We discuss the intersection of technology and strategy with one of the biotech industry's leading executives, who also happens to be a woman.
Technology and Strategy in Biotech, with Andi Karaboutis, Executive Vice President, Biogen
Chief Information & Digital Officer
Chief Digital Evangelist
Technology plays a foundational role in biotech and the pharmaceutical industry. In this episode, we discuss the intersection of technology and strategy with one of the industry's leading executives, who also happens to be a woman.
Andi Karaboutis is Executive Vice President Technology & Business Solutions at Biogen, located in Cambridge, MA. She is accountable for technologies that provide insights for drug discovery and patient benefit.
(00:03) Biotechnology is a big deal, and when it comes to biotech the technology part involves not just medicine but involves data, predictive analytics and a host of computing power including all kinds of interesting things. And today on episode number 123 of CXOTalk. We are joined by – and my co-host Vala Afshar, I should say I’m Michael Krigsman and my co-host is Vala Afshar and Vala should introduce our guest. Hey Vala, how are you? How do you like that for a convoluted introduction?
(00:46) Yeah, it’s only episode 123.
(00:49) One of these days we’re going to kind of nail it.
(00:52)We are. You know what it is Michael, I think both of us are a little bit nervous because we have an extraordinary guest on this show and I know I’m nervous.
(00:59) That’s it.
(01:00) And last time when we had Andi Karaboutis on our show she was the CIO of Dell and I remember for 45 minutes, I couldn’t tweet fast enough because all the science she dropped on us, so I’m anticipating the same thing today where Andi Karaboutis, EVP of Technology and Business Solutions from Biogen is joining us. Hi Andi how are you.
(01:20) Good Vala, how are you? It’s a pleasure to be back.
(01:24) Thank you so much for being back and if you wouldn’t mind Andi maybe you could share with us a little bit about your professional background so our audience can learn more about you.
(01:35) Absolutely, so I started my academic life and career if you will in Detroit. I spent 20 years in the auto industry. 15 years at Ford Motor Company and six at General Motors, a tremendous industry where I learned a lot about technology and manufacturing.
(01:55) I then went to Dell in Austin Texas, a little bit warmer than Boston Massachusetts I would say, and joined another great institution called Dell and I was the Global Chief Information Officer for about three years.
(02:09)And just last September I took a pretty big leap. I moved to Boston and joined the biotechnology industry and I’m now with Biogen, one of the oldest biotechnology companies and a leader in neurodegenerative hematologic and autoimmune disease for therapeutics so and I’m having an absolute blast, drinking from a fire hose and learning a ton.
(02:34) So Biogen is quite a large company. Your revenue is about 10 Billion.
(02:42) Per year, so give us a sense of the kinds of technologies that are involved with biotech.
(02:53) Absolutely, so there is the technology if you think about biotechnology which is the use of living systems and organisms to develop products and therapeutics, and in our case for a lot of orphan diseases like multiple sclerosis which is very specialized diseases I would say.
(03:09) Our scientists and research groups use a lot of technology to work with the molecular biology anddown at the cell level where you can imagine you’re down into Nano you know sorts of technologies. So a tremendous amount there within research.
(03:25) Within the last few years if you think about the capabilities that have emerged, genetic sequencing, being able to get data and insights on protein, and proteomics and metabolomics and all those things that are now available to us to gain more insight about a disease and disease states. All of that Michael has generated a plethora in terms of data that now we can start using.
(03:56) And if I look at it at the macro-level to actually try to accelerate the drug discovery process, bringing the drug to market takes 10 to 15 years as we sit here and speak. From start you know, in the research labs looking at the disease state all the way through to make potentially going on the market.
(04:20) Technology and disruptive technologies can now help in a number of states or a number of processes along the way to help reduce that time, and to help target even more therapeutics or target more end states that we can develop therapeutics for.
(04:42) So Andi, you leave Dell and you join a smaller company even although we’re talking 10 billion in revenue and you were talking about accelerating and bringing drugs to market, and just capturing all this analytics and being actively part of the discovery process. What are some of the changes that you’re experiencing at Biogen as compared to when you were you know the CIO of Dell?
(05:08)So I think the biggest changes for me personally was obviously learning about biotechnology and you know what the industry is about. Going from the auto industry to the technology industry was a leap. Going from both of those to the biopharma industry is a huge leap.
