S2 E5: SHARING IS CARING! COULD DATA SHARE HELP HEALTHCARE?— with Jason Ward, VP & General Manager Dell Technologies Ireland: Transcript
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Jason Ward shares his views on how cognitive diversity spawns from avoiding echo chambers filled with yes people…
Listen to the podcast about the differences between the Irish and the Nordic markets and people coaching from minutes 1 to 7.
(Geraldine) Jason, just this January, you became VP of medium business in Western Europe while also being VP and general manager of Dell technologies Ireland. Does this mean you charge in different waters or is it an expansion to your original remit from the last year and a half?
(Jason) Geraldine, it’s actually an expansion of the remit that I had. So obviously managing the Irish business it’s an exciting business to run, but the medium business across Western probably is comparable to what the Irish market is.
We operate across large enterprise public sector, medium customers. The medium business across Western Europe — it’s probably pretty much reflective of what happens in Ireland. So a lot of what I do or have done in Ireland with the team is stuff that we can replicate across Western Europe. So it’s not an added responsibility, but one that fits quite nicely into what I do here in Ireland.
(Geraldine) Jason, I know that you dwell first in the Nordic parts as well. And I was curious because geographies bring about different personalities and different policies, but for you, how do you relate differently to the Nordics and the Western Europeans? And I’m going to put all the UK into that.
(Jason) Yeah, that’s an interesting one. I think it’s a learning curve to be honest. All of the regions are quite different in their own cultures, philosophies. I think everybody’s joined in terms of the mission with Dell technologies. So what we’re trying to do, obviously our mission is to become the essential technology company for the data era. But when you try and bring that to a region and get them to embrace it and deliver it in their way.
Now, the Nordics they’re very much innovators, probably risk-takers to some extent, pretty much go-to attitudes. If you think about the Spanish and the Italians, the Dutch. They are a bit more reserved in terms of how they go to the market.
So, it’s really interesting because you learn so much about people and individuals and team members, and it’s definitely a case of sometimes it’s interesting when you work for an American company or any American company, they look at Europe as, oh, that’s a country nearly, whereas because they see the U.S. as one entity.
And then when you come across. But there’s definitely a different culture. So even between Ireland and England, we noticed sort of nuances between ourselves and our fellow friends over in England. Whereas the Nordics see themselves as a little bit distinct from Spain, Italy, and the Dutch. So it’s really interesting actually meeting all the different cultures and engaging with them.
(Geraldine) On that, Jason, because you are a taught leader. So what is the relevant dialogue that you have, with your enterprise customers from the various regions or not even just your customers? How do you, and how do you coach your teams to deal with these enterprise organisations in the various geographies?
(Jason) Well, actually coaching is one thing, but the first thing is listening really to understand some of the challenges they have.
The interesting thing is, whatever country you go to, there always be some nuggets or diamonds of success or projects that they’ve run or programs that they’ve deployed to help them be successful in their region. So, coaching really is a little bit easier because you’re taking those experiences from different countries using that knowledge and sharing it then.
So you’re acting nearly as a broker of thoughts and innovation that’s been used in different areas and bringing it somewhere else.
So sometimes it can be seen as pretty smart when all you’re doing is copying what might have happened in Finland and taking it across to Holland and vice versa. I think it’s about giving people the freedom to express themselves and be innovative, and then using that success and taking it to another part of whether it’s anywhere in Europe and explaining how we did that elsewhere and coaching the teams, how they could potentially use that programmatic way to be successful in their particular region.
For me, coaching is very much first listening and then trying to encourage people to try lots of new ideas. I tried to avoid this whole sense of there’s a lot of research in psychology done around this sort of echo chamber. What I don’t like, and I suppose it doesn’t happen very often, but having people like me, too much like me, all of us the same in the same room, having the same conversation.
And by virtue of the fact that I work across countries, I got lots of different sorts of people. So, cognitive diversity, where you have lots of different minds, that’s a different people, diverse cultures, having a view on what we should do. So you actually come up with a much broader view of innovation and creativity.
That’s something that really helps when you’ve got a coach individual people as a result of that.
(Geraldine) And I suppose just on that as well, if we go back to the cognitive diversity, it’s one thing in geographies. But if we take the definition of an enterprise organisation, it’s generally considered large corporations that manage hundreds or even thousands of employees. And these particular organisations have typically huge budgets and they’re very flexible around their technology spent. How do you deal with cognitive diversity when it comes to organisational sides? What’s your approach between the huge organisation and back to medium and small mentally?
(Jason) It’s a bit of a paradox really. Sometimes the larger organisations with the bigger budgets are actually less agile than the smaller companies. So sometimes, if I think of like a project we did in Norway around automating a lot of the pharmacies across Norway, so they could automatically buy and distribute medicine to different individuals.
It was a public sector project that was delivered really quickly because it was a small economy, a small public sector. Whereas if you bring that into a large place, I didn’t know Holland, or Spain, or Italy, it would take off a lot more time to get consensus and run it.
Similarly, if it’s a really large bank and you’re trying to drive innovation around, say a digital development platform. Some of the bigger banks would be much slower to adopt that, whereas a smaller, niche bank in smaller countries, actually get it done much quicker. I actually find sometimes is the companies with the bigger budgets, the bigger teams can be slower to actually deploy and implement new innovation than the smaller enterprises.
The large enterprise customers give you credibility when you go and sell to small businesses. But sometimes the projects you’re doing to small businesses are the incubator type projects that get buy-in from larger organisations when you’re trying to roll something out.
And actually, that happens on a global basis as well. If you look at Ireland, somebody initiatives we have here, or we develop here, start small, and then some of the bigger economies of countries will actually take what we’ve done here in Ireland and try and roll it out in their jurisdictions. It works actually both ways, Geraldine, and large and small both benefit from each other in different ways.
Listen to the podcast about growth mindset and how to build and lead the team from minutes 7 to 13.
(Geraldine) Actually, just on the whole item of selling to businesses, no matter what the size it is, Jason, you come with a fantastic track record for driving revenue, new business, and increasing customer growth.
