Scott Findlater - CIO - Anord Mardix

FRANCESCO GAMBA

Global Chief Information Officer

DDB

FRANCESCO GAMBA – CIO Interview Series

Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself

I’m the global CIO for an advertising agency based in NYC. I look after all areas of technology ranging from support, collaboration tools, workflow, development and so forth across ~140 offices, globally. I’ve been in the advertising industry for 24 years across 3 different holding companies. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY, residing in NJ now for the past 20 years. My parents owned Italian restaurants in NYC for 40 years and I guess I can say I’m the black sheep of my family having taken the corporate route instead of “selling spaghetti” for a living.

What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?

My journey all started when my uncle Jerry introduced me to the Commodore 64 computer as a kid. We went to visit him in the Bronx one weekend, and I saw a rectangular box that was a keyboard connected to a black & white TV. I asked, “what is that Uncle Jerry” and he said “it’s a computer”. I was hooked right away at what the computer could do. Play a simple game, write a program in BASIC and so forth. My parents then bought a Commodore 128 computer (floppy drive and all) and i spent hours on it everyday teaching myself how to write simple programs in BASIC, swapping games with friends, getting hooked on what a modem could do and so forth. I always knew i wanted a career with computers so after attending a specialized technology High School in Brooklyn and Computer Science in college, i started my first job as a helpdesk analyst for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. 2 years later, moving to Andersen Consulting as a technician for about a year and then my transition to advertising took place where I held various operational roles ranging from email administration, network management, ultimately up to director level IT positions, and finally getting into my first regional CIO role back in 2013 before transitioning about a year ago into the global role I assume now. (Happy to go into more detail as you see fit)

Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?

I always wanted to be in the role i am in now. I remember when I was an intern for Citicorp (before it became Citigroup), making photocopies for commercial bankers in the automotive sector, I’d always see one of the divisional CIOs walking around that I started building a relationship with. Always asking questions about what he did for a living for the bank and laser focused on technology. It got to a point where the bankers knew i was good with computers and they would come to me to help them setup their new laptops which I gladly did as opposed to standing over a copy machine just for the experience alone :). I love technology, i love how technology is front and center to solving business problems. I most love building teams and culture which is key to being a leader of any kind as I am only as good as the people that surround me. I also love how technology is applied to the advertising industry. Today it is all about the data, learning about consumers, their behaviors, and how to present messaging to them that consumers will relate to, interact with and ultimately help influence purchasing decisions. One of my habits is knowing tag lines and jingles to so many commercials dating back to the 80’s before I even thought I’d be working in advertising. I recite them to friends all the time. I guess I was meant to be a technology leader in the ad industry.

Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?

I have had 3 great leaders (mentors) in my professional career:
• My first boss in corporate America (Frank Iovino) when I sat at a helpdesk
• My boss that hired me into the advertising agency back in 1998 (Greg Smith)
• My last boss that gave me my first opportunity in a CIO role back in 2013 (Kenneth Corriveau)

Each of them took a liking to me, and helped me grow personally and professionally throughout my career, giving guidance on how to navigate a particular situation or how I needed to present myself given the audience. These 3 individuals helped me build the reputation & rapport I am proud of having today and if it wasn’t for each of them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I am also proud to have built deep personal relationships with each of them.

How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?

Technology is at the forefront and center of business there is no question. In my opinion, technology leaders hold one of the most important and difficult roles in a company. The leader needs to have deep knowledge of the business, needs to understands the inner working of the business operations in their respective companies, and know how to find the single thread to align technology to the business. Technology leaders today and beyond need to be even more flexible and agile in a more remote world looking for more innovative ways of collaboration beyond the Teams or Zoom call. The leader will need to move even faster at the speed of the business, not at the speed of IT.

What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?

In my opinion, outside of the current buzzwords of AI and machine learning, future technology leaders need to learn as much as possible about Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The two biggest costs in any company are real estate and people. In my industry, we need to always find ways to make our people work more efficiently and effectively and find ways to remove as much friction from process. Shifting “invisible work” from people to automation whether its step recording or via API. This is about having people focused in the right areas of the business that’s visible. Repeatable processes need to be carefully analyzed and considered for RPA which of course there will always be a human element involved as RPA is only as good as what “it’s trained to do” however with less human capital.

How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?

I block 1-2 hours a week where I stay current in the advertising industry, reading the current trades. To that, I periodically review the websites of current partners/vendors to see what new and interesting case studies have been published and what challenge has been solved. At times, a competitor is showcased as a case study which peaks my interest even more especially if I have a similar challenge. I also have a close group at other companies that share the same challenges that we collectively discuss on occasion and how they are/were being solved. I attend technology events where appropriate and enjoy the annual CES show in Las Vegas that is a core event in the marketing and advertising space.

What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?

There will be continued support for a hybrid work environment and ensuring employees have a solid experience of remote and collaboration technologies. Automation & consistency are key areas to ensure the right people are focused in the right areas and shifting repetitive workloads to RPA. Data will always be at the center especially in marketing and advertising (it’s the new oil) where its critical to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.

If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?

Always be a servant leader. Check your ego at the door. Be prepared to pickup a “broom” if you have to. Build culture, better yet build a work family. You spend more time at work than you do at home. You wouldn’t be where you are if it weren’t the people that surround you.

Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?

I am humble and grateful to have been given the opportunity of a global CIO role. I love the industry I work in and the people I work with.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

Hate. We can all use a few less haters in this world.

A big thank you to Francesco Gamba from DDB for sharing his journey to date.

www.ddb.com

 

If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.

 

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