(05:32) So Vala, I had to start with two atoms make a molecule and start learning from there and really understanding. Because as you know, any great technology has and I’ve a lot of those years in the industry, you have to understand the core business of the company. And that includes what is being done, how the business is run, how the regulatory and compliance groups work, etc.
(06:02) The other big difference is although the tools and the systems around enterprise IT to run a company are all very similar. You’ve got your ERP’s, your MRP’s, your CRM’s for you know, Customer Relationship Management, the enterprise resource and material replenishment etc.
(06:21) But, when you’re in an industry like this and the remit is much bigger and you’re now looking at, how do we do computational biology, bioinformatics that is specific to this industry. And you know many would say, oh that’s big data. You really do need to understand the interdisciplinary processes of biology, Information Technology and computer science, because it’s at those crosshairs where you can really start helping you know the researchers and you know our PhD. Scientists to do you know, drug discovery and finding the right targetsto actually you know, find molecules and therapeutics for.
(07:04) Andi, we want to definitely drill down and talk about these things, but you’re responsible for technology and business solutions. So to help set the context, give us a sense of what your organization encompasses.
(07:23) SoI have a set of groups. There’s three big groups that are under my remit of technology and business solutions. The first is enterprise IT, which is the core IT capabilities for the company, that handles the taxonomy of the business everywhere from research, development, manufacturing, process manufacturing etc. all the way to patient services and you know worldwide medical etc.
(07:52)So if you think of the taxonomy of the business our enterprise IT owns and runs that and I’m pleased to say I just appointed a new CIO Matt Griffiths, who was also at Dell with me. and Matt assumed the position of CIO just a few months ago and is running that.
(08:07) The second big group is what I call the global data office, and the global data office has computer scientists, biologists, chemist, PhD. Researchers and people who have worked in informatics, computer science biology together to help our researchers with the modelling, the capability and even things like how do we have compute connectivity and storage. You know dynamically provision so we can run the various experiments and research that we meet.
(08:38)So the global data office handles the spectrum from analytics all the way up to computational biology or bioinformatics. And that’s a new group that we just established in this past year working with our researchers.
(08:53)It’s not only limited to research, we’re also running programs to try and understand our patients, our therapeutics. Things like, and you’ll recognize these names value based medicine, personalized medicine, stratification of the patient so we can see which therapeutics are better for which patient.
(09:16)The data that’s out there Michael and Vala is unbelievable, and historically, we we’re at the mercy of researching, pulling you know just more tactical measures. Now we’re trying to build modelling etc. to really help us understand everything from research all the way to our patients insights.
(09:38)The third big group is digital health tech, and I say big because I mean big impact, right. And digital health tech, to put it in simple terms, if you think about all of the plethora of devices that are out there, wearables and you know the band aid that attaches that can read skin sensitivities and all the various things, they provide insights.
(10:02) And we’re looking into that so we can understand everything from, you know the life of a patient between visits to a doctor that would provide potential insight, to a provider or to us. Obviously very anonymously driven and these are all hypotheticals and things that were trying to make into programs if you will.
(10:26)So it’s all three of those. It’s enterprise IT. It is the global data office and the digital health technology, which is a feed into the data office.
(10:36) Andi, are there some unique challenges that you could share with us, since I believe you joined in September of 2014, so what are some of the unique challenges in biotech that are new to you as compared to when working at Dell for example.
(10:53)So I think some of the unique challenges, first of all there’s cultural differences and the industry is different in that really sharing with the biotech organization what the things are that we can do with technology.
(11:08)So when you work at Dell, you have a number of people that fully understands technology. When you work in the biotech you have a lot of people that understands biology, molecular biology etc. and some technology.
(11:09)So really educating and one of the disruptive technologies we can use, and how are some of the models that we can do in order to help tie for example, genomic sequences, genomic data with proteomic and metabolomics and things like that to really come up with insights.
(11:38)The second big challenge and I’d say it’s more of an opportunity than a challenge is we’re doing a lot of partnering, and partnering with research organizations, Columbia University for example, Harvard etc. and some other organizations in order to be able to pull together things in consortium and to be able to move the industry forward. So the opportunities are things that you educate a lot on.
(12:06)So you were CIO at Dell and now, being CIO is a part of your organizations responsibility. Is there a linkage or a pathway from being your previous role of CIO to what you’re doing now? What is that path and what are the connections?