And how do you execute a sales transformation initiative when building out a new digital transformation sales team? This is where we’re in the heart of right now, or have to be in our response to business in the post COVID era.
(Jason) It’s a really good question. I think you need to lead by example, right? So you need to be very open and approachable, but also curious.
So for me, when I hire people and you look for lots of different attributes of different either a management team or sales-people. But for me, the number one thing has been people who are very curious. So people are agile and like change.
I’m very much into the philosophy of the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset.
There’s a really interesting book from a lady called Carol Dweck, who has done this sort of research around people with a growth mindset versus the fixed mindset and how adaptable and amiable they are to change and transformation. When I look to hire people, firstly, they need to be curious and then they need to have a growth mindset.
They’re not going to be fixed in how they do business, because one thing I’ve noticed as long as I’m in IT, it changes so constantly. I never more so in the last, probably 24 months, the amount of change and acceleration in IT transformation is just, boom, it’s gone so quickly.
So if you’re a somebody of a mind, I want it to be like this and I’m comfortable with the way I operate and I work and learn every day. You really aren’t going to grow and develop in the economy and the world we are in today. Particularly in IT transformation.
So for me, being very curious is critical and hiring people who are, Michael Dell actually has a really good quote. Michael Dell, obviously our CEO and founder is, he says if you’re the smartest person in the room, you need to find another room because you’re not going to be learning.
So for me, I’m pretty much like that. I’m definitely not the smartest person in Dell technologies Ireland. I surround myself with as much as I can, with as many creative and sometimes contrarian individuals where people have different viewpoints is really important as well. So people who are not afraid to stand up and have a point of view.
So being curious and having a point of view is really critical and it’s what I always look out for.
(Geraldine) It’s interesting that you mentioned about the hiring of people and just high growth in business which you have done in one of the largest global technology businesses, Jason. And so what do you say to the 50% of CEOs who claim according to McKinsey report that their biggest buyer remorse was the hiring of particular senior salespeople.
How can see CEO’s lessen that remorse? Is there anything that you would say to that?
(Jason) I think you have to learn. I’d like to think we at Dell in what we make, I make mistakes, everybody makes mistakes, but it’s recognising if there’s a pattern there of similar mistakes. If you’re making the same mistake all the time, then obviously, you know, if that’s me personally, I’m accountable, then something should happen.
But I’d like to think that we at Dell don’t make that mistake too often. I think a lot of it is to do with your own corporate culture. You have a good view of the type of individual that would fit within your organisation. And then obviously that they’re aligned to how you operate.
But that statistic is pretty surprising actually now that you said it, Geraldine. And when I think about it, I’d say some people look for quick fixes, right? It’s a bit like if you look at any sports team, you’ll see teams that have longevity and are really successful. And then you’ll have ones that are in a bit of turmoil and they make really quick changes because oh, we need to, and we’re losing market share or we’re losing, we are not profitable enough. And then make really quick changes without thinking through. But what’re the long-term implications of doing that.
So for us and particularly Michael, obviously we’ve gone, private, public, private philosophy has always been the long game. And how can he build a company that’s built for success?
I think he’s been the longest-serving founder CEO for over 30 - 36 years now. Which is remarkable. And he instils that philosophy to everyone in Dell. It’s not a shot clock, quarterly driven business, even though we do answer to the markets. It’s more about how do we develop a long-term goal for the company and over a period, as opposed to just every quarter.
So, if you think about the history of Dell, obviously since foundation. Like in 2013, it was the gold private transaction. That’s when Michael took the company private, there was a public spat where Carl Icahn, where Michael tried to buy the company, privatise the company, to reinvest in the organisation.
So that happened in 2013. And then in 2016, Michael completed the largest ever corporate acquisition where he bought EMC for 60 billion. Then in 2018, we went public again. So, in 2013 we went private, 2016 we acquired EMC, where I was originally from, and then in 2018, we started trading again as a public company. So we’ve been public again since 2018.
And then obviously into this year where we’ve seen a massive growth like we just announced our Q2 earnings there. $26 billion. I think it was 15% growth year on year. Which is pretty remarkable when you think of that, we’re tracking to be a hundred billion dollar company this year, which is like a hundred billion dollars, that’s a big company.
And if you think about growing your revenue in Q2 by 15% it’s big numbers. When you’re a $400 million company to go to 600 million or 700. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s a lot easier than growing 20 billion to 26 and into a hundred billion. That’s when big challenges arise.
Listen to the podcast about the enterprise division and channel partners from minutes 13 to 17.
(Geraldine) In that for a lot of companies, that’s monopoly money and it is huge.
Talk to us about the learnings as a person that was very successful in integration at enterprise divisions. Talk to us about the value difference between enterprise divisions and the role of channel partners and particular talent partners. Are they intimate enough now with the new world we’re in the last 24 months?
(Jason) Yeah, the channel is, we do well over, nearly 60% of our business through the channel. The channel is hugely important. I would say for any organisation and having a really intelligent, curious, vibrant channel community is critically important. As I mentioned, if we’re a hundred billion-dollar company, I think our addressable market is, the total addressable market is like $1.8 trillion right? So there’s a huge amount of headroom. We’ve only a finite number of people and resources to go and obtain market share. And for us, the channel gives us much wider coverage, but also it gives us probably much more intelligence into the markets we want to play in. And we want to transform and grow into whether it’s telecom, whether it’s manufacturing or retail the great thing about the channel is you’d always have the expertise.
You’ll have a channel partner who’s worked in retail for 20 years. They know all about retail, online commerce, where it’s going. Same as for pharmaceutical channel partners who may implement SAP and the pharmaceutical sector. They’ll have really good skills there.
And then when you couple that with the great infrastructure and products we have, you combined that portfolio, then you can go to a wider customer base. And get much better leverage. So the channel has always been really critical to us. We have a big, strong channel community. It’s actually something we’ve been growing as well over the last number of years.
And specifically around those areas, I mentioned. The verticalisation of customers. If I’m a bank, if I’m an online retailer, if I’m a pharmaceutical, I want to talk to somebody who understands my business. So having a channel community that are relevant in specific verticals is really critical to how we try to succeed at Dell.
