What I've Learned About Being An Effective IT Leader

Technology is there for the taking; it's the people that really matter.

Rick King, CTO at Thomson Reuters, Legal, in Eagan, Minn., is a consummate people person. He's as comfortable teaching high school algebra students about polynomial expressions, which he did for six years at the start of his career, to guiding seasoned IT teams planning state-of-the-art data center infrastructure. Ask him what he's most proud of in his 10 years at this Thomson Reuters division and King will tell you “the people I've assembled to run the data centers and make them effective tools for the business.” In this interview with contributing writer Beth Schultz, King reflects on …

THE HUMAN FACTOR: A focus on the importance of people in the whole equation really helps. I learned a lot about that when I was teaching, coaching football and baseball and as a hockey official. Things like that make you realize you can't do anything without having really good people.


Rick King, CTO, Thomson Reuters, Legal, Eagan, Minn.

EVALUATING JOB SEEKERS: Since good people totally make the difference in the success of an organization, you need to take your time in hiring. A bad hire will take you a long time to deal with, more time than leaving the position open and searching for the right person. Look not only for the right skills but the right attitude in terms of fit. Even when hiring times are tough, we want to be picky about who we bring in.

INQUISITIVE HIREES: You want to hire people who have a fair amount of curiosity. You have to have people who are curious as well as emotionally intelligent.

STUDENTS VS. DATA CENTER STAFFS: I learned that there's a whole series of different motivators for 16 year olds learning algebra and people in the data center. But the bottom line is, look at each person as an individual and try to understand what it takes for that person to reach whatever their goal is. For a 16 year old in algebra, it's probably making the material just interesting enough to motivate them to work on it. With your work teams, it's understanding what they want to do in their careers and giving them the direction and tools they need to accomplish it.

PERSONAL AWARENESS: At the top management levels, listening becomes a really key item, and having a clear knowledge of your own skills and capabilities really helps. As leaders, we need to be able to say what we're good at and what we're not and be able to hire to balance that out. You need to have effective personal awareness to do that.

BEING A PEOPLE PERSON: In operations, a people-focus gives you extra muscle to get things done with the resources that you have. It really helps orient you correctly to bring out the best in your people.

THE HARDEST RUBS: The biggest downside is that it's a 24/7/365 operation, and problems do not read the calendar. You have to get used to a different type of work, which actually is more suitable for how the world works today. You go with the ebbs and flows of the business and the projects you're on. You've got to be prepared to take your breaks when they present themselves, even though that makes planning stuff with the family hard. For a lot of our folks, that's where the hardest rubs come.

GETTING THE JOB DONE: Everybody can buy hardware; people are what make the difference--doing well is all about the people and what they can do for you. That may sound simple, but if you hire the right people, tell them where you want to go and give them the right tools, they're going to get you there.

What do you know now that you wish you'd known then? Share your tales here or contact Beth Schultz, at bschultz5824@gmail.com.

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