(12:31)You know Michael it’s a continuum. I know you know a lot of people say, oh CIO, this is CIO plus or you know etc. technology and this is a cliché phrase, but it is ubiquitous, right and so you start moving with technology and the recognition ofopportunities that it can help disrupt or drive. And all of a sudden more remit, more opportunities come.
(13:00)So for example, we weren’t looking at digital health technologies at Dell. We’re looking at that here. Data, we provided a lot of platforms that would help with data. You know, Dell had some great products and still does around that. This is now about how do you get those insights into the hands of scientists and things like that.
(13:21) The patient pay or provider – so it’s a continuum of where you’re reaching further and further outside the company and impacting the consumer or the products of a company as opposed to running the internals of a company.
(13:36) And I think you know, to quote Steve Jobs, in this industry, the biggest disruption in this century is really around the marriage of technology and biology. And so I would say it’s a continuum and it keeps getting bigger what the opportunities are.
(13:57) Andi, we have a question from Twitter from Frank Scavo, who is a top enterprise software industry analyst and he’s wondering, are the systems that manage clinical trials under your jurisdiction, your department?
(14:03)So we have a lot of out sourced opportunities in that, so clinical trials are typically run by our CRO’s, and so companies for example, Quintiles etc. but you know they have their systems and we have systems that interface with them. And by the way, they’re not an exclusive CRO for us but an example.
(14:40) Andi, you’re both a technologist and a business person. Can you tell us a bit about how those two intersect and the importance of that in terms of being you know a digital change agent?
(14:54) Yeah, they intersect very well Vala, and they’re mandatory. Being a business person and a technologist is mandatory if you’re going to succeed. I’m on the management team at Biogen, and if in fact you know, you don’t understand the strategy of the company, the balance sheet of the company, the goals of the company, and you’re trying to drive disruption and help the company realize those goals and objectives, you’re kind of flying with a blinder on.
(15:23) So when I was at Ford, I spent six years in the core business as IT people would say and it was actually one of the best opportunities I had because you see things from a non-technology or IT perspective.
(15:38) Now, being part of the management team and understanding the business and all of those you know, capabilities, balance sheets and all the rest. You’re able to actually influence and say, hey this is an opportunity for us to do this to achieve these objectives, and you’re actually having those more forward thinking discussions. So it’s mandatory.
(15:59) I don’t think any CIO, who doesn’t truly viscerally understand the business is going to be successful. And I don’t mean the business from a future state reference architecture of having been out there, whether it’s on the field, or whether it’s on the road etc. I’ve personally been on the road with our sales teams, visiting hospitals, providers etc. to really understand how we do our processes and have been in our labs as well.
(16:29) So what does the business expect from you.
(16:36)Several things. First, efficient enterprise and you know everyday tools, those are not trite. It’s very unsexy for some people would think, but the reality is you still have to run a very efficient and reliably enterprise. That’s one.
(16:53) The second is insights, and I would say that’s probably the biggest thing that they’re looking at by brining myself in, who’s worked in a tech company etc. in a broader remit is how are you going to help bring insights so that we can help the drug discovery process, the drug development process, and the drug commercialization process. How do we cut time out of you know our therapeutic development etc. and then new disruptive technologies?
(17:23) You know, I took my leadership team to Babson College not too long ago about in the last couple of months and we went through a session with Babson, which is obviously a big entrepreneurial school about how do we think entrepreneurially in an industry and in a company that’s highly regulated, but we want to help with those processes that we talked about. So they’re expecting a lot of insights and a lot of opportunity for me to bring to the table, how do we marry technology to help this company achieve its goals.
(17:55) Andi, a couple of weeks ago we had David Cohen, who is the co-founder of Techstars a startup accelerator and you know Techstars did help 200 some odd companiesraise nearly $2 billion in venture capital and I was surprised to hear that you know they’re working with Nike, with Disney, with Microsoft, Qualcomm. He named you know a bunch of fortune 250 companies in terms of helping identify potential disruptive technologies. You mentioned going to Babson, does your team work with startups to better understand and stay ahead of what might be disruptive technology that you can use within Biogen.
(18:43) Absolutely, so completely we do Vala and I will tell you I was at two venture capital companies in California in the last few months looking at probably a total of 15 startups. I just came back from England, where I visited with a VC company in London and also the Sanger-Genomic Institute out in Cambridge. We’re talking to a number of universities, UCSF, Columbia, Harvard, obviously MIT right across the street from us. So the opportunity for partnerships and different kinds of partnerships and seeing what’s out there is probably I would say one of the first things, or maybe second thing after understanding the strategy of the company that we’ve been doing. And it’s constant. It’s not going out there once.Things are changing, startups are coming up and we have a lot of companies and individuals coming to us with great and interesting ideas.
