🚀 Breathe.



“It was a journey to be really consistent, to always be transparent. And trust people, they're intelligent, motivated adults, everyone wants to be doing a good job, they can handle bad news, they can handle feedback, they can handle constructive feedback. But it's important as a manager to be really consistent so that even when an employee doesn't necessarily agree with the direction or a decision or performance evaluation, they're not surprised.”

In this episode

When was the last time you had a ‘balcony moment’?

A balcony moment is when you take a step back, go up to the balcony, look down and observe what you and everyone else are doing.

In episode #128, Hillery Hunter shares exactly how she is purposeful with her time, her process of prioritization, and all the lessons learned throughout her 17 years at IBM. 

Hillery Hunter, GM, Industry Clouds & Solutions; CTO, IBM Cloud, began her career with IBM in 2005 and was appointed an IBM Fellow in 2017.

Tune in to hear all about Hillery’s leadership journey, experience with mentorship and tactical management advice!

Like this episode? Be sure to leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review and share the podcast with your colleagues.


 “I don’t agree and I’m not surprised”


Being a manager for who you are as a person


 Hillery’s path to management


Calendar management tips 


Mentorship experience


Effective change management


Keep on learning



Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  00:38

Hillery, welcome to the show.

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  04:41

Great to be here to talk to you today.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:43

Yeah, very excited for this. You’ve had a pretty extensive career. You’ve been at IBM for a long time. Do I have it correct that it’s 17 years?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  04:53

Yeah, I think you did the math on that. 2005 I started at IBM. That’s right.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  04:58

And do I have that correct that do You actually start as an intern at IBM, and you’ve been there since?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  05:03

Well, actually, if we’re gonna get back to the intern, I did my first internship with IBM five years, even prior to joining full time, I interned with IBM, my first summer of graduate school, and came back a couple of times, and then joined full time in 2005.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:20

All right, wow. So you really like it there?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  05:23

Yeah. You know, it’s funny that we get to talk about kind of like, what is there though, right. So even as an intern, I worked in two different divisions of IBM, I worked in two different countries, I worked for, I think, three or four different managers. And it’s, you know, such a rich and broad organization in terms of all the different types of technology all the way from research to production of computers, and software and cloud services and stuff. That one of the things for me, and what’s kept me here is the opportunity to just keep doing new things every couple of years.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  05:54

Yeah, that’s amazing. I mean, again, it’s not, you know, typically a thing that you see, but I think it’s super inspirational for everybody listening. I mean, today, you’re the GM of industry, clouds and solutions, and also the CTO, you’re an IBM Fellow, which is the highest distinction that an achievement recognize that the company. And so we’re going to talk about a lot of these things. I’m very curious, I have a lot of questions. But the thing that we like to start with, and it’s very interesting, it’s like, hi, we just met, but let’s talk about some of the mistakes that you’ve made. But you remember, when you first started leading a team, what were some of the early mistakes that you made that maybe you make less of today?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  06:34

Yeah, you know, I remember my first role as a manager, I think one of the things that I had to learn and really conquer, in some sense, was making sure that I was always very clear. And I think for me, that kind of came to fruition a couple years later, when I had to deliver challenging news to an employee, and the person said, back, you know, I don’t agree, but I’m not surprised. And for me, you know, that was a journey, it was a journey to just be, you know, really consistent, to always be transparent. And, you know, trust that, you know, people, they’re intelligent, motivated adults, everyone wants to be doing a good job, they can handle bad news, they can handle feedback, they can handle constructive feedback. But it’s important as a manager just to be really consistent so that even when an employee doesn’t necessarily agree with the direction or a decision or performance evaluation, that they’re not surprised. And that kind of became a good metric for me in future leadership roles.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  07:29

So that person, I guess, you communicated something. And they said, I don’t agree. And though I’m not surprised, and so that was like a sign of okay, I’ve actually gotten good at this, and I’m consistent at the messaging.

