I was able to meet up with Bob Fair at Teradata Corporation in Dayton Ohio a few weeks ago. He agreed to share some of his lifelong experiences as a leader in various C-level capacities in the B2B tech space, including his current role as Chief Operating Officer. We both heavy hearts for the Providence Friars, so I had also sneak in a question about which sport he favors – Friar basketball or Friar hockey – considering both are the only D1 schools that have been teams ranked as high as #10 and #1 respectively in the polls.
You have experienced a lot in the enterprise high-tech space. From the early NCR days to now Teradata. What do you think the next 5 years will be like in your space?
Pace of change will continue to accelerate in all areas due to digital, specifically barriers to entry/competition will continue to come down, consumers will get more transparency into their options, business will get more insight into how to deliver differentiated services, there will be more automation due to IOT, worker skills will have to go to higher value thinking/analysis, and the world in general will become smaller.
Teradata has some of the most respected brands in the world for clients. What is the top reason why a customer chooses Teradata over your peers?
They choose us over our competition because we help customers change the status quo to improve their business in a unique and positive way. We bring in experts and technology to help them harness and exploit all of the data available to them to inform strategy, and improve the execution of the strategy.
Teradata seems to have gone full circle from its core strength of Enterprise Data warehouse to adding marketing technology apps, and now with the latest announcement, back to its core data warehouse. What is different about Teradata now than, let’s say 10 years ago?
At our core, we are still focused on helping customers leverage data to deliver the most value to the business. We do that with people and technology. Underneath that, a lot has changed; new technologies, open source options, saas/cloud offerings, etc. that affect business models and buying behavior. We are focusing on our core and leveraging all of the change so that we can continue to help customers achieve the best ROI.
Not many tech leaders had the co-title of Marketing and IT. Edward Conrado of Motorola held this once. Explain the reason why these two functions reported into you a few years back. Any learnings and insight to share?
In our company, beyond the CEO, the marketing role has the most involvement with all domains in the company. So having a business leader who understands the strategy holistically who also owns IT, has allowed us to drive a more ‘business capabilities’ focused collaboration between business and IT, and a governance process to keep business and IT accountable for the joint roadmap of capabilities, and the business case funding and prioritization of IT projects. As an example, to improve the return on marketing, we need to drive tighter alignment and accountability between sales and marketing. One key part of enabling that is the IT infrastructure to support sales and marketing. So we have one guy in charge to make sure there is alignment between sales planning, marketing, and IT. It really helps with alignment and execution.
If you had to do it all over again, what would be the professional path you would have chosen? Why?
My background is solution selling, which gave me a foundation in trying to understand other business objectives. It taught me to research other businesses, questioning and true listening skills, baselining current state/goal state, understanding obstacles/process changes, road-mapping requirements to get there, then mapping my companies capabilities to best achieving those requirements, and program management to ensure we are delivering on what we committed to the customer that earned their trust so we can get more business. This foundation gave me a really broad set of skills that are applicable in many areas. My sales success led to corporate functions that continued to broaden my skill set in marketing, channels, professional services, sales leadership, strategy, M&A, IT, operations, running a BU. So I am pretty bullish on starting with a complex solution selling path as it can lay the foundation for strong career path.
Looking back at your career, was there one accomplishment that sticks out that you are most proud of, and why?
Wow, tough one. I don’t think there is one accomplishment that sticks out. I think it is more that I have built relationships with people across every domain and every level where people give me the straight scoop on what is really happening, good or bad, and feel like they can proactively reach out to me with ideas on what we should be doing. This keeps me grounded in reality.
Is there a peer of yours that you respect the most? And why?
Many, and not just in business though. I have them in all aspects including family life and spiritual life.
What’s the thing(s) that are currently keeping you up at night?
Transforming the company.
Where were you when Doug Flutie threw the hail Mary pass?
My girlfriend’s house in NJ. I was a bit more excited about that pass then they were.
When you have two candidates for a job and all things being equal amongst them, what is the tie breaker you consider to choose one over the other?
Transparency/integrity/work ethic/servant leader attitude.
Is there a personal life experience that makes you the leader/person you are today?
May dad on the work ethic side, and my mom on the deep faith side.
More of a Providence College Hockey fan or a Providence College Basketball fan? Pick one.
Hockey (but maybe hoops if they win the NCAA this year….)