(19:41) We’re also part of the MIT media lab, which is an unbelievable organization, you know it stems for things that are out there in multiple industries. And I’m proud to say that you know well we’re looking in our own industry. We’re looking to learn from other industries as well because a lot of disruption and opportunities emerge from there as well. So completely all over it I would say.
(20:08) So do you see startups as a kind of external opportunity for innovation or source of innovation that you can then ultimately bring back into Biogen. Or how do you view your relationship with startups.
(20:24) Innovation from a respective of ideas, from the perspective of partnerships and potentially other you know sorts of engagement but we absolutely see startups that way. We see academia as a huge source of innovation and information, startups, consortia’s, various groups.
(20:46) So what I call a 360 degree view. We will turn down nothing. We also believe post doc’s and things like that, you know, individuals that we bring in are a wealth of information. So marrying all that together is I think what’s going to help us really propel forward and the continued success at Biogen.
(21:07) I want to mention some of our previous guests. We had John Halamka, CIO of Harvard Beth-Israel and so do you work with CIO’s in the healthcare industry and collaborate with them in order to again, insure innovation and better understanding of disruptive tech as it relates to Biogen?
(21:29) Yeah, Matt, the CIO here at Biogen and PISA which is the Pharmaceutical consortium, where we come together the biotech and pharma companies, very active group I’m very pleased to say that the technologists in this really do talk, collaborate, work together. We’re all in different therapeutic areas. There is some overlap, so information exchange amongst the technology group is really good.
(22:02) Do you have a formal innovationprograms at Biogen, again I’m trying to understand how the startups fit in with your internal innovation efforts.
(22:16) So we’ve done some partnerships. Some are public
(23:08) Awesome, we definitely will. Andi, you mentioned the space is right for digital disruption and you also talk about you know brining drug to market can be 10 to 15 years, so perhaps part of the efforts disrupting the industry to accelerate brining drugs to market. But can you talk a little bit more about what you mean when you say right for disruption.
(23:31)So right for disruption is more of the insights Vala right. So we have not equipped historically in this industry with these scientists with the tools to be able to do, I call it in practical terms the research and get the insights that they should be getting in a much quicker manner, right.
(23:57)So doing research, finding targets could take weeks and months. With the right horsepower, with the right modelling, we should be able to find targets to go after and what I mean is molecular targets if you will, to go after in hours and days. And that’s exactly what we’ve done through implementing and we have a research cloud, and again we’ve pulled together informatics people with our biologists in computational biology to get those insights quicker.
(24:30) What are the challenges in making this happen, because on the surface it seems like you know, bringing more horsepower to the problem seems pretty obvious and yet there must be deep challenges associated with it or you wouldn’t be talking about it in the terms of the challenge of disruption.
(24:50) Yeah, so the horsepower is the easy part, but it’s the price of admission, you have got to have dynamic cloud, compute power, and connectivity, right. We’re actually part of the Internet to with consortium with 280 other universities or academic institutions, where you know we share information and we’re able to use that compute power, but that’s the easier part.
(25:16)The tougher part is accumulating the data that you need. We’ve got pub-med data, we’ve got our own clinical trial data, we’ve got genomic data. You know, obviously several years ago you couldn’t do genomic sequencing within an reasonable amount of time or budget. Now we’ve got all of that.
(25:35)The challenge is bringing that altogether and really doing the modelling to create the insights. And I say challenge, it’s not a hurdle but it’s a huge opportunity and how quickly we can do that with you know, our interdisciplinary constituents we talked about in order to gain those insights.
(25:52)So let me give you a real example Michael. The study of disease, if you look at the drug development process, four steps at a very high level. You want to study the disease itself that you’re looking at, right. Then you want to pick a target, or you want to pick a molecule that you either want to treat, or want to impair, you want to prevent etc.
(26:16)Think of that as step two, step three is picking a drug or a therapeutic, and step four is developing that. And by the way, 95% of that drug or target that you’re treating, those drugs never make it to market, so it is a very irritative process.
(26:32) But if you think about studying the disease itself, you’re studying is it a genetic you know defect or something in the genes that causes the disease? Is it? Is it infectious? What is that?
