Barnes & Noble College’s Vice President and Chief Information Officer demystifies technology, discusses trust, and reveals what he’d take for a perfect day on the beach.
What was your first job?
I was doing field repairs to computer systems, literally walking around New York City with a suitcase full of tools, fixing Linear, Epson and Commodore computers.
Are you still fixing things?
Fortunately, we have a team of great people here — more qualified than me to do that! Our role as a department is to support the business by providing systems security, exceptional product and service offerings to our students, and a great partnership experience to our university customers.
What is perhaps one of the bigger misconception we all have about technology?
That technology is a solution. It isn’t. Technology is an enabler.
How important is the security element of our systems in discussions with customers?
It’s on the forefront — part of every one of our discussions and every one of our design plans. The security of the customers who shop with us is critical. Having that trust and protecting the universities’ brand is paramount — as is protecting our own brand. One of the ways we ensure that is by meeting all the industry standards — and then going beyond them.
In your view, what’s the biggest challenge facing education today?
From my perspective, technology in education and teaching is enabling students to learn in new and different ways — and in different formats. How do you best provide a quality education for that individual student’s needs and yet communicate across the demands of very different academic departments — medical and engineering for example? I think technology really has the potential to lead that.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?
I’d be a chef. I really love to cook, so hopefully I’d have my own restaurant somewhere.
What is your indispensable technological device?
Well, it’s not so much a device as the cellular service itself; the fact that you are connected wherever you are — that’s phenomenal. On the business side, cloud technology enables us to reduce infrastructure investment and focus more on applications. It really is an incredible opportunity for someone like me who’s focused on providing business solutions.
What’s a characteristic you find most prevalent in Barnes & Noble College people?
Across this organization, we’re here to provide support and services to help others.
We’re not building technology because we’re technologists; we’re building technology to serve the business, to serve our bookstores — which ultimately serves our students. Understanding that chain and how it interlinks is a responsibility I think everyone here recognizes — and it’s one of the most valuable things, to me, about this organization.
Digital or hard copy?
I’m a huge NOOK fan. I can take it to the beach and that’s my sacred time to catch up on all my reading.
Most valuable thing you’ve learned at Barnes & Noble College?
How to build the right team, with the right attitude, to be successful in everything we do.
Best day at Barnes & Noble College?
My best day is yet to come — when I’ll be walking across the stage for a ten-year recognition award. That longevity, particularly for a CIO, is quite a statement! I feel fortunate to be part of this organization and to work at a role I really love.
NOTE: Since we interviewed Steve, he did indeed receive his Ten-Year Recognition Award at this year’s Barnes & Noble College Annual Meeting — to thunderous applause.