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Learning is a Must: An Interview with Computer Aid CIO Steve Heilenman

When you really want to know what is going on at the cutting edge of IT, you might as well ask the people who live there. In a video interview series for SarderTV, Phil Weinzimer interviews Steve Heilenman, CIO of Computer Aid, about leadership, smart hiring, and why learning is so important to organizational success.

On the Mind of a CIO

Heilenman begins and ends his interview by emphasizing the critical importance of strong business acumen for IT leaders. They must be able to communicate using the lingo of business and frame their ideas in terms of how they will drive value. Beyond this, there are several other qualities that Heilenman identifies in what makes a great IT leader. For starters, they must be dedicated, enthusiastic, and willing to take risks. They also must make themselves available to others, give credit where credit is due, and lead by example.

These are qualities that Heilenman looks for in potential hires too. The best candidates are enthusiastic, logical, and have the potential to become leaders themselves down the line. At Computer Aid, they especially invest in keeping their talent, and in offering internships to attract sharp young talent. The easiest ways to hold on to high-potential talent are to continue delegating challenging and interesting work to them, and to create a path for career advancement. It is likewise necessary to foster a positive team culture, where risks and failures are tolerated, and a work hard-play hard mentality perseveres.

As Heilenman says, “You either innovate or you go extinct.” To that end, he has made a habit at Computer Aid of taking services that were initially built as internal offerings and finding ways to turn them into customer-facing products. One such product, involving test automation, shrunk a process that used to take from 6-8 weeks into something that could be done in minutes. And to address project governance, Automated Project Office was created.

Heilenman believes that the most direct way to inspire innovation is to always be learning, which is why he dedicates one hour every day to continued learning—whether through journals, webinars, Wall Street Journal, or even YouTube. He encourages his team to do the same. At Computer Aid, they commit to 2000 hours of innovation per quarter, and 50 percent or more time is committed to value-adding functions, versus “lights on” functions. When the alternative is “extinction,” who could ask for anything less?

Those looking to become CIOs themselves just need to follow a few key pieces of advice. Heilenman says they need to get out of their comfort zone, find a good mentor, and build trustworthy teams that help elevate them. In business, nobody succeeds alone. Heilenman understands that we have to succeed together.

View the press release here:

View the full video interview series here:

And below, you can watch one more additional clip with Steve Heilenman that you will not find in the interview series:

About John Friscia

John Friscia is the Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He began working for Computer Aid, Inc. in 2013 and continues to provide graphic design support for AITS. He graduated summa cum laude from Shippensburg University with a B.A. in English.

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