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  07:42

Yeah, I mean, for me, it was kind of a moment that I said, you know, what, actually, that defines the role of sort of who I want to be as a leader from an integrity perspective. And it defines, okay, I’m being transparent enough, and what I’m communicating and what I’m thinking, I’m trusting the team enough right to be hearing my candid feedback throughout the process. And even if I’m going to have to take a decision that I know isn’t going to be, you know, palatable to them, or that they wouldn’t agree with, at least we’ve consistently been having, you know, adult conversations with integrity, and that I’ve been setting clear expectations on how I’m going to make a decision, what the metrics are going to be, you know, what I expect of an employee and their performance, etc.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  08:23

Yeah, that’s really interesting. So I have to maybe rewind a little bit more than that. So this is kind of where you ended up. Do you remember how you first understood that this is something that you’ve got to focus on? So if you’re remembering this, I’m just curious, like, what was the problem? Or maybe you can, if you remember a story of like, how you first said that, oh, this is actually super important for me to be consistent in this way?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  08:48

Yeah, it’s interesting, I think I spent time with mentors, which is, you know, absolutely key as a manager, or you know, to, you know, both sort of, you know, dealing with mistakes, as well as defining who the kind of leader is that you want to be. But I had spent time with mentors and time reading, in particular, on topics around conflict, you know, conflict on teams, right? Because I think that this topic of kind of I don’t agree, but I’m not surprised, relates to, you know, situations when as a leader, you have to take tough decisions, whether that not that is you know, to pick whose project is going to be funded next year, or to pick who gets to work with, you know, the Treasurer team member that, you know, builds a great website, or whatever it is, whatever that scarce asset is, right, or whether or not it’s giving someone performance feedback that isn’t positive. There’s a lot of situations that are, you know, kind of conflict as a manager and as a leader, and figuring out, you know, how to navigate through conflict and still bring people along in that process, I think was what, you know, I was very convicted about, you know, trying to develop a clearly honed, you know, skill around that and really bringing people along despite conflict ensuring that people are heard and not just that, they feel that you know, I took it just Decision, and they’re not quite sure if they were heard or did I really understand, you know, the different sides of the debate or whatever it is, or that someone understands that, you know, my performance feedback is based on a consistent conversation we’ve been having about how they should be spending their time, not that it just kind of comes out of the blue and is a surprise at the end of the year.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  10:19

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And I feel like a lot of times, this may come from a place of wanting to be liked. And there’s this really great book, I don’t know if you’ve by chance, read it. But it’s called the courage to be disliked. And I thought it’s a really good book for allowing you to be consistent in that way and staying with the principles and staying consistent and not worrying that every single person is going to absolutely love, whatever the approach is.

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  10:45

I love the title. I haven’t read it. But I love the title. Because I think that, to me, it’s also about trust, building trust with teams, right that there is that courage to be disliked love that title, of course. But it’s also you know, that teams believe that you’re someone who is spending an appropriate amount of time studying a topic understanding, you know, their work, understanding a project, understanding the complexities, you know, of what we’ve asked them to do, or the environment in which they’re functioning. And so your decisions might be disliked, but at least you’re functioning as a high integrity leader. And I think, you know, separating that out, is also something that I spend a lot of time thinking about.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  11:22

Yeah, I think it makes sense. And I’m glad that we were able to talk about how important it is. So, you know, one of the things is if we look at your career, you know, starting, you know, pursuing a few internships and continuing to rise in different leadership roles. One of the questions, I suppose I would ask is that, has people management always been a thing that you knew that you wanted to do? Or did you later on, you know, kind of decided to take that career track? And, like, how did you come upon that decision?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  11:53

Yeah, it’s a great question, especially for me, because sorry, for the length of the title you had to read. Right. But that title is, that title is reflective of the fact that I didn’t ever actually do what IBM would consider Do you know, taking a decision between a technical career path and a management career path? I’ve kind of pursued both at the same time. And from that perspective, the answer to your question is a little bit tough. Because if I go back, even into high school, the captain of the mathletes team or something like that, I certainly had leadership roles. But taking on formal management in a business context is something that was very much a debate for me, it wasn’t necessarily something that I was saying to you know, mentors or managers, you know, I want to be a manager, I want to grow, you know, up the sort of the management ladder or the management track, I never would have articulated, I want to be business executive as an example, which I think is is kind of unusual. I think a lot of people, you know, have that, or many people have that desire, but my identity, what I had invested in, in terms of my graduate schooling and such, was all in technology, right? And so, for me, management became a conversation about can I help strategically with a set of people, help them figure out, you know, better outcomes? And can I help the company that I work in, make better technical strategy decisions, because I am seeing a broader perspective of work because I am seeing a broader perspective of ideas. And because I’m able to lead and coach people to create bigger things than I alone ever would be able to. So for me, management, much more became kind of a mental process and thought process around coaching people around understanding strategy and strategic opportunities better, because I had broader scope, and eventually then being able to, you know, as a manager, participate in conversations about, you know, what are we doing next year and other things like that, where I don’t leave behind that I’m a technologist, but I sort of use the fact that I’m a technologist as a filter. Also, in those management conversations about whether it’s you know, how to reward people, or where we should focus our time and energy, or what I recommend that upper management consider doing, that became more of an opportunity to try to help drive strategy.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:11

That’s super interesting, because this is not normal. I think that what I mean by normal, I mean, I haven’t heard it all that often.

