IDG Connect: CTO Sessions: Carmine Evangelista, Auriga

IDG Connect: CTO Sessions: Carmine Evangelista, Auriga

CTO Carmine Evangelista

Name: Carmine Evangelista

Company: Auriga

Job title: Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: January 2014

Location: Bari, Italy

Carmine Evangelista is CTO at Auriga, the leading provider of software for banks and ATMs. He has almost 25 years experience in banking technology. Evangelista holds a degree in Computer Sciences from Bari University.

What was your first job? My first job was over the summer while I was still at secondary school – a hotel porter.

Did you always want to work in IT? It wasn’t until the end of high school when I bought my first PC, a Commodore c16, that I decided I wanted to work in IT. Initially I used it just to play video games, but later discovered that programming was more exciting and that I wanted to make that my job.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? At school I focused a lot on electronics and then went on to Bari University to study for a degree in Computer Science. I’ve honed in on my technology specialism via various training courses throughout my career. My favourites so far have been user interfaces design, hard programming and project management. I’ve also recently undertaken a course on mentorship for start-ups.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. At university I had the opportunity to undertake a one-year placement at the Olivetti Ricerca Labs as part of my thesis project, the best private IT research lab in Italy at the time. I then spent a few months in the Italian Army’s data centre, though it wasn’t quite the right fit for me so I moved on after that. Following my time there I joined Auriga, then a small company with a handful of employees. My CEO invited me to become a shareholder of the organisation, and I’m proud to say 25 years on I am still here, this time working among an expanded team with hundreds of new colleagues.

What type of CTO are you? There is a very good article by Tom Berray and Raj Sampath that describes the role of CTO using four models. I like to identify myself as what they call an ‘External-Facing Technologist’, as I am focusing my efforts on using technology to provide better products and services to our clients. I also see myself fitting with model 3: CTO as “Technology Visionary and Operations Manager”, combining vision and innovation with practical ability to implement change.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Artificial intelligence. My degree thesis was on how AI can be used to find causal patterns in databases, and I have since continued to follow the technology’s progression closely over the years. I am astounded by the new frontiers AI has reached. Artificial intelligence, combined with the internet of things (IoT) will drive huge changes in our industry. While this really excites me, it also makes me slightly cautious given possible issues that may arise as mankind learns to co-exist with new digital entities.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Cryptocurrencies – they generate profits in an unsustainable way, require huge amounts of energy to produce and aren’t regulated in the UK. The underlying blockchain technology however is really interesting, particularly in how it can be used in the generation of smart contracts and stablecoin crypto assets like JPMCoin.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Becoming a strategy consultant on top of my existing technology leadership responsibilities to add additional value to our clients and company in how we work.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? As CTO of an IT company, for me digital transformation is as much a central part of our internal process as it is a central part of the solutions we are offering clients. Of course, the goals of digital transformation may be different. While internally we favour operational efficiency, the direction we take with our customers is strongly dependent on their digital maturity. New customers are mainly focused on a balanced approach, which focuses on improving customer satisfaction as well as business processes, without compromising efficiency.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Modernising systems to revolutionise customer experience and providing the support to help them innovate successfully. Our cloud-based solutions have been particularly attractive for customers looking for new models to deploy systems that historically have been hosted in legacy environments.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? As our business is providing software solutions for banks and financial institutions, innovation is key, as is providing excellent service. We have to take a balanced approach when introducing new technologies into customer solution portfolios. This means slow and steady rollout of new tech across a business, even if the technology is developing faster than it is being implemented. At Auriga internally we are constantly reviewing the technology we are providing our clients, but as this is so fast-paced we will only innovate if a cost-benefit analysis supports the decision to do so. Over the last few years we have created a small team that works on R&D outside mainstream solutions management, to ensure we are always striving to be faster and more flexible.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Sometimes it is difficult to introduce innovation in banks and financial institutions which have often had the same processes in place for years. To avoid big issues, we plan major changes well in advance and provide backwards support for software releases.

What makes an effective tech strategy? One could write several books answering this question as there are so many different methodologies and frameworks out there on this topic. However, the reality is that the effectiveness of a tech strategy depends on the internal enterprise architecture and the kind of business the company is in. Technological innovation is vital, but it cannot be a mere exercise in style and has to be supported by business objectives. The benefits and costs must always be taken into consideration too.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? Some people have predicted the merging of the CTO and CEO role in IT companies. While I question whether this will be reality, it’s fair to say that business strategy and technology go together hand-in-hand and are now inseparable. I do agree though that in the future, CTOs must be able to spot and capitalise on emerging technologies early – without causing any ill-effects on current operations – in order to benefit.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Becoming Auriga’s first CTO. It was a proud moment because it made me reflect on everything I had learnt and all the skills I had gained in all my former roles.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I wouldn’t necessarily have done anything differently because all the mistakes I have made, I have learned from, and these have all combined to make up the person I am today. I don’t have any big regrets to be honest, apart from maybe that I could have achieved more had I dedicated more time to certain skills and activities.

What are you reading now? I have several books on the go at the moment: the biography of Freddie Mercury, a book on Route 66, a guide to taking care of newborns (my wife has another baby girl on the way) and A Scanner Darkly by PK Dick, which I am re-reading.

Most people don’t know that I… am a decent chef, according to those that have tried my cooking! I love recreating tastes I have tried around the world in my kitchen at home.

In my spare time, I like to…I love to travel – I’ve visited 39 states in the USA. Travelling is less easy once you have kids – I have a two-year old daughter and my wife is pregnant with our second child, but it’s still a major passion of mine. I also like to build stuff, anything from DIY on the garden fence to Arduino robots.

Ask me to do anything but… Wear jewellery, except for my wedding ring.

 

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