(Geraldine) And of course, the channel also means that you’ve got proximity to the local market and knowledge again, but I guess, I really wanted to bring this up because you guys are stellar, but you are outliers in your success. So the majority of tech companies out there would be looking at channel partners had to go about it and just enterprise divisions.
Are they a model that won’t necessarily work as well for small to medium size companies? Or are they just the preserve of large companies like yourselves when success has been measured?
(Jason) Yeah, no, I think, I guess so it’s an interesting point. If you think about it, you mentioned there the medium business that we have versus our enterprise business.
And the medium basis, if you think about it, there’s even more and more customers to go after. Like, even in Ireland, there’s thousands and thousands of big sized customers. The channel is nearly more important because you’ve got so many people to talk to, right? Like our field salespeople, our internal salespeople just can’t get out and cover those bases.
So on an enterprise level, sometimes it’s the sort of vertical expertise and then on the medium size, it’s a scaling thing. So it’s around having partners on the ground who can really get there, whether it’s regional, whether it’s Munster, Connacht, Ulster. So you’ve got these regional partners who can get out there and uncover the market for you. Versus on the enterprise side, you’ll have sort of niche partners that’ll have specific capabilities in certain areas. The channel is equally important, whether it’s enterprise. And in the medium business, it’s even bigger importance for us, particularly in the velocity area where you will have organisations that would have a 50k IT budget or a 100k IT budget.
Trying to talk to a thousand of those or quote to 500 of those weekly. You just can’t do it with your own internal salespeople. So you need big vibrant channels to be able to do that.
(Geraldine) Okay. Is there any kind of takeaway around what’s the key to establishing the partner model?
(Jason) I think the most important thing with any partner business is credibility and integrity, right? Channel, if you speak to any channel partner, there’s always that sort of conflict between the channel and then internal salespeople or salespeople for that company. The channel will go and find a great opportunity.
And then you’ll always have this potential account executive within the business going well, that’s my account. I found that why are we getting the partner to do this when I could have sold it? And there were margin implications, blah, blah, blah. The really critical thing about the channel is having credibility with the partner community and then integrity. Whereby when you say you’re going to do something and collaborate together, you’re all in a hundred per cent and you never deviate from that.
As soon as you start bending the rules and changing it and moving stuff away from the channel, that’s when the conflict arises and you lose credibility. So for me that haven’t full integrity with the channel community on delivering on what you said, you deliver for them.
Listen to the podcast about leadership and what Dell Ireland can offer to the world from minutes 17 to 22.
(Geraldine) That’s really interesting that you should talk about full integrity spoken like a true leader, but your own studies, Jason, you’ve been fairly committed. They show that you take your role as a business leader seriously, and the responsibility regarding the transformation of business and society. What have been your greatest expansions of awareness that you gleaned in your time in Dell?
(Jason) Transformation really is around embracing change and that whole diverse nature of thinking. For me, I think what I’ve definitely learned is it doesn’t really matter what size your team is, but the more the world changes, the more your business changes and the more we, what I think about the COVID pandemic, we’ve had to shift to work from home, companies have had to re-invest and how they transformed the IT.
For me, it’s around listening to people and embracing change. As I mentioned early on being curious, like not discounting any idea that a team member would have, I think, early on, the leaders tend to try and be the leader and have all the answers because it’s a case of you don’t want to appear as not having the right answers or not strong enough to lead a company or a business team or region to a certain trajectory. Whereas the really good leaders are open and go look, I don’t know all the answers. Please, as an SMT, can you come with some ideas to help me navigate and progress through these murky waters or turbulent waters?
So the lessons, I suppose the key lesson I’ve learned is to be very willing, to accept advice and a point of view from team members. So I mentioned that echo chamber thing, like one thing I, if you talked to anybody that works with me, they’ll say, look, I don’t like what I don’t want are five yes men and five yes women in the same room as me parroting exactly what I said because we’re going nowhere.
Diverse mindset, diverse thoughts around where we’re going, diverse creativity to spreading that out so that we take all of that in, put it into the mix, and then it’s ultimately up to meet and in terms of where we go, what direction we take.
But for me, that’s definitely a lesson I’ve learned over the years. Early on I probably wasn’t as good as accepting that, but I’ve definitely learned that the more and more of that sort of diverse teaming and mindset you develop the easier it is to be a little bit more successful.
(Geraldine) Diversity is usually important, but it’s still a challenge either to run your own idea, if there are loads of people challenging it or for your idea to be heard. And what I want to loop around to hear is that how does Dell Irelandhear its voice in Dell Texas? What are we doing brilliantly here, that means that we get to hold our own when we talk to Dell Texas?
(Jason) That’s a really good question and it’s something that, interestingly, we’ve been talking about that over the last six months about the branding. It’s two elements that are we’re actually looking at, which is the branding of Dell technologies in Ireland and the branding of Dell technologies Ireland within Dell corporation.
Because if you think about it, where we’ve come and we’ve got 5,000 team members here in Ireland today, and they do everything from sales, finance, manufacturing, AI development, robotic process automation, 3D printing, storage, server, networking, Cybertek, security, orchestration virtualization. So we’ve got all of these wonderful team members to do lots of these different things.
So we’ve developed a profile of Dell technologies Ireland. The skills that we have as a company, the skills that we have as a country. And we talked to our headquarters in Texas and say, look, this is the brand of Dell in Ireland. This is how big and successful we are. And here’s more investment we can take to help the Dell global company become even more successful. If you thinking about where we’re going as a company, we’re taking all of our portfolios. So think about the storage server networking and we are developing apex, which is an as-a-service offering. So a subscription-based Dell as a service, if you like, we’re going to deliver to one of our customers.
And then as the world moves more to AI and ML and edge computing, we’re developing solutions around that. So we in Ireland showcase the skills we have there the great customers. We have that learning. We have the wonderful education system we have here, particularly around AI, ML and high-performance computing, and we constantly present to Dell corporate around how strong our, and it is the base for those types of skills to attract more investment here so we can develop new solutions and products to bring to the global economy.