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  14:18

No, no, that’s fine. I’m not offended by my mind at all. Yeah,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  14:22

it’s very interesting, because usually people have to make some sort of a decision. But what’s really interesting about the path that you’ve taken, it sounds like you haven’t had to give up either. And you could have both that sounds a very appealing and be I guess, like one of the questions I have and maybe this is related to it for a lot of people say when you talk to a lot of managers, like it becomes a different craft. It almost is like well, now this is not a promotion, it’s a job change. And so along with that comes with a different set of things that you have to learn and do. And then they almost have to in some cases, like give up practicing their craft, if they’re a software developer, maybe they actually stopped coding and there’s like, different philosophies around that. Would you say that you still keep super up to date on your technology craft and spend a lot of time there? And how are you able to do that, while also tackling everything else? Yeah,

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  15:21

I wouldn’t want to leave any of your listeners with the misimpression that you genuinely can do it all. Because everyone’s human and there’s trade offs in it for sure. I think that for me, being a manager was in some sense, easier once I kind of realized that I could be a manager and a style. That is the way that I was created naturally, in the sense of, you know, if you had asked me as a child, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have said, I wanted to be a teacher. And when I realized that I could be a manager and be a leader and still be a teacher, and that that was very much natural for me, and I didn’t have to go be a different person and do a different craft. Certainly, you know, I’ve read books in Harvard Business Review, and you know, how to deal with these kinds of situations as a manager, and I studied it, certainly, as I study technology topics. So it’s not to say that there isn’t a new craft certainly being deployed. But I’ve tried to and again, you know, credit mentors, to a great extent with sort of this awareness, I’ve tried to be a manager that makes sense for who I naturally am. And that means that the things that I do and the way that I lead in such as a manager bit more naturally, rather than having to be a different person than who I naturally am, and who I am as a technologist. So you know, day to day, there’s absolutely a struggle. And I think it relates to, you know, being intentional about your calendar, and where you spend your time, being intentional about your personal goals, you know, where along that lines of leadership versus, you know, technology, where do you want your resume bullets to be better at the end of the year? You know, and what are you okay with, you know, having some atrophy in certain areas of one or the other, but being kind of, you know, confident in, okay, I know, what the skills are, that I’m building, I know what the product is that I’m creating with my team. And I’m doing that with some degree of intentionality. And that’s, you know, just something constantly that I think we all have to keep going back to. So for me, a lot of, you know, kind of keeping both things in play has been about doing both things with a style that kind of matches my natural style, and not trying to kind of create, you know, a business persona versus a technical set of activities that I do.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  17:34

Yeah, I think that’s a really good explanation. And it shows that ultimately, I love that analogy of you wanted to be a teacher, and you get to practice the elements of that through leadership. What are the questions maybe is an interesting one, because you’ve had such a unique journey in this way and progressively at the same company at at more and more senior roles? What would you say has changed? You know, when you think of yourself as when you were a first line manager, to director to VP to CTO to GM? What would you say has changed? Or what are the things that you had to learn that maybe you didn’t know before to be successful at progressively more senior roles?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  18:15