(26:46)Well that means you’ve got genetic data. You could have protein data. You could have metabolic data. You could have environmental data. You could have geographic data. Data data, data data right, that, holds us one of the biggest big data problems, but we need to be able to pull that in and be able to find those intersection points so that it’s not sort of you know, darts as to this is what we think this disease could be. It’s much more successful in that focus, and that’s the big opportunity.
(27:23) Andi, okay you’ve mentioned so far you know wearable, you know obviously Internet of Things and sensors and ingestible’s and you know, clearly anything that can be connected will be and there’s going to be oceans of data that hopefully folks like yourself can convert to insights that can lead to rapid decisions and actions to ultimately value you to and end user or customer or an employee. How are you thinking about all of this?
I mean are you recruiting differently? Are you looking for data scientists to bring into IT, or are you, you know setting up innovation labs within Biogen for example with wearables to get a sense of how to integrate all of that into the enterprise and to healthcare institution. You know, can you talk to us about how you think about all of this?
(28:16) Yeah, that’s a great question Vala. So first off we start when we think about this, we start with what’s the question we’re trying to answer. So it’s really easy to have people say, look at this great watch, you know, we’ve looked at Intel, we’ve looked at Google, we look at Apple, we looked at Samsung. We’ve looked at all of them because they are all in their own right you know successful.
(28:37) But what’s the question we’re trying to answer. So for instance, for a multiple sclerosis patients, you know multiple sclerosis patients can go into doctors every six months for a checkup. But what’s happening in between those visits?
(28:52) If some form of device, and I won’t say a watch or an implantable or something, but some device that reads the motion of the patient, and is able to actually signal when a patient is the gate has gone off, which is indicative of progressive MS and moving onto the next state, then these devices should be able to tell us.
(29:16) So the question potentially for instance we try to answer is how do we manage and help our providers, and also get insights on the patient in between those visits to understand how therapeutics could be working and what not. And then we move that inward and we work on the problem.
(29:37) Relative to who we recruit in IT and the global data office, and in digital health tech, it is very different to where I might have been recruiting before in the auto industry or at Dell, because now I’m looking for people that actually have a background in science and computing.
(29:56) Very difficult to find, but out there and we’re in the hotbed of technology here I’m pleased to say with MIT and you know various schools around us. And either Vala, you and Michael obviously know that, but it is a very specific skillset informatics, biology, computer science and IS as well, information systems so we are looking for those specialists.
(30:20) So Andi, so when you talk about the skillsets and the competencies require to do this kind of work, clearly you are mixing people with very different backgrounds. People from traditional technology backgrounds, mixed with medicine, mixed with biology and chemistry and so forth. So from a management standpoint, how do you drive collaboration among these groups of people who have different training, different goals. This must be a core component of what you do I would imagine.
(31:01) I spend a lot of time on building teams, the relationship you know talking about teamwork and what not. Michael, at the core, the driving teams that value velocity versus speed, which means we all going in the same direction and hopefully increasing speed as we go. But it’s more important that we all understand the North Star where we are going, and we drive velocity over speed.
(31:29) We drive valuing each other’s skillset, because although I just described the phenotype of the perfect person that understands chemistry, biology, computer science etc. you get variation strengths of those skills in various people, and they have to respect each other’s capabilities and so the teamwork etc. is very important.
(31:52)The third dimensional is we are a highly regulated industry, and we’re a company that absolutely respects and you know, very proud to say is very much in the letter of making sure that we’re doing everything as we should for the drug discovery and development process. But that doesn’t preclude a spirit of entrepreneurialism and innovation. So that’s the other dimensional that I’m building teams to drive.
(32:19)And we have to think that way, just because it was no we can’t historically. We start with, well how do we get to where we can get insights from patients, but still absolutely value anonymity and HIPAA regulations. And so that’s how we’re thinking of those things and we’re building teams to work together to do that.
(32:40) Clarity around roles and responsibilities is as important here as anywhere, and you know, the North Star of the goals that we are trying to achieve, all of that together is building the high performance team that we need to really achieve the goals for our technology and business solutions.
(32:58) So Andi, I’m going to shift gears a little bit. I have two girls, they’re 12 and nine. Knock on wood, both are strong in math and so far doing really well in school and the older one is starting to ask me about engineering. Her dads a EE and so what advice can I give to my 12 year old and my nine year old girl about you know, studying technology and science and someday aspiring to reach you know the incredible success that you’ve had.
