallen away. You've got companies like Google now saying they're going to keep people remote until the middle of 2021. And, you know, companies wouldn't do that if productivity was, not there.

DANNY: (Intro TECH Talks)

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening and welcome again to TECH Talks. This was created out of the need for deeper conversation that spotlight, the voices of today of the technology leaders and experts. I work for SThree.

I'm actually the Head of Computer Futures, a brand that focuses on technology recruitment. And our mission is to bring skilled people together to build the future. And I feel like this is what we do when we have these conversations. And really, by sharing these exclusive interviews with business owners, technology experts and exec leaders, we hope to help you navigate the fast-paced challenges happening in the market today. So I'd like to introduce our guest, Bryan Mishkin.
Bryan is a dynamic and versatile, business focused technology executive with broad industry experience driving products from concept to customer. Bryan is a creative solution finder.

One example, includes under his leadership at deverus, the engineering product teams transformed from being unreliable, disorganized and unable to deliver to being the most trusted, reliable departments in the company. His team consistently delivered the right
products and features on time and on budget to customers in 2019, which actually gave the company the ability to woo new customers, grow revenue and remain in business, which is probably the most important thing.

And so, Bryan, firstly, I obviously said a little bit about your current situation, but tell us a little about myself. And how did you actually first get into technology?


Well, that's a long story, actually, I got into technology when I was in middle school and my grandparents
had gotten us a computer. It had a five and a quarter inch floppy drive on it. And we had to actually write everything to it because it had no hard drive. And so I started coding in basic and some older languages in high school. And then in college I kind of started off
as a Computer Science major, but ended up in the School of Business at Indiana University with a concentration in Information Systems. And I found that program to be much more in line with kind of my skill set and and where my strengths were, right. It was much more about system design, system implementation, project execution, as well as some of the business concepts.

I graduated in 2000 and I got a job as an engineer. I spent the first couple of years of my career as an engineer before ending up in management, and then I progressively moved up the management stack. Ever since I actually started off my career in what I call more big corporate, more structure organizations and over the last couple of years have gradually migrated myself into a more startup, smaller companies that are more nimble or looking to grow. And so I've worked in all different kinds of languages. I've led all different kinds of teams over the years.

Conceptually, I have a very strong understanding of architectural concepts that I can put up between languages. And I'm really adept at, you know, talking to business people in terms of a language they can understand and instilling confidence in the technology team as well as, you know, trust, which are two critically important things in any company's technology team.


Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for that.
Just a quick one. Middle school, what's the age of middle school? Because we've got a group of global people out here who, you know, for us, for me, the uneducated Brit. What was the age of middle school? When did you actually officially get into it?


So for me, when I went when I was in school, it was actually junior high and the grades were seven, eight and nine. So grade school ended at sixth grade. And then I was seventh grade. What's the age, or the grade? There you go, add six. Yep.

Okay. I just got to do the maths. So you thought, okay, wow. And so this is your 20th year now in technology in actually the corporate world as well.


That's correct. Yeah.


Well, congratulations. Happy anniversary.
It's a pretty big milestone to achieve. You mentioned about the fact that, um, you seem to come from the larger enterprises to more of the small to medium. Was that intentional? Was that, you know, was that a choice or did it just happened?


It's been an intentional choice in the last few years. I started out kind of in those kinds of organizations. The last company like that that I really was a part of was UFCU, they're a great company here in Austin, Texas. They're a credit union, largest credit union in Austin. And I was the senior manager of eServices there, but also a regulated industry. And so there was just, you know, I find myself wanting to go fast, wanting to be able to produce great products and user experiences
as quickly as possible.

And so, you know, smaller and more nimble organizations tend to tend to be able to do that, tend to work better with agile processes and be more willing to embrace agile processes and be a little bit faster to embrace change.


Okay, so you like to get your hands dirty, see change and be part of the change you want to see. So that's fantastic. You've obviously been in the industry for a long time, but of late and you're in a unique position, you know, in your career in business. But what have you been observing that's been changing considering everything that's going on?


Well, I think, you know, when we talk about the COVID situation, I think the biggest thing that's changed at really breakneck speed is the adoption of virtual and remote. And that really kind of all of a sudden all those fears and those concerns that people had about remote work fall have largely fallen away. You've got companies like Google now saying they're going to keep people remote until the middle of 2021.
And, you know, companies wouldn't do that if productivity was was,
you know, not there. Right. And so you really see a lot of these sort of naysayers and a lot of the things that people said about virtual technology not proving true. People can work remote. And I think you're going to see that trend continue. I think you may even see companies have more willingness to hire somebody remote.