Yeah, that was exactly the the IBM titles they’re in succession, for me has been a process of understanding prioritization. And I will say that you get to tackle bigger and bigger problems. But the fundamental skill set of being, you know, a first level manager of direct reports, who are individual contributors versus, you know, more senior executive, you know, there has to be, you know, a set of leadership attributes and a leadership style, you know, that you’re consistent about, it’s healthy, if that’s somewhat consistent across rules, but you obviously have to grow because the types of topics, the magnitude of challenge and such that comes to your doorstep as a more senior leader just continues to grow. And if you think of it, just, you know, if today, you’re a manager of a set of people, a team of let’s say, maybe 10, or 15, people, you know, you have to deal with their career growth, or you have to deal with their, you know, individual life complications or things like that, as you advance into higher levels of leadership. It’s really the same topics, but just kind of in a different scale. Right. So, you’re more thinking about systems, you know, how do we systemically address certain issues of work life balance? Or how do we systemically ensure that we’re helping people progress, you know, through various levels of their career and getting right mentoring and coaching so you may start doing the mentoring and coaching of people about what their next career step is individually. And then your role eventually becomes, you know, working with others who are leaders on your team and working with your peers and sort of working with the institution of human resources or the institution of marketing or whatever the topic is. And rather than kind of doing the work yourself with your team, you get to help design processes and systems that do those things and help people be successful at those things at scale. So I think it’s a lot of the same topics, it’s a lot of the same skills, it’s a lot of the same, you know, leadership style opportunity. But he becomes much more about systems rather than individually, you know, tackling and addressing those kinds of things.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  20:18

Yeah, so that’s a good way to put it to its maybe individually tackling, then systems that become broader and broader and impact more and more people and maybe your editor, if you would agree with this. But would you say that your outlook and how many months ahead, you’re looking forward also changes and it just becomes longer and longer, the more senior the role becomes,

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  20:40

I think it’s a great way to look at it. And I think that’s totally valid, you know, oftentimes, in initial leadership roles, someone else is taking, you know, the decisions for, you know, what’s going to happen next year, and you’re responsible for then chunking it out quarter by quarter, and making sure everyone understands, you know, their responsibilities, or, you know, you’re given a small piece of, you know, you need to go make this much money or spend this much money or something like that. And so sort of that scale of the outlook in terms of time, and then scale or the outlook in terms of, you know, size of different types of budgets and such just continues to increase. And I think that element of time that you bring up is very much related to what I mentioned at the beginning that, for me, one of the most appealing things in leadership was to be able to work more strategically than I could as an individual contributor. And that strategic, you know, term is really about a longer term impact in many cases.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  21:35

Okay, they’re just a quick note, before we move on to the next part, if you’re listening to this podcast, you’re probably already doing one on one meetings. But here’s the thing, we all know that one on one meetings are the most powerful, but at the same time, the most misunderstood concept in practice and management. That’s why we’ve spent over a year compiling the best information, the best expert advice into this beautifully designed 90 Plus page ebook. Now, don’t worry, it’s not single spaced font, you know, lots of tax, there’s a lot of pictures. It’s nice, easily consumable information, we spent so much time building it. And the great news is that it’s completely free. So head on over to Fellow.app slash blog to download the Definitive Guide on one on ones. It’s there for you. We hope you enjoy it. And let us know what you think. And with that said, let’s go back to the interview. So this is a really important point, like spending more time being strategic. And I think like this is one of the places where it’s hard to make that transition. Oftentimes, like we will hear people saying, we need to make time to be more strategic. And firefighting comes with part of the role. I’m assuming that even at your role, you probably still do firefighting. But it also sounds like you’re very purposeful about your calendar. So I am very curious, like, just from a very tactical perspective, how do you make time to spend like enough of your calendar in the right strategic areas, so that you are, you know, tackling things and prioritizing correctly?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  23:13

Yeah, and hopefully, knowing that actually works directly with me will feel that I’m misrepresenting things. But my intention, I’ll just say that my intention is every week toward the end of the week, to go through the full next week’s calendar, and make priority decisions. And I tried to do that with my administrative assistant. And, you know, we look at the coming week, we look at, you know, what can or should be delegated, we look at what I need to attend, and we look at whether or not I have enough work blocks. And so you know, having blocks of time that say, Hillery worktime, that then we together, go through as things come up urgent or strategic and mark those with what the task is to be done in that period of time. I know that’s super tactical, but it’s what I’ve found to be helpful, just to make sure you know that there’s some degree of balance. And again, as I sort of jokingly say, about, you know, those who are immediately around me will be like, wait a second, I don’t think she had any work time we were doing stuff all day. There are certainly days when that time gets consumed, and I decide that you know, a firefight or an urgent pressing issue someone has or some conversation is more important, and we give up that time. But we do try to start every week and every month with some really intentional blocks. And honestly, for me personally as well, some of that is thinking time, just being able to, you know, go out and get a walk and kind of think and be able to take a little bit of a step back. For me personally, it’s being able to take a step back and folks that work with me will often joke that I say let’s take a step back. And so part of that strategic thinking is just also constantly having that mentality, even when it is back to back to back meetings. That saying let’s just take a step back. Are we thinking about the whole problem Is there something different that we need to be talking about? So I think it’s both a calendar and kind of tactical thing. But then it’s also a little bit of a mentality in, even when it is busy just making sure that we’re constantly, you know, having that one consultant called recently, a balcony moment where you take a step, go up to the balcony, and look down and look and observe what you and everyone else is doing and kind of say, Hmm, what’s my observation from up here? Are we really doing the right thing in even in this, you know, 15 minute discussion that we’re having?

