The career of Long Islander Rob DeStefano has always focused on the mobile computing space. He’s as “product expert” as they come. Explore his insights in this quick-read Q & A.
As a product expert with Ivanti, your travels frequently take you to conferences and expos, meetings / presentations with customers and prospects, product advisory councils, meetings with industry analysts and the media, etc. What did you experience recently and / or what’s on the horizon for you over the next six to eight weeks?
We’ve re-ignited our Product Advisory Council (PAC) for the Supply Chain business, and are planning our next PAC meeting for this autumn. These are great meetings, and an opportunity for deep conversations about the technologies and challenges our customers are setting their sights on.
What will be your purpose for being there and what did / do you hope to accomplish?
I’m always looking for perspectives on upcoming challenges: what’s keeping our customers up at night? It’s so helpful to know what they’re seeing coming up on their horizons. Not only does that influence our product roadmaps, but also gives me topics and trends to study up on. Once you start hearing about these longer-range areas of concern, you start paying more attention to them, and it becomes easier to notice when they become more widespread.
It’s also great to be able to discuss metrics on current solutions. I’ve been fascinated by the varied ways businesses measure the success of a project. Sure, many talk to the quantifiable—dollars saved, time saved, percentage increases in productivity. I would never discount these, but some of the “soft” metrics have great stories that reflect the unique culture within any given business: improvement in labor relations and employee morale are two among many examples of these metrics.
Which way are the industry winds blowing?
Among the biggest themes I’m hearing about is the pressure businesses are under to deliver product to customers more quickly. Retailers (both online and brick & mortar) face this pressure from consumers, while some businesses are increasing penalties for late delivery. It’s a customer satisfaction thing, and comes down to being as efficient throughout the supply chain as a business can possibly be.
In the mobile computing segment of the industry, this has businesses looking to refresh their mobile computers and moving to the Android operating system. Moving to Android gives workers a user interface they already know, so they can work faster and more accurately. We help the business move their existing telnet and web apps to Android with our Velocity framework. It’s a four-step formula for an easy Android migration.
What are your three key takeaways / insights / epiphanies surrounding the future of Ivanti in the market space you’re primarily involved with? Where do you foresee both the challenges and opportunities for the company?
1. A unified IT experience is not just for the Corporate IT teams. Operations IT teams are depending on much of the same commonality, compatibility, and comprehensiveness among the solutions they depend on to be more efficient.
2. Security also is important for our Supply Chain customers. Not only is it important within our products, but to help protect the host systems our solutions interface with. OS and Server patches are key examples, and it’s great that we have these in the larger Ivanti portfolio.
3. We’re doing some really cool stuff! From our rapid responses to recent ransomware attacks, to the technologies we’re investing in across the business, we’re innovating faster than we did in the past, and the best benefits for our customers are only starting to become apparent.
We’ve got challenge and opportunity wrapped into one: We’re growing. We’ve made great acquisitions and with that has come even more great talent. What we need to ensure is that our customers understand our product strategy, that it is clear, and most importantly, that it fits their needs. Ivanti does a great job with customer conversation—between roadshows, tradeshows, webinars, and Interchange events. We need to be sure every customer has a chance to share their thoughts with us, and hear and understand where we’re leading them.
What was your professional journey like to get you where you are today? What were some of the unexpected hurdles and some of the unexpected benefits?
My career has always focused on the mobile computing space. Much of that time was spent at Symbol Technologies (which is now part of Zebra Technologies). Starting there in 1999 was my introduction to Wavelink (now the Ivanti supply chain business). I’m a self-proclaimed “product junkie”, and could never resist the opportunity to play with the latest mobile devices. So, getting into a non-traditional space where PalmOS, and then Windows PocketPC/CE/Mobile, were encroaching was a cool way to start my career. I had great leaders guiding me and am very thankful for their mentorship.
My first foray into software was with a rugged-mobile-computing ISV, and this company did some really unique custom software apps. One of my favorites was a photo transmitting app that was used on the playing field at a couple of major global sporting events by one of the major news hubs. We got to be there at a few events with them! From this, I discovered a love of cameras (more products and gadgets to clutter my desk), and photography. At this firm, we also built one of the early QR code-reading apps for iOS and Android when smartphones were first being introduced.
I did a second tour of duty at what’s now Zebra. I had the pleasure (and pain) of bringing to market the first Android device in the portfolio. I was the product manager for the ET1 Android enterprise tablet. It was a tremendous learning experience, but when you’re working the first product on a completely new platform, it’s never easy!
After a brief product consulting gig, I arrived here in January 2013 and have been having fun ever since!
What are your top five favorite films of all time?
3. The Great Escape
5. The Last Samurai
Historical dramas are fascinating, and stoke my curiosity to read and learn more about the real history of the characters and times depicted in each film. I studied Japanese history and culture as a kid—mostly the “Warring States” period, and discovering that a people’s past goes a long way toward understanding the perspectives of the present.