Dan Gowens, Sr. Director at Prime Therapeutics, believes that IT leaders and business leaders have complementary goals and should form partnerships to achieve them together. He has worked in the IT industry since the 1980s, and he has built his career on building cooperative teams, solving problems, and aligning tech solutions with business aims.
Dan is a member of the Think IT Association, York Solutions’ peer professional development network composed of 3,500 members nationwide. Think IT offers IT leaders the opportunity to develop their skills, build relationships, and share ideas and challenges in facilitated discussions.
We spoke with Dan about the meaningful experiences he has had within Think IT and throughout his career.
Where did you start your career, and what experiences led you to the industry?
I started my career back in Texas in the late 1980s when I was still in college. I had been developing software as a hobby for many years through middle and high school, so I knew at a very early age that I wanted to pursue a career in technology. The early years of my formal career were spent working for systems integrators, installing and supporting networks, business systems, and providing business technology solutions.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing IT leaders/CIOs as a profession right now?
I stated this several years ago, and I still believe it to be true: technology leaders and CIOs need to be focused on erasing the boundaries between business and technology. IT services and capabilities need to be defined and delivered to position IT as a strategic partner with the rest of the organization. IT leaders should focus on ensuring that holistic IT capabilities become a vital component of other business capabilities.
How can IT leaders get business partners to think differently about the importance of IT?
It’s important for IT leadership to create an IT vision and strategy collectively with business partners instead of doing so in a silo. I believe there is a prevailing assumption in traditional IT thinking that business partners think the same way as technologists, that they understand high-level technology, processes, and corresponding constraints. The IT leader must act as a partner with the business to think in terms of business solutions. They can then help break down solutions into technologies that align with business strategies. This partnership muscle must develop over time through consistent practice.
What is important to you about a healthy company culture?
Trust, candor, transparency, and a clearly stated vision and supporting strategies are key to establishing a healthy culture. Leadership must continually be people-centric in terms of engagement, while striking the appropriate balance of managing performance and generating opportunity for the workforce. Accountability must be a common thread through the cultural fabric of any organization; however, a healthy culture rounds that out with leadership that enables their organization to succeed.
What tips can you share to develop the next generation of IT leaders?
Be extremely self-aware and assume constant change. Good leadership starts with self-awareness and a high emotional quotient (EQ). The one common variable that is not fixed in the IT equation is people. Work to develop the skills necessary to effectively communicate, influence, coach, and truly care about people. In other words, be authentic and consistent. People do not change, so be a constant student of how to better interact and lead people.
Tell us a little bit about your specialties and passions within IT. What’s been your favorite project you’ve worked on over the years? What about your position in the industry gets you really excited?
This is a difficult one because early in my career, my passions and specialties were technology-specific. In recent years, my passions and specialties have shifted more towards building effective teams and organizations, and solving problems. I have a passion for working to deliver big-picture strategies by systematically building the operational puzzle pieces and their supporting strategies and operational constructs. I also have a strong passion for giving back to others at this point in my career. And I enjoy learning from different perspectives outside of my current organization.
Tell us about your personal brand.
I’ve worked hard to position myself as a genuine partner and authentic leader. I want to be known as someone who is an expert in the area where I lead, as well as someone willing to get their hands dirty to ensure goals are met. I have an innate desire to collaborate and generate consensus and alignment. I tend to err on the side of over-sharing information to ensure transparency and shorten the road to finding solutions. I believe that time should be taken to build effective and authentic relationships as a means to ensure candid dialogue. I think that is key to quickly get focused on facts and solve problems.
What in the world of technology are you most excited about?
Positioning technology as an integrated component of a solution vs. technology being the focal point. Think about items like our watches, phones, cars, TVs, etc. I rarely think about these items as they relate to the technology that enables them. But I do often think of them as vital components of me being able to navigate both the personal and professional aspects of my everyday life. That is how I would love to see the concepts of IT services and products integrated and embedded into the business engine. Technology needs to be an invisible and transparent component of how we get things done, not the focal point.
How did you become involved with Think IT?
I met Richard Walker about five years ago through a professional connection. He was gracious enough to educate me on Think IT and Link to Leadership here in the Twin Cities. The timing was ripe for me in that I was ready to start networking at a deeper level while searching out avenues to get more involved in the local technology community.
What has been your most valuable experience as a Think IT member thus far?
A few things come to mind, but probably the most impactful has been the extensive network of trusted and respected professional connections I have made. Think IT is a wonderfully healthy conduit that enables a person to engage the local market at their desired level. The wealth of knowledge, experience, and just good-quality people that are part of this network is a huge asset for the Twin Cities.
What do you do to unwind from a hectic day?
Well as I type this, I’m having a conversation (read: argument) with myself on when to start back with my workout regimen. Honestly though, I truly look forward to coming home each evening and enjoying my sweet children and wife and sharing our day. Balance between personal and professional life is key for me, and it is something I want to continue to pursue at this point in my career.