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  25:31

I love this idea of a balcony moment. And I think that’s a term I’m gonna start using more to really figure out what’s great, right? Yeah, what you’re doing, it just visually allows you to understand what you’re doing. And I think that that really puts it into perspective. So so far, we’ve talked about some of the things that are different, as you know, progressively more senior roles, you know, what things can be different? I know, you’re all about consistency, we started the conversation in that way. And I know you’re very passionate about the idea of understanding your audience. And that has been a core focus area for you in all of the different teams that that you’ve worked with. So I’m curious for you to tell us a little bit about what you mean by understanding your audience and, and why that’s so important.

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  26:19

Yeah, you know, for me, that concept that we were chatting about when we just met a few minutes ago, I think that this concept of understanding your audience, it spans everything from a conversation I was having just earlier today with a mentee about, you know, how is one effective in executive or upward communication to what I do in my day job in my business function in what we’re doing, you know, the program is called Cloud for financial services. And what I mean about understanding your audience’s really, that there are a lot of, you know, books and discussions and such around communication. And there’s a lot of opportunity, you know, in technology and business context to specialize. But the purpose of all of this really, is to be effective, either in communicating a concept or making something consumable, and sellable, etc, then a lot of that really relates to the term that I would use as contextualization. Right, so whether or not it’s a mentee, that’s struggling, you know, why does my manager not understand that what I’m, you know, working on, you know, should have more resources or whether or not it’s, you know, a conversation about, you know, making a product more effective within a particular industry, understanding the context of, you know, what someone is trying to accomplish, understanding the context, how something will be deployed and used, just helps us be so much more effective, right. And so I think, you know, for people that are looking to communicate and have a more effective communication style as leaders, understanding the priorities of the people that they’re working with, and for those that are in a sales role, for example, understanding the priorities of your customer, for those that are in a development role or in technology, understanding, again, the priorities of the end user, contextualization and priorities, just helps everything move forward with so much less friction. Because we’re approaching a conversation, we’re approaching a product, we’re approaching a sale, from the perspective of knowing the priorities of the end recipient. And in that situation, everybody kind of wins. Because we’ve taken the time to understand we’ve taken the time to contextualize and we can communicate or sell or use or whatever it is the product that much more quickly and easily.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  28:32

So this is really good. I wonder, is there an example of or a story that you remember how you may have communicated something differently or coached someone to communicate something differently based on first contextualizing just so that we can really hammer the point?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  28:48

Yeah, you know, very specifically, I always coach people to be conscious of their corporate processes, especially, you know, any sort of, you know, financial processes or things like that, what I think a lot of times, you know, people miss, and again, this has to do with functioning within your company, and also working with your clients. People miss the fact that at certain times a year, everyone’s focused on the budget and understand. And, you know, from a sales perspective, that’s an enormous opportunity. And literally knowing what time of year you know, whether or not it’s March, August or November, that your customer is going to be in the throes of making those key financial decisions or within your organization, understanding exactly the time of year and the process, knowing when everyone’s going to be looking at the budget and key decisions for next year can help you contextualize it also helps you know, when everyone is kind of in prioritization mode, it helps you know, when people are going to be most receptive to a new idea because they’re looking to solve different challenges and and figure things out for the coming year. And from you know, a client perspective it helps you know, when they may be may need to take a bit of a pause right because the budget has been locked down the spending priorities have been made and They’re gonna be needing to workshop and you know, kind of, you know, do more innovation kind of conversations, but they know what they’re spending, you know their money on. And so there’s just a lot of, I think context around, especially financial planning cycles, that that I just always encourage everyone to understand even if they’re not in any sort of a business or financial rule.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  30:19