(33:32)Well thank you Vala. So I think the key thing is tying it to the outcomes, right. A lot of times parents, and I’ve done it as well and I have two sons, but I’ve done it as well. So you know technology, math, analytics, the numbers are really important etc.
(33:48) But when you tie it to, see that patient over they are, we are able to tell if they are getting better or worse because we can see data or the providers can see data from it and we actually help with that. It is tying it to the outcomes. That would be the first thing that I would say Vala.
(34:06)The second thing is sometimes girls, sometimes think, and I think probably a lot of people but I would say it’s more endemic in girls because if something is hard we don’t like it, and that’s not the case. Right, try it, tried hard you know and you can develop passion for it and really try to study it. I think showing the results of what technology can do is important.
(34:37)The third thing is really showing and demonstrating look, technology is everywhere. It is in every industry. You know from the automobile that’s also become your travel adviser because it’s telling you which way to go, and you know it’s become your concierge to and it’s become etc. all the way to, you know my world of ingestible, and wearables etc. that are monitoring the Internet of me right, so it’s ubiquitous.
(35:08) And for anybody to some level that doesn’t believe studying the sciences, technology, engineering, math and things that you know kind of come to the core of that, you’re really excluding a lot of what you can do going forward because it is so ubiquitous.
(35:26) Andi, continuing on this topic, you’ve been extremely successful in a succession of very large companies and we hear about a glass ceiling. Have you ever experienced a glass ceiling, and if so, how have you been able to break through that glass ceiling.
(35:49) Yeah, so Michael I honestly have not, and I’m not saying this because I believe I should say this from you know, Ford, General Motors, Dell and now here at Biogen, you know those are my personal experiences. I have not experienced that glass ceiling, but I will tell you, I think a lot has to do with the mindset that I’ve gone in with. Which is I’ve gone in with, what are the problems that we’re trying to solve? What are the challenges? What are the goals that we are trying to meet? Versus how many women are in the room etc.
(36:24) By the way, you do think that because you do want to build diverse teams. But you don’t think of that as you are going into an organisation with the mindset of how do I contribute to the absolute most that I can, and when you do that, the opportunities present themselves.
(36:44)So I’m not saying that others haven’t. I don’t want to discount with what could be real situations of people bumping into glass ceilings. I have just found that I haven’t, and I think I have been very fortunate that I have also gone in with the mindset as I have said before, what are we trying to do and let’s go do it.
(37:01) So are you saying a result oriented mindset can help be more inclusive and cultivate a culture of diversity.
(37:11) Yes. Result oriented, focus on the goal, right, focus on the goal because even if you’re in and innovating environment where you fail fast, you might not get the results. But you are focusing on, okay we had to re-course correct, where do we go. So it is focusing on that North star of where is it that the company is going. What is my part of getting the company there?
Playing my position, both from the technology for example and as part of a management team and how do I enable my team to do the same thing. If you keep that maniacal focus, I think the results you know really start coming and the sky’s the limit.
(37:53) Now you are also on the Board of Directors of Advance Autoparts, and when we think of auto parts and car repair and car enthusiasts, clearly this is yet another very heavily male dominated industry and you’re on the board. So tell us about that.
(38:17)So I am absolutely thrilled to be on the Board for Advanced Autoparts. I just joined and announced like last year and started this year and it’s a very diverse board. I’m not the only female on the board. We have another female on the board and we’ve got you know, a plethora of diversity on it.
(30:38) And it is, for me I smile Michael when you ask that because it helps me keep one foot in the auto industry, which I really have a big passion for, but it’s fantastic. It is you know, once again I find it to be a team of people that are focusing on the goals that we need to get to, and are very very thoughtful group of people talking about how do we do it, what are the challenges, and what are the opportunities. And we all keep an eye towards the greater good of that company.
(39:08) So you’re just one of the guys.
(39:11) I’m one of the board members.
(39:16) Andi, last week we had Graeme Hackland, who is the CIO of Williams racing, so I’m going to bring up cars. 18 years in Formula One racing and when I asked him for advice he said temperament is important when he builds and recruits within his organization, the grime and the grit and the real time nature of race day, and he talked about a car with 200 sensors, a 1000 channels of data. He said in one race they produce 150gig of data, and his team is responsible for providing the insights for the cockpit, the crew and team and so on and so forth. So is temperament also important in biotech when you’re surrounded by Ph.D.’s and scientists and as a technologist you’re trying to convince them to perhaps adopt a new way of doing things using new technology. Do you agree the temperament is also very important?