So, Geraldine, this is something that’s always happening. So that’s a constant evolution. And it’s happened more and moreover the last sort of 12 years that the global digital economy has changed and how we have a company at the moment, I’d say about 200 open heads in cyber and AI and ML in software engineering, which is a great indictment of how successful we are, but also how we can potentially grow into the future.
Listen to the podcast about centralised healthcare and the technology around it from minutes 22 to 29.
(Mahima) Jason, I don’t know if you know if Ray Daleo.
(Mahima) Ray Daleo.
(Jason) I’ve heard of Ray, yeah, yeah.
(Mahima) And I follow him on LinkedIn and he always comes up with his principles for living a good life. And two of his principles that I follow is radical open-mindedness and it’s important to know what you don’t know.
And those were the two points you covered.
(Jason) I think that word radical open-mindedness is a really good way of. It’s actually a better way of phrasing it because it’s okay to be open-minded but radically open-minded.
(Mahima) Absolutely. I’m willing to listen to anyone’s point of view. Doesn’t matter how different, or I might receive it as wrong I want to know where they’re coming from.
So my question is related to the healthcare business. I’ve been hearing a lot about it, how the big four, which is Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Amazon are trying to get into the healthcare business. Microsoft, Amazon and Google are trying to get into healthcare through the cloud market.
Apple of course has the clinical research. Alphabet is focusing more on AI to drive precision medicine. And then, of course, Amazon’s going to come into the pharmacy, virtual care and deli health rounds. So I just want to understand what does that look like for Dell to get into the healthcare business?
(Jason) Yes, and the healthcare business is actually a really strong part of our businesses. It’s actually growing, I mentioned those sort of verticals already. If you think of manufacturing or pharmaceutical or financial services like healthcare is huge primarily because of the whole automation.
So what’s happening in healthcare.
Obviously, probably the biggest government budgets go into healthcare right next to education and so on. And there’s that whole difficulty around how much we spend in frontline services and the most important thing, which is our doctors, nurses delivering the best outcomes for patients.
But I’m back on it, the amount of money that we spend in healthcare in diverse different systems, whether it’s patient records, whether it’s cancer screening, whether it’s diagnostics, there’s so much. If you think of any healthcare organisation whether it’s the one here in Ireland or the UK or in Holland or in Norway, the amount of IT spend and healthcare is huge.
And obviously, if you’ve mentioned the big cloud providers there in terms of what they’re trying to do and achieve. There’s a way to go in terms of harmonising what’s best for every human and every country. Cause there’s a lot of coopetition between healthcare providers, governments, political agencies, around where the budget goes, how do we spend it? And then some of the tech companies have ulterior motives.
Is every company doing it because they want the world to be a better place and to enable human progress? I’m not a hundred per cent sure if there’s definitely monetary drivers behind profitability issues around gathering as much data so they can control things, but there’s definitely the possibility to deliver much better patient outcome and care with IT.
If you think about just AI, for instance, in terms of cancer screening, in terms of first-line consultative, preventative screening and analysis of whether it’s cancer or whether it’s heart problems, there’s huge benefits.
It’s a bit like having a common currency in Europe, the EU or Digital Data Protection.
I think from a healthcare basis, we probably need to come up with some mechanism from whereby everybody benefits from. The power of technology and what it can bring to the healthcare system because it shouldn’t necessarily be the people with the biggest budgets.
And this is the whole thing, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk they have this constant battle about AI right? So, should it be that the people with the biggest budgets get the benefits of AI? Or should the best global economies who have so much money to spend on AI, get cancer screening quicker, get preventative health care analysis and analytics quicker because they’ve got bigger budgets for AI and high-performance computing.
For me, that’s an issue, right? Because then you can have one country that has so much more positive GDP and investment to stick into this technology. So they get better healthcare outcomes for their citizens versus an emerging economy why shouldn’t they have the same. And then you’ve got these big global tech companies sitting in all of these countries sort of playing God, we’ll go over here because we get more profits.
So I think it’s a grey area and it’s one that I think needs an awful lot more debate to ensure that technology delivers equal outcomes for citizens of all countries from emerging and developed economies. And that’s something that’s really just becoming more and more visible to every sort of citizen because people now understand you know, the value of AI, the value of, thinking about 5G.
So you could be in an ambulance on the way, maybe you’ve had a heart attack playing football, and you’re in an ambulance on your way to the hospital and with 5G now all of your sensory data, your medical stats can be immediately transferred to the physicians or the consultants in the hospital.
So they are on a real-time analysing of how are you performing? What are some of the issues we need to really look out for? Then you hit the hospital emergency ICU. And it’s been all achieved in a while with a 30-minute journey.
So 5G enables that type of flexibility from a healthcare preventative health initiative. But that’s only possible if you’re investing in that particular area.
To me, this is a really exciting area, but at the same time, it’s something that really hasn’t gone under the political agenda yet, because not everybody really sees the benefits that technology can bring to healthcare.
(Mahima) One of the points you were mentioning was decentralising the data. That all the data is available in one system and then suppose are vacationing in Holland and something happens to you. You go to ER there and they’ll be able to access your data in Ireland and see your history. I’m a big proponent of technology for the good enough people if used well.
But what about the security threats? What about the hacks? What are the solutions for those?
(Jason) That’s where I think blockchain and crypto come into it. Moving on a little bit. So thinking about it, I think countries need to get to their healthcare spent. How they avail of the latest to get the benefits. But then to your point there, could there be a common EU, for instance, has a record, right.
Why would we not have a common platform that to your point, if I’m in London if I’m in, obviously Brexit has moved it out of the EU, but if I’m in Norway if I’m in Spain or Italy or I’m in Holland and something, God forbid, happens, why would there not be a common health record? If that was on the blockchain or developed in a way that’s fully encrypted immutable, why could you not have that?
So some people would laugh at that idea, but it’s a fantastic idea, right? And that’s a type of innovation we need in healthcare. And again, we talk about GDPR data, sovereignty rules and so on, but it’s not impossible to do something like that. What that requires is the thought leadership of the politicians to go, okay, let’s try that. Let’s embrace that and let’s use it.
