Jason Ward of Dell Technologies discusses leading a remote team, helping customers adapt to working from home, and underestimating the impact of a pandemic.
Earlier this year, Jason Ward became vice-president and managing director of Dell Technologies Ireland. In this newly created position, he now has responsibility for the commercial and enterprise businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
With more than 30 years’ experience in the tech sector, Ward has held several leadership positions within Dell Technologies and Dell EMC. Before taking up his current role, he had worked as managing director of enterprise in the Nordics for Dell Technologies, and as director of enterprise sales for EMC across Ireland and UK.
‘We’re having conversations with customers seeking to future-proof themselves across all industries, which might not have been imaginable just a few short weeks ago’
– JASON WARD
Describe your role and what you do.
I am the vice-president and managing director at Dell Technologies Ireland and lead a team of experts who work every day to introduce public and private sector organisations to new technologies to support their goals and objectives.
By harnessing the power and opportunities presented by technologies such as AI, 5G and multi-cloud, our teams in Dublin, Cork and Limerick work with global and Irish businesses to ensure they’ve the solutions in place to maximise their business objectives and meet the needs of their customers.
During this current period, we’ve been working with customers to put in place systems and solutions to help them transform their business models, enabling them to identify and capitalise on current and future opportunities.
We’ve seen in recent weeks the impact technology is having on society and how it’s helped us all stay connected with family and work colleagues at a time when we’ve been asked to stay apart. Now, more than ever, the critical importance of technology is coming to life for all parts of society.
How do you prioritise and organise your working life?
Not surprisingly, I have come to rely quite heavily on technology to help organise my working life. As with many others, I am working remotely at the moment so technology is what keeps me connected with my own team and with our customers. I run an all-island team, so we are very familiar and comfortable with virtual meetings – it just means we are doing more of them now.
Although every day is different, I try to make time in my weekly schedule to step back from the day-to-day operations and focus on the future – looking at how businesses will be able to take advantage of developments in 5G, the evolution of the cloud and sustainable innovation.
Sport is important to me and helps me unwind, so I build exercise into my schedule every day. As we are all at home at the moment I also do some Gaelic training with the kids – it’s a great distraction and as a family we’re enjoying training together, something we’d like to continue when this time passes.
What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?
The world as we know it has shifted in recent weeks and months. As a leader in the technology sector, the role we have to play now and into the future is arguably more crucial than ever.
Everyone’s realities have changed and the challenges for us have been somewhat put aside for now while we work to support customers and communities quickly coming to terms with the new reality of remote working and management of their workforce.
In many instances, their supporting tools and infrastructure were not designed for the large-scale remote interaction and the engagement we are seeing today. We’re equipping organisations with latest devices, deployment systems, security platforms and moving applications to and from on-premises and public clouds with Dell Technologies Cloud.
What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?
We have heard about digital transformation for a number of years, with many organisations slow to adopt. One dramatic shift we foresee is the acceleration of new projects in this space. The current challenges faced by organisations have highlighted the importance of an automated, modern, agile IT infrastructure that can rapidly adapt to new business processes such as working from home.
We know from talking with companies across the country, some struggle to manage data spread across private clouds, public clouds and edge locations. The lack of control is really hindering their ability to be agile and innovate at speed. Our solutions are supporting a multi-cloud approach that accelerates digital transformation in all parts of a business.
5G is changing the data game with transmission speeds up to 20 times faster than current 4G platforms. With massive amounts of data moving at speed, we’ve been focused on enabling the development of Industry 4.0 and connected healthcare. Our Innovation Lab in Limerick is supporting this shift. Customers are given the opportunity to experience real-life examples of how 5G together with other new technologies can deliver real business value.
AI and machine learning continue to turn PCs into even smarter devices. We’re harnessing these technologies to make laptops and notebooks increasingly self-sufficient with the ability to automatically repair, without needing to inform the owner. This intelligence is helping these machines play a larger role in a company’s wider digital transformation strategy.
What set you on the road to where you are now?