(40:18) Yeah, I think in general absolutely, temperament is very important. I will say though it’s interesting because the Ph.D.’s and you know our scientists are very open to it. You know my bringing it to them, explaining value and working together, but I think temperament is very important.
(40:37)For me the most important thing is continuing to bring the ideas in leadership. Making sure that everybody is going in the same direction, because quite often we have teams and I liken this to the analogy of the high performing teams, the flock of geese. Right, they’re all going in the same direction, and they are flying and they together do course corrections for headwinds. You don’t see a goose flying off in the other direction, right.
(41:05)For me, that would probably be for you know in this industry, and I would say even in others the most important. But temperament certainly is as well. You know, interestingly Vala, think of that car with all the sensors, and reading all of the levels and everything draws the analogy to a human being in what we can do, right.
(41:29)So while two very different industries, this is where I draw a lot of parallels on what we can do to be able to read and get data, and get personalized medicine. That’s the big disruption for technology to support.
(41:44) So we only have a few minutes left and I talk to a lot of CIO’s all the time, and one of the common challenges that a CIO or a technologist faces in business is learning how to communicate strategically with business counterparts so that that person gets a set at the table. And you are somebody who does have that set at the table. So what advice do you have for technologists who want that and who want to be part of that strategic partnering and decision making process.
(42:25)Yeah, that is so key Michael. So I’ll tell you the exact analogy I’d tell my entire team. Whatever you do, do not start talking about photosynthesis first. When we communicate to our business partners, here’s the planet, here’s the continent, here’s the country, here’s the forest, here’s the tree, there’s the branch, there’s the leaf, there’s photosynthesis.
(42:54)As technologists, we start talking at the photosynthesis level, and sometimes you don’t even need to get to that level. So I’m really strong about start with what problem that we are helping this company solve, or what goal we’re trying to achieve and work your way very quickly down to.
(43:14) I’ve even known to and my team will tell you, Taylor the presentation with you will start with the goal and what you expect out of this presentation or meeting and go from there. And it keeps people out of saying things like the cellular layer and the third non-maskable interrupt code…
(43:37) That was a fantastic analogy. You started it with Earth, continent, country, planet yes, that was awesome it’s so true.
(43:51) So speak English is that paraphrasing.
(43:55) I think start with the big picture and have people follow you down the road, right so and speak English and sometimes you just need to get to the tree not down to photosynthesis.
(44:07) So start with the big picture, be clear and know the audience to what you’re talking about.
(44:14) Yeah, I also say no fluff, but that’s a subject of a whole other CXOTalk and I can tell you about fluff.
(44:22) It’s funny you should say that. I just tweeted to a fellow Elon Musk to his employees that he was begging them to stop using acronyms, and he said the only time you should use an acronym is that it actually improves the understanding, and even then just please stop using acronyms and I so love that memo.
(44:47)You know Vala it’s so funny that you say that because even earlier in this presentation, here, I said CRM, PRM, and I spoke back to what those were because I thought I sound like somebody I don’t want to sound like.
(45:01) Well you were brilliant. As I said at the beginning of the show, I had a tough time keeping up with Twitter and not many guests challenge me with respect to sharing on Twitter. So thank you so much again for being an extraordinary guest for being on CXOTalk.
(45:19) Thank you Vala, and thank you both for having me.
(45:22) Yes, this has been fantastic. We have been talking with Andi Karaboutis, who is the Executive Vice President for Technology and Business Solutions at Biogen, a $10 billion revenue biotech company. This has been episode 123. I am Michael Krigsman and my co-host is Vala Afshar, and Vala we learned a lot about biotech during this last 45 minutes.
(45:54) I cannot waitto summaries this in hopefully less than a 4,000 word blog.
(46:01) Andi, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today.
(46:05) Thank you. Thank you for having me.
(46:07) And everybody watch come next week. But first please subscribe to our mailing list. You’ll see the link there it says subscribe. Thanks everybody and we’ll see you next time. Bye bye.
Babson college: www.babson.edu
Ford Motor Company www.ford.com
General Motors: www.ge.com
Sanger Genome Institute: www.sanger.ac.uk
Wayne State University: www.wayne.edu
Published Date: Jul 31, 2015
Author: Michael Krigsman
Episode ID: 237