And putting more innovative ideas out there like that is really important to stimulate debate and get people thinking about the benefits of that type of initiative.
I don’t think it’ll be because technology isn’t enabled to do it. It’ll be the political will and the desire of the citizens of Europe, and obviously every country to avail of that type of benefit.
Listen to the podcast about human transformation and data sovereignty from minutes 29 to 34.
(Mahima) Regarding one of the predictions you had made earlier this year, you had said that technology will enable a new age of human transformation. So how do you see that happening?
(Jason) I think you see something new every week. You see some type of new technology and you go, wow, that’s pretty cool.
There was one company, actually, it’s called Manna. It’s a company up in Galway that is delivering over the 5G network drones. If you want to get a takeaway or you want to get something from the shop. Can imagine, you know, sitting in an isolated field in Galway five years ago, and you were saying, yeah, I’m going to get a package delivered to my mobile phone or dropped into the field right here beside me. Nobody would have really believed that that could happen.
And then the healthcare thing, and we’re doing work with services in the UK around that 5G enabled preventative healthcare. I think it’s happening really quickly. And it’s actually a step change in that.
If you think about a year ago versus what’s happening every week now. The latest and greatest. Actually a company they’re just floated in the last couple of days, IONQ in the U.S. it’s a quantum computing company, and they’re going to speed up how quickly they can run AI patterns from, it could be weather, or it could be autonomous driving, it could be healthcare, whatever.
So every week, more and more innovation. I’m 50 now, so 30 years ago, every five years, something new came along, we all sort of cheered and said it’s great. Now stuff is happening every week. And I think over the next year to two years, it will accelerate even more.
(Mahima) You have a much more positive outlook about it. But I come from a perspective of the regulation is not catching up. Of course, technology’s moving at such a fast pace and without some sort of a strict regulatory framework, it can be a bit chaotic, like the examples of Facebook and WhatsApp and Cambridge Analytica, because there is no regulatory framework.
(Jason) I think there are two points there. Two ends of that are, when they were in front of Congress answering the questions, they sort of went back after and went, wow, that was pretty easy. Because Congress hasn’t had a clue. They don’t know anything about IT. And that’s a challenge, right. So you’ve got regulation and then you’ve got a political system that doesn’t really understand the benefits and the power of IT.
So I think the two things there is education and awareness. So how can companies like Dell and other organisations really educate and create awareness around the power and benefits that IT and transformation can bring? That’s a critical thing. And then when you’re developing policy around, whether it’s data sovereignty, whether it’s data sharing rights or transfer of information that the people making the decisions are fully aware of, obviously the pitfalls, but also the benefits that will probably far outweigh a lot of the blockages that they’re putting in place.
At the moment, we are actually running a digital healthcare initiative along with the HSE, specifically around this in healthcare, where it’s a number of, we developed a curriculum along with the HSE where we’re talking to lots of different IT initiatives on a programmatic IT transformation that can help the healthcare industry. And it’s about demystifying IT, so that the normal healthcare worker, a person working in the health service can understand the benefits that IT can potentially bring. And this isn’t around displacing jobs. It’s about driving a lot of innovation. So, Mahima, I think that the key thing there is education and awareness. I think because we’re on this platform and we are talking about this every day and we assume that everybody understands what we talk about. Which is definitely isn’t the case, right? Because you will have conversations like I will with people who have nothing to do with IT, and you seem to be constantly answering so what’s crypto or what’s AI, or what’s high-performance computing. How does that benefit me? What’s a drone, what’s 5G? So you’re constantly explaining what elements and facets of ITR and the benefits it can bring.
To the younger generations, if I look at my kids, I have kids 11 to 19. You don’t need to explain IT to them. So I think there’ll be a mind shift and there’ll be an acceptance when you get rid of more fuddy-duddies like me and I move off.
I think about it, they’ve signed up for data sharing. They do it every day. They’ve signed up to Instagram, to Snapchat, to TikTok, so they’ve automatically given their data away. So they’re not going to be going, oh, I don’t want my patient record shared or, oh, I don’t want my data shared with that country.
When you think about the years ahead, that whole data sovereignty issue around sharing. I think that will become an easier issue to solve as the younger generations come through because they are already doing that.
(Mahima) Okay, that’s interesting. One of the things, when you were talking about healthcare, I got a sense that you were talking about the more universal. That everyone should have the same benefit arriving from the technology. And this is just a side note, but I don’t think that, again, my pessimistic view, that’s not what is happening.
The internet that we get in Western countries is very different from the internet that people get even in India or Indonesia or Mexico. So anyway, let’s see what happens in the future.
Listen to the podcast about sustainability and diversity in Dell and attracting female talent from minutes 34 to 40.
And my last question was about sustainability and inclusion. And I’ve been hearing a lot about these words. So how is Dell doing it differently? What does Dell do with these two concepts? How are they creating a more sustainable future and how is it ensuring a more inclusive workplace?
(Jason) Well if I take the inclusivity, so diversity is, you know, again, I think that’s the beauty of having Michael Dell as the CEO and founder through the ages if you like.
So diversity and inclusion have always been really important aspects of how Michael runs the business. If you think about the leadership team in Ireland. If you just think from a female perspective, it’s 50/50. Our goal is to have 50/50 from a senior leadership position within Dell, you know 50/50 female, male and my team in Ireland, we have in other countries, it’s 30%, 40% moving even in some countries to over 50%. So that’s a really important part of where we’re going, what we’re doing.
But then if you take diversity from an administrative point of view, again globally, that’s a massive area for us. We’ve got a really good program in the U.S. in our high-performance computing and software engineering space. Where we’re hiring individuals who may have Asperger’s or may have challenges like that.
Like the power and the creativity that these individuals have. Before nobody would look at that because these people are ostracised. Whereas diversity comes in all forms, not just colour, creed, or sex. It comes in, you know, every shape and form, and we’ve found that the more diverse a workforce we have, the better products we develop, the more customers we attract, the more we understand customers and the benefits are hugely beneficial.