When they're in, say, San Francisco and have a hard time finding talent. Hiring someone in Austin Texas in a remote role, maybe when things get back to normal with more travel involved, depending on the level of that role. But I mean, remote is here to stay in. And I see that trend not just in the technology space, not just in technology companies, but across the board.

That credit union I mentioned earlier, folks are working remotely there, too, and they've adopted that and have done it in a secure way.
And then they move pretty quickly there relatively speaking, for the circumstance. So I definitely see that being a trend that's going to continue over time. I think we're also seeing some companies that had funding rounds close right before COVID having to deploy those funds and having to actually hire people and some of them having to hire a fair amount of people because, you know, their investors expect those funds to be deployed and them to continue to grow the business regardless of the pandemic. Conversely, you also see companies,
you know, furloughing and laying people off that are more affected by the pandemic that companies in the hospitality industry, airline industries, are probably coming here pretty soon as we might see some of those layoffs from American or Southwest, right.

And so you see some industries struggling and some industries doing really, really well. Health care being places where there's a lot of attention right now, even VC dollars being kind of thrown around for some of the health care, you know, telemedicine, virtualization technologies or even A.I. So it's a very interesting time in that respect to see how things have sort of changed very quickly.


Amazing insight and amazing analysis.
You know, I think when you talk about health care, I was told, you know, we've got a brands called Real and, you know, one of the largest pharmaceutical Life sciences recruitment company in America and globally.

And, you know, you could just see how much they have needed to deliver talent and how busy they are and how one consultant might be looking for one person a few months ago, but now of some of the leading projecting of 10 people to come in and help support them. So, yeah, in terms of that industry and the sort of things you're talking about in terms of new companies being set up, they need to find the right talent right now.

Do you think people are finding it easier to find talent today
than before, or do you think it's more competitive now?


I would say it's easier to build a talent pool. I don't think it ever...

Finding talent is always.. Finding the right talent, is always challenging and always takes work. It always takes paying attention to, you know, the hard skills as well as the soft skills.
But building a talent pool of qualified individuals, I would say today it's probably easier to do that because there's people that have been laid off, especially at the senior levels, that that might be looking for work
that would be applying, that would be working with recruiters that otherwise wouldn't be just a year ago, right.

So I think it's much easier to build a talent pool. Whether that talent pool has talent in it is a whole other question, right. And so that depends on your recruiting and what you're looking for. But I would guess it's easier to build a talent pool as it stands to reason is it would be easier to find the right person for a role than it otherwise would be.


Yeah, thank you for that. And in terms of your current situation, because obviously it's about due to technology experts who are kind
of disrupting the industry or trying to really make a difference. And it sounds like you always are. But what kind of project are you working
on right now that you're excited about, that you feel you're
making that difference?


Yes, I'm actually just wrapping up a project with a health care company, actually a health care telemedicine.


Oh really?


And I've been working with them just through a transitional period to kind of help them with their US team here and get through this transition, which they've done pretty successfully and had a lot of good things happen as part of that.


They're in a good industry right now.


Yeah, they are. And as part of that, I help them kind of architect some
of their processes within their technology so that instead of that, they'd architected a process such that they could only ingest one file and architecting and ingesting another file would require another set of code to actually do.

We rearchitected that process so that just adding a couple of rows into a database table would allow you to ingest the new file without having to change any code. So those are the kinds of insights and smart design that I tend to bring to the table with companies that I work with and help them get to a more scalable place, understand where their problems are and how to fix them in a way that's going to maximize the impact their engineers can have.


So the way you explained it sounds so simple, but I'm pretty
sure it's probably not. But the way you explained it was we just had to do these simple changes, but very simple changes can make a huge difference. You know, what do you expect to see from from the company in terms of results?


Well, I think for one, every time they onboard a new customer, it goes faster. Right. So what was taking months now takes days or takes what was taking weeks now takes days on the engineering side. Right. So sometimes when that happens, the bottleneck moves somewhere else. But I never want the focus to be on the engineering team. So we work with the engineering teams to try to deliver what they need
to deliver as quickly as possible. Sometimes because the business doesn't tell us till the last minute it's best for us to be able to nimbly
address something.


Right, of course.