I began my career in insurance with Irish National and, after witnessing the transformation of manual processes to automation and electronic data interchange (EDI), I caught the IT bug. I moved to Misys financial systems, where we were first to market with automated insurance certificates through EDI functionality. Many younger people today will not realise just how difficult the process was and how long it took to get insured and also obtain the certificate and documentation.
Since my very first role in the technology sector close to 30 years ago, I have been constantly amazed at how technology enables companies to deliver new solutions to solve the problems and business dilemmas facing customers and society at large.
Having taken up this role in Ireland in February, I’m really excited about what the future holds. We’re having conversations with customers that are seeking to future-proof themselves across all industries to mitigate against a crisis like this – conversations that might not have been imaginable just a few short weeks ago.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
Underestimating the impact of a pandemic! I think we’ve all seen those movies Contagion and Outbreak but I don’t think my mind ever went fully there, to the reality of every business in every sector being forced to work from home.
We’re all learning from each other at this time and I’m really enjoying the conversations I’m having with customers at the moment, and then working out the role technology can play to make ideas real and sustainable for clients.
How do you get the best out of your team?
Creating a truly inclusive culture where everyone works together to deliver the best results for our customers. It is not just about cultural diversity – cognitive diversity is also critically important. On a successful team, you need many different mindsets, which fosters creativity and an alternative approach to problem solving.
Dell Technologies is very focused on creating a workplace where everyone feels included and where everyone has the opportunity to do their best work. A cornerstone of that culture is our employee resource groups, for employees to connect on common interests and causes. Through mentoring, volunteering, community involvement and leadership development, every team member has an opportunity to have their voice heard.
We’ve sought to allow employees to choose the work style that best fulfils their needs on the job and in life. Our Connected Workplace programme provides the flexible tools to work from home – secure devices, enhanced technology infrastructure and extensive training. This has been great for the transition to the current remote working environment as we’d a lot of experience in this space, but also means we can pass our learnings on to customers to help them manage this transition successfully.
Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?
Like many others, early on in my career diversity was not really on the radar. However, I have always looked to work with leaders who promote equality and a meritocracy. Closing the diversity gap will prove vital in developing a workforce that is able to address the societal challenges we face. We need to look beyond the ‘traditional’ talent pool to make diversity a reality at all levels.
Dell Technologies has committed to achieving 50/50 gender representation within our workforce by 2030. We’ve also partnered with Technology Ireland’s Software Skillnet to roll out a 15-week programme of training, mentoring and work experience that enables women from any background to gain new skills and insights in the technology sector.
Championing the next generation of diverse STEM talent is also a priority. Our STEM Aspire programme aims to achieve this. With two young daughters, I am conscious of the importance of making STEM and IT accessible. By connecting female students at third level with female leaders within our company and supporting them through training and mentorship, we’re helping to create a pathway for female students to transition from university into the technology sector.
Did you ever have a mentor or someone who was pivotal in your career?
Yes, throughout my career I have been lucky enough to work with either a mentor or senior executive who has provided guidance and coaching. Obtaining a mentor can never be underestimated and I would encourage all aspiring executives to work with one.
My first was back in Misys when my mentor cajoled me into pursuing a role which I felt I was too inexperienced for, as the role involved managing a large part of the UK business. His confidence in me and encouragement to challenge myself created the path which led me on the journey to where I am today.
What books have you read that you would recommend?
Reading has always been a passion and two recent books I would highly recommend are Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed and Loonshots by Safi Bahcall. Both offer creative insight into problem solving, how we make decisions and why it pays to be open to new ways of thinking.
What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?
Coffee, coffee and more coffee.
My role usually would involve a considerable amount of travel all over Ireland, so it is important to stay connected and I could not achieve that without my Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 laptop. By staying connected with my team I can plan and prioritise effectively.
Meetings with clients and team catch-ups are an integral part of the working week, so an organised calendar is key to ensuring I am as productive as possible. Virtual conferencing is now part of my everyday with Microsoft Teams, ensuring that everyone within the team is engaged and productive.
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