On the sustainability piece, that’s another area that’s obviously, as we manufacture and we do a lot of software design and engineering. But if you manufacture like PCs, desktop servers or storage arrays, you know, that’s hardware, right? So that’s a big area of investment for us around how do we develop sustainable projects, products going forward?
And we’re doing a huge amount of ocean plastics to act as wrappers containers for all of the products we provide. And also one of the key things we have as an objective in our 2030 moonshot goals is that for every product we supply, so whether that’s like a desktop or a monitor or a networking array or a storage array or a server, we’ll replace that with fully hundred per cent recycled product.
But that’s admiral, I think if you can think about it, you buy a PC or whatever it is, and that’s a fully recycled component for every single piece in it. So that’s where we’re going.
Again, then our footprints from an office perspective around carbon neutral, we’ve got that in some of our campuses and we are reducing that down as well.
And that’s not just a tick box thing, that’s something that Michael holds every senior leader accountable to. And I think some companies pay lip service to it and do a tick box exercise. And one thing that’s really interesting now is when we’re actually working on big bids or big opportunities, some of the most notable companies now have ESG areas of the RFP or of the response. And you’ll be graded, you’ll be quoted on, you win based on how performance you are in sustainable areas.
The weighting before may have been 60% price. Now price is coming down around diversity, it’s around inclusion or it’s around sustainability. It’s around the ethics of you as an organisation and how some companies want to be partnering with a type of technology company. So that’s all the space that has changed over the last sort of two and three years.
I think that’ll change further going forward. And the more we move the needle in that space, the more it will play to Dell technologies because that’s actually how we operate every day and what we do.
(Mahima) That’s great. Just a quick question, follow up on the inclusion.
How hard was it to have a 50/50 workforce in the C-suite, especially in Dell Ireland?
(Jason) It’s really difficult and the reason why, if you think about Ireland, like even my daughters, one of them just gone to college and the other is thinking about what would she like to do. Typically, if you set out, you want to go into IT, it just sounds male-dominated, it’s like engineering.
So creating awareness around how creative it is, how beneficial it will be is really just educating around what they can contribute is really important. But also then just trying to find the skills.
There is a labour shortage or a skill shortage in Ireland, particularly around female talent. I mentioned that we’ve got 200 hundred open roles. If you think about it, like AI, cyber, robotic process automation. These are areas that from a STEM perspective, we need to encourage female talent at a very early age to understand look, they have a huge amount here to contribute, to get involved, get engaged. And then with the academic institutions to make sure that they’re pushing. Think about career counsellors in schools, hey, young lady, why aren’t you considering moving into software engineering? There’s a huge, I think there’s 2 million cyber vacancies at the moment and only potentially a million graduates and people to fill those roles.
So there’s massive in the global tech base. We need to do more about creating a bit more excitement around these roles and encouraging particularly young females to jump into that space and think about it as a career.
(Mahima) Maybe an early intervention of some sort.
(Jason) There are lots of programs in Ireland, I think most companies, ourselves included, do a lot of stems evangelising amongst whether it’s primary, secondary schools. Even the governments, like the government, recognised that when you think about it, their development plan if you actually read through there’s a huge amount around post cyber resiliency, digital transformation, AI ML.
I think it’s definitely getting out there, but as parents, it’s important that we encourage our children and our girls to look at that as an avenue as well as a great potential.
Then also there’s a huge amount of the female workforce, you know, who have left the workforce and may have gone on career breaks or having families and children. And then how do we get them and reactivate them back in. So we have a reboot program where we’ll bring and welcome. We’ve got a lot of great females who’ve left down, down through the years, have gone and had families.
And now we’re looking at how do we get them back into the program, into the company, through reeducation, true diploma courses through just trying to excite them back into, hey look, it’s not a big, scary world. It’s something you can really get your head around and become a valuable contribution pretty quickly as well.
Reconnecting is a thing, but also reinvigorating that they feel that look, it’s not going to be too difficult to jump because technology is moving so quickly anyway, over the next sort of six months to the year. I will become outdated. So, people, today were nearly all level because it’ll jump again. So if you’re prepared to be curious, to just learn for the future, you can quickly get back up to speed with where you need to be.
Listen to the podcast about politics, the global corporate tax and indigenous companies minutes 40 to 48.
(Geraldine) So, Jason, you certainly have lots of ideas and also there’s plenty of EU directives on sustainable corporate governance, as well as UN guiding principles that Ireland even it’s going to adopt a national plan on business and human rights. But I guess, Jason, in particular to you are in an enviable position as a business leader, what, or if any part of political outreach do you do to discuss with other business leaders around the need to underpin, will say crisis around competitiveness here in Ireland, what are your views on how spending is going on by our government and how we’re addressing labour market challenges and the continued need to support we’ll say vulnerable sectors of the economy impacted by COVID. That’s a big question, but really the bones of it is, Jason, what are you doing in your position as a leader, outside of directives and initiatives enforced by Dell?
(Jason) No, absolutely. So the first one around, how do we advise our contribution to potentially where Ireland Inc should go in terms of global policies so on?
So typically we work with IBEC. We contribute deeply to what we believe, how Ireland should evolve as a nation in terms of growing GDP and becoming more competitive and so on. So we contribute enough I would say with a lot of other FDI’s. And then when IBEC as well. We’re all aligned to what we believe on how to government should invest and attract some more investment to remain competitive. Because the one thing about technology is this can shift on a dime from it from a competitive point of view. So countries can become dominant or more averse to certain technologies. If you are thinking about it, I just mentioned crypto, if you think about blockchain, if you think about AI. Countries, far away, become much more adept and averse at developing skills around that and, and the whole global economy goes that way, well companies will invest in that particular area. So we work with those bodies to ensure that what we understand is where the market’s going in and the future is going to be. We’re advising around that and hopefully, the agencies take that advice on board and ring it all together and use it to help and navigate what Ireland does.
From a political point of view, the way I look at this is, it’s very easy to criticise politicians, I obviously do it from time to time. But ultimately we all criticize it, but how many people put their hat in the ring to go and become a politician and actually try and make a change, whether it be at a local level, the community level?