And so we'll work with them on those kinds of issues but going faster, always makes everybody happy. And generally they'll come back and go, how did you do that? And then we have a conversation about what
we really need to do is this, this and this now. Right. And it just takes thought and design and it takes hiring smart people and letting them really think through a problem, the right way to, and then allowing them to go implement it in the right way. Understanding that taking a week now to go implement something the right way is going to save you triple that.


Absolutely. Our CEO, Mark Dorman, talked about the Art of War and not to surge in and try to fix things. It's like, be a human body that's
healthy and thinking ahead. It sounds like those are the sort of things
that you do and you do really well. Now, this is a sensitive question, I've always got to think how I put this and I mean it in the nicest possible way. But do you think COVID has actually helped the technology industry world? And I, I don't mean like, 'oh, brilliant bring a pandemic to the table, the virus is going to help us evolve.' But like you said earlier, it's meant that people at its very core have to change the way they work because of the pandemic and they've had to adapt to grow. But if you think about has that meant, it's helped? Or has it really created more problems?


So here's my take on, I think, what the pandemic is at least helped with. And I'll go back to kind of something I used to tell banking folks when I was working with them, is that change for human beings?

Change is hard.

It's just always hard. And everybody has their own change curve, right?



And so when we talk about, you know, holistic change, a couple of different things can spur that change on. And I think about, you know, a guy I knew who had a BlackBerry and loved it, right. And iPhone came along and the guy was like, 'I'm not changing.' Right. 'I'm not doing anything.' My hard keyboard stays. I need that. Today, that guy owns an iPhone, right. And eventually he got through his change curve, he came around and he adopted, you know, what he wanted, what he needed to adopt. I think what this has forced what the COVID pandemic has forced, is forced everybody that was taking longer on their change curve to move it forward exponentially. My folks are a great example of this; things that they might not have done online just 6 or 9 months ago because they weren't comfortable or they wanted to be in the store or they wanted to be around people, they do online.


Now, they have no choice, eh.



Well, and for them it's safer, right. So it's a matter of, 'Do I want to be safe with my physical health? And put my information security, my security concerns aside over here?' Yeah, I probably do. Or I want to trust the bank that things are secure. I want to trust, you know, the grocery store, that things are secure.

So I think it really, the pandemic has been a forcing function for technology adoption in ways we just haven't seen. Another example I can point to is we had a virtual birthday party for my brother and my parents credit to my mom. She's not the most tech savvy, but they did figure out how to get on the Zoom call and everything and participate.

And so, you know, and they were willing to do that because of because it was the only way they could say happy birthday to my brother, you know, in a meaningful way. And so I use those examples because I think it pushes everybody to adopt this technology. I love it. And I think then people start to see the convenience of the technology over what they were doing. The adoption, when COVID goes away, does not go away with COVID.

That's still going to be here. People will still want to do things virtually. I think about therapy appointments. Right. Why would I ever want to go into a therapist appointment when I can do it virtually? I don't see a huge benefit of sitting on a couch across from somebody face to face. Right. There's all kinds of examples where life can get better because of it. The downside?

The downside is I think people have struggled with what to do with themselves with COVID, when they can't gather in big groups. And that's been unfortunate. There's a lot of beautiful things out in the world, a lot of state parks just within a 60 mile radius of you that you should go explore that I've tried to explore. And I think you can get a lot of mental health there. And I think people need to pay attention to that.


Oh, absolutely. That's what you know, we've got our Thrive platform we use to help our people have a purpose, wellness, you know, just anything and everything, whether it's financial advice, whether it's how to just get out of your house and just, you know, because I know how tough is, especially a lot of the expats have come over to America sitting there by themselves in the smaller little apartment , in a location that's quite expensive by themselves from months and potentially may not forsee the future. But what you're talking about is how we make the future brighter and how we use today as an opportunity. And it seems like a lot of people one have had no choice in a way, between like you said, it's safer, but how do we make it better? How do we make it more improved? Why is it so important to you?


I think, you know, for me, it's important to me because I'm in the technology space and so the more people that adopt technology and see the benefits of it and use it and see the value of it, the more ubiquitous it becomes. And when technology is ubiquitous, it becomes much easier to invest in it, right? So just 10 years ago, people were investing in physical locations, phone banking, phone, phone systems, IVRs, things like that. And technology was one piece of the puzzle for them.