It’s a bit like, this is probably a bit simplistic, but the way I look at this is if you’re lucky enough to have children and you bring them to a sports event training on a weekend, whether it’s Gaelic, soccer, rugby, swimming, you name it. You see all the parents on the sideline going, geez, why is my young Charlie or my young Mary not getting in the game they should be over there. Why does the manager not run this way? Why don’t they swim that way?
They’re all giving advice, but very few people would jump in and actually help and put themselves out there to get criticised, to make a change. It’s human nature that we criticise, but then stand back and don’t do anything to try and change and create change.
So what would I say there, Geraldine, is I try and voice my opinion and help without being too critical. So try and offer a point of view around here’s my thoughts on what could happen, but I’m not going to try and force it or criticise people because they’re trying to do a good job.
Now, some people do terrible jobs, and back to my point around ego and having an open mindset. Radical openness is like Mahima says some people just don’t have that and it’s very much, it’s all-around their ego. It’s about their personal agenda. It’s about them becoming the most successful as opposed to are they really in it for the right reasons?
So they are the people that I probably criticised or I feel that they’re not really in it for the greater good. They’re more in it for their own sort of personal agenda.
(Geraldine) I do take your point that all politics in a way is local, right? So we will go out local and go global for a moment. What’s the potential impact of global tax reform, the international corporate tax developments that are happening?
(Jason) I think, look, if you just read between the lines and again, this is Jason Ward’s personal view, it’s nothing to do with what Dell corporate says, but we’re going to have a minimum rate of 15%, we’re not going to have 12.5%. Well, if you think about what’s happening in the OECD, you’ve got 140 countries that have nearly agreed to it.
So Ireland can say, hey, no, we’re not going to be part of that. That’s not going to be good for Ireland. I think that the key thing there is the minister O’Donohue talked about, he wants to remove that at least 15%.
But there’ll always be ways in which the government can introduce some innovation, credits, R&D credits, which will help maintain Ireland’s competitiveness.
And if you think about the broad base of what we have here, we’ve got really good, despite what we say about our education system, it is fantastic, right. We’ve got really highly skilled educational institutions, our grads are really skilled, they’re really highly educated and we speak English, and more and more multilingual now. And the great thing about this sort of immigration into Ireland is you could think about Spanish, if you think about French, German, we’ve got more multilingual native Irish speakers as well in terms of people living in Ireland from Ireland and born in Ireland, whether they are from Irish parents or immigrants who come in.
I think Ireland will become an even more competitive place because we’ll actually have a lot more multilingual individuals with the skills that will help further Ireland’s economic development. So the taxing, look from my personal point of view, I think it is going to be 15%. And then it’s a case of how Ireland retained competitiveness within the 15% ban, where we’ve got the right innovation, R&D, tax credits, and the help continued to tech companies. So when a company comes here to develop a new or just a software product or manufacture a new product, or develop a pharmaceutical drug that there are enough incentives to help them, whether it’s from education, a location or bringing family members in. So that whole flexibility would be the key. And I think Ireland’s always been flexible.
So once the tax may change and increase to 15%. I’m not too overly concerned about that, once it remains at that level.
(Geraldine) Jason, you’ve got the, I suppose, the key view of technology in Ireland, given your position, what do you see happening around indigenous tech business? What would be your observations?
(Jason) I think we’ll see an increase in indigenous companies. And if you actually look, obviously everyone’s familiar with Stripe and you know, the Collinson brothers, and how good that’s gone. But if you think about, whether is Dell, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon, think of some of the names, Twitter. Think of some of the big IT companies here now. They’ve developed a huge workforce, brain power in Ireland. And a lot of people who are in those companies, some of them have done pretty well. Obviously, share-offs are a big thing with these companies and a lot of the people leave after five or 10 years and set up smaller incubator type companies.
I think that’s where the Irish government needs to look at, you know, whether it’s Enterprise Ireland and create funding around. And if you look at the NDP, the new development plan around, how do we incubate new companies? So we’ve had a huge benefit from these high-tech companies coming to Ireland. They’ve created a really strong engineering talent, a really strong management talent. People have left those companies now that they remain in Ireland and they’re now the incubators of the future, they are developing all of these great new startup companies.
So the future is really bright because we’ve got a really smart, creative workforce developing lots of new startups that will, I think, will be the unicorns of the future.
(Geraldine) Yeah. Would you ever see yourself taking on the challenge of heading up to an indigenous tech company in Ireland?
(Jason) You know, obviously, I love working at Dell. It’s a really enjoyable, complex, difficult role and things are going great, but I definitely wouldn’t rule that out. At some point in the future, the benefits you can bring a smaller company, particularly one in Ireland that would be very successful and move up to the global stage. Like something like that it’s like playing for your local parish football, Gaelic, or soccer team where you did a primary shift or to the county teams.
Listen to the podcast about successes, failures, learning from your mistakes and positive thinking from minutes 48 to 53.
(Geraldine) Absolutely. Jason, just um, about you, if you could just throw off your thoughts around business, can you give me an example of a project or an exposure in your life that caused you to drill down really deep and make you the confident leader that you are now?
(Jason) I’ll probably bring it back to the sporting analogy, from a sporting perspective, I’ve played Gaelic football. Obviously, I’ve stopped playing but I did play for a considerable time and the confidence that you have and don’t have through your years whether you are winning or losing. You go through the journey of, you know, believing your good, believing your really bad, believing you’re even worse. Thinking about giving up. And then going and working a bit harder, maybe meeting a few people who change our mindset and be training in a different way from a performance conditioning point of view, and then you become better. And then you’ve achieved something.
Taking that learning around, you’re always going to have stumbles and hurdles and fall, but it is how resilient you can become around that and getting over those and learning from those and then applying them in the way. So from my sporting experience, I’ve definitely used that in businesses in that it’s never a straight road. It’s never going to be easy.
And everyone says there’s ups and downs. There’s ups and downs. But honestly, it is around, the funny thing is, I’ve worked in companies even before Dell, where it was hit your annual number, hit your quarterly number, hit your half-yearly number. You have a stinker and it’s terrible, the world is ending, you’re going to lose your job and it’s really bad. Then the next quarter comes and everybody’s forgotten about last quarter. It’s what are you going to do this quarter? So sometimes put the past behind you and think about the future. Learning from your mistakes. People say, learning from your mistakes and it’s something nice to say, but really focusing on one or two things and then just wiping the slate clean and going again and reapplying it to the future.
I’ve definitely used sport and failures, lots of failures and successes in sport to build resiliency and use that then in business, absolutely.
(Geraldine) It’s evident from talking to you and what we can read about you is that you have a very can-do approach to everything. And I suppose two of the traits that surface for me in my observation and research today, is that you are persistent and you’re very disciplined and that would go back to on-field and off-field. Tell me, what is the personal fire in your belly? What’s it coming from now?
(Jason) I would say, I suppose it’s my dad, right, you see Ireland is a completely different place, but when I was like 12 or 13, my dad’s from the country. We’d drive down to, you know, where he’s from, probably shouldn’t say this, but he’d let me drive the car when I was 13. So he let me do that. And then we’d drive up to his home place, the farm blah, blah, blah.
But I remember one time, he let me do it, and I dunno if people may or may not understand this, but he had a Ford Coppery, which is a rear-wheel-drive car. I think I was about 15, but I burnt the clutch out of the car. So it was the lesson, he made me change the clutch in the car. So jack the car up, put jacks or each wheel, take the gearbox out and you have a spinning-clutch plate, put that in.
He made me do that. I was thinking about it the other day. Would I let my son do that? Probably not, but he taught me it’s about nothing is impossible. And I think sometimes we are probably a little bit protective of the next generation. Self-learned drivers that would never happen today. It’s like it does in some circumstances, but for me, the can-do attitude has probably been a bit more optimistic. I’m definitely an optimistic person. I’m going to always look at what’s possible. Anyone who’s done a Hogan assessment, you know, all your colours and dials. I definitely come out as too much of a risk-taker, which isn’t always good in the leadership land. It’s probably something I just need to be aware of when I’m making decisions and doing things that it’s a little bit of a trade I have that I need to not lean on too much.
(Geraldine) Jason, when you’re having darker moments, as we all do, as we go through failure as I see it as a stepping stone, rather than a dead-end in business. But what is your personal edifice that keeps you going and going, there’s a light tomorrow?
(Jason) For me, it’s about, I think everybody has people that they’ll talk to. The sounding board, mentors, whatever way you sort of do it in your own life.
It’s always important to have people that level set and give you that, my dad always says the darkest hour is just before dawn. So it doesn’t matter what it is like the sun will always come up tomorrow.
So I think it’s important that people have that over-positive person, which is always, hey, it’s going to be good, that is really important because it is easy to get back into, oh, God is so terrible whether we get out of this. What happens if, which can waste a huge amount of energy. Like a lot of people do waste a huge amount of energy on negative thoughts.
There has been so much written about just a positive mindset. It’s easy for me to say that I get that, but even in saying that, trying to work and develop a positive mindset and having positive people around you is pretty critical.
We all have those. I can ask anybody. There’s always one or two people in your circle that are always on. We’re going to be taxed more. It’s going to rain for the next week or COVID will never go, we would never go on holiday… Like you need to remove as much of that negativity away as you can, and have much more positive people in your life. And I think if you do that, it just makes life much more easier because you just gravitate. If you’re in that echo chamber of negativity, you can be dragged into that so I’m just pretty good at compartmentalising things and thinking about things in a more positive way.
(Geraldine) You’re right, it’s contagious. So avoid at all costs.
Listen to the podcast about data vs instincts and Jason’s dinner party guests from minutes 53 to 57.
(Mahima) Geraldine, I was just, as I was listening to you talk, another question popped. I’ve been reading Bob Iger’s autobiography. He’s the CEO of Disney. And one of the things he was talking about was as a leader, whenever he’s making a decision, even if all the data is leading him towards making a yes decision, if his intuition says, no, he’ll go with a no. So have you been in a situation like, do you go with data, would you go yes, even if the data goes towards the yes, but your gut feeling is saying, this is a wrong decision, I shouldn’t do that?
(Jason) That’s back to what I said about my Hogan assessment. I’m definitely more of a risk-taker. So I liked the data, but probably a flaw I have, so you could see if it is positive or negative, I won’t procrastinate for long, so I could probably spend a bit more time on data, but I’ll generally quickly take both, the data that’s there the good instinct that’s there and I go with it and make a decision.
So, one thing is if people that worked with me would know, I won’t be sitting on stuff for two or three weeks, what will we do? It’ll be we are going that way. And then obviously it would be the right decision or the wrong decision, but I think data is much more important than ever. Actually, it’s funny, I was just watching a film the other day. I’ve seen it a few times, but Moneyball, if you’ve seen Moneyball, is on how data has shaped, how they built that team.
So for me, data is probably more important now than it ever has been because there’s so much of it and we can actually make much better context out of it, but it still needs somebody to go are we going A or are we going B.
I would use the data, but definitely, I’m a good instinct, I will make a decision based on stuff that I’ve done before, so if I felt something like this before, whether it’s, we’re bringing a new product to the market or hiring a new sales team or a new sales manager. The data will say this, but ultimately you do get it. When you’re sitting beside someone face to face, you do get that human feeling of it’s going to work or it’s not going to work.
Definitely, I’d also go with the good instinct as well.
(Mahima) Okay. If you had a dinner party and you could invite three people dead or alive and that’s just one dinner party who would your three guests be?
(Jason) Only three?
(Mahima) Only three.
(Jason) I think Tiger Woods would be one, because from a golfing perspective. And then Albert Einstein, it’s just a really, it’s a rocket up there.
I’d actually probably bring a guy called Safi Bahcall. He wrote a book called “Loonshots”, purely because he’s far out there in terms of his head. So probably, think about that, Tiger Woods, me, Albert Einstein, and then Safi Bahcall. He’d be a good host in terms of injecting conversation and challenging us all.