As more eyeballs moved to technology, it's organic that more investment is going to move to technology if banks experience less people and branches. Because, you know, the people that weren't checking their balances online now are and now will continue to do that, then that's going to accelerate those problems, right? That's going to that's going to need to be addressed.

And so I think part of the reason I like this is the more people adopt technology, the more people, you know, my technology gets to work with more and more people that get helped and see a benefit to it. And that's always a good thing. The faster we get to those kinds of things, the simpler the technology is to implement.

And the fewer people I have telling me, oh, we need to account for people that don't have email addresses, for example. Which to me should or should be ubiquitous. So it becomes easier to address
technology concerns in a lot of respects when technology can get more investment and when it's more traffic than the other channels because of its convenience.


So we're nearly at the end, and look firstly, Bryan, thank you so much for your time. You always speak so well. And so articulate, I wish I had the sort of language you have and how you put it. It makes it so simple, even though it isn't.

But if you look at the future, what do you think the future looks
like for you and for the technology world?


Well, I think that the future for me, you know, looks bright, I guess I'm wrapping up my contract with Babylon here and and, you know,
looking for what's next in that future. But I think in terms of the industry, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. I think the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. You're starting to see some reverberations now in the airlines laying people off. And those things just they always ripple into other places. And so I think you're going to see another round of layoffs come probably in the next few months.

And I think then from there, maybe some some rebuilding will happen. But I think, you know, my advice to anybody is just, you know, if you don't think it can happen to you, it can. I've been through layoffs before. It happens. Be prepared. Have your resume ready. You never know. Even if you're not looking, you never know.

But I think as we look into 2021, hopefully we get to some normalization and start to get things rebuilt a little bit as hopefully a vaccine shows up and, and whatnot. But I think I do see technology budgets being invested in more in 2021. I think everybody's budget in 2020 had less spend for technology than it ended up having. And I think as a result you're going to as a result of uncertainty in 2021, you'll see everybody's technology budget be much, much more flush than it had been in past years, probably taking from other places. Not necessarily mean companies are doing well, but but you'll still see a lot more investment continuing in technology into getting to the customers where they are and meeting them in mobile apps, in the web systems and other ways.


Brilliant! Love it. Thank you so much. And, you know, look, it's always a pleasure speaking to you, Bryan. But I really appreciate your openness, your honesty. And I think for those people looking,
potentially looking for a job, obviously it would be great to help you. And, you know, you can come to Computer Futures. We're a staffing firm obviously Bryan was talking about Babylon. We also have Real here for health care recruitment and we'll have this, obviously,
you'll be able to see the full video on our LinkedIn, our website.( And it will be about our social media channels.

And look, just one final question to you, Bryan, is why do you get so passionate about this? Is there a kind of end goal for you? Is there a vision for you, like kind of something we could finish off with? There's always love to hear from the people I speak to, about why do YOU do this?


You know, I think I love making and seeing technology work for people. I always start with the business process that we're implementing in the technology. And I tell people if you take a bad process and put it in great technology, it's still going to be a bad process, right.

And so for me, I do this to help people, you know, be better and then show them how technology can make their make their better process really shine, right. Things like being able to capture your check over your mobile phone, being able to order your pizza on a mobile phone are projects that I've been excited with and involved with in the past, over my career, right. And so those are the kinds of things like I get excited seeing, you know, how technology can improve people's lives when it's emerging. But also, you know, when it's not emerging.

I mean, there's examples of it in our in our everyday lives, everywhere where technology's enhanced our lives. And I've been fortunate that I've had a few products out there that have have done that for people over my career.

And I continue to get excited when that happens. I love hearing that. I love hearing how we can improve products and do better, as well as, you know, how we enrich somebody's life by making a good product that just works for them, right. And they don't have to understand all the complexities we had to do behind the scenes to get it there.


No, exactly! And it's embracing it isn't it? And we haven't really had the choice.
You talk about, you know, your parents for your brother's birthday.

I was hosting a webinar the other day and then afterwards with my mum calls me and goes, why did you not want to see your parents on the screen? I'm like, mum, firstly, I'm proud that you got the webinar!

Secondly, I didn't see anybody's faces, except the panelists.
It wasn't that we were trying to avoid you purposely, not you, because you're my mum. You know, it's those sort of things
that people if we embrace it, it can really help us.

And it sounds like that's what you want to do, is make the world a better place through technology. And so, honestly, thank you
so much, Bryan and everyone.

Thank you for listening and thank you for watching.
Have a fantastic day!