That’s a really good example. So it’s interesting, like, depending on the time, depending on the context, the more you understand, you’ll be able to communicate in the right way with whomever you’re speaking to, if you want something to land. I think contextualizing as, as you said, makes a big difference. In passing, you also mentioned the word mentee a few times, I’d love to ask you, again, like very tactically about just mentorship that you’ve seen in your career, and that you do for other folks. Have you approached the process? Like do you have, you know, formal mentees, and you grab coffee once every six weeks? Or how does it work? Because it seems like it’s been, it’s something that you emphasize, and something that maybe was part of your career? Yeah, you

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  31:05

will find me in any of these kinds of conversations, using kind of mentoring and mentees and mentors and those kinds of words a lot. I had wonderful mentors, from the time that I started at IBM, actually one of my mentors, but someone who I met at a conference even before joining the company full time. And so I’m kind of on the extreme end of how much mentors have sort of influenced my career. And I am tremendously grateful for all of the time that people invested in me and my own personal little decision crises or manager crises, or whatever. And so I share that, you know, in part to be, you know, appropriately vulnerable, but also just to encourage people, if you don’t have a mentor, very few people will say, No, it’s sort of a form of flattery to be asked, you know, to be viewed as someone who might have wisdom that can help. And almost everyone says, yes, yes, I will be your mentor, yes, I will meet with you. And so I really encourage people to step out and do that. I think that from a perspective of, you know, sort of what is formal and what is not, I do have several mentors that I meet with, you know, on a scheduled basis. And I do have a fairly large cohort of mentees that I meet with, at this point, it’s largely quarterly. And when I meet new people and meet potential new mentees, I send them a little questionnaire, what are you currently doing in your current role? What are your aspirations for the future? And most importantly, what do you think that you would get out of mentoring, and that just helps me get a sense of who they are and what the important conversations are. And also, sometimes honestly, that initial conversation is, you know, I know someone else who’s been through a very similar journey as you or has a very similar style to what I perceive, you know, might work for you. And I introduced you to someone else. And so I think it’s really important in mentoring, also, just to ensure and have a first conversation, to see if there is, you know, symmetry in the way that you think, to see if it’s a person that you can really respect and potentially learn from, and to see if there might be shared experiences and background. And that can be everything from something that’s highly personal with someone’s personal situation, and what they’re juggling to their career aspirations to their leadership style. So it can be a broad variety of considerations, I also try to frequently introduce people. So I will often send an email and say, Hey, I met this person, you should know this person. And I’m just going to leave it at that you will take it where you want to take it. But I try to be consistent in connecting people and many others return the favor, which is wonderful. And then, you know, introduce me to people as well. So I think mentoring and networking are, in many situations, also closely related topics.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  33:50

That’s a really good way to put it. And I will point out that it’s very interesting, because we just finished talking about how systems are very important. And it seems that you have also systemize the process of mentoring me, that’s really cool that you send the questionnaires in advance and makes it became necessary.

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  34:08

Yeah, it became necessary, right? I’m not necessarily someone that wants to naturally systematize everything, I don’t think, but it became necessary, you know, to be more efficient about it, so that I could talk to more people so I could help more people. And so that I can ensure that my time and the time of others is being you know, spent in the best way.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  34:28

Yeah, that’s a very good way to put it. One of the things that I think we should definitely talk about because I know this is a big part of your role, and I think it’s also a challenge for a lot of people. Mostly because human nature is I feel like in a lot of ways to resist change. And change management is always really hard and I know a lot of what you focus on his helping you know a lot of organizations make changes move to the cloud, you know, embrace the digital future. Wanted to ask you what is the hardest thing about Getting organizations to change and what have you learned about getting them to effectively do it for all of us trying to learn about change management?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  35:09

Yeah, it’s been interesting because I’ve started oftentimes in consultative conversations with clients sharing a couple of best practices that I’ve seen in this topic, a cloud transformation, which is often one of the greatest areas of changes, and then an enterprise, you know, can undergo these days, my favorite best practice stories that I share are really about where teams and committees are put together, and are jointly responsible for change, rather than change being a particular person’s job. And in cloud transformation, certainly, there will be someone who is you know, the VP or, or something of cloud architecture, or cloud delivery, cloud transformation. But that person also has collaborators who feel equal responsibility that does collaborators in the security office, the Chief Information Security Office, the chief risk office, within a regulated enterprise, the software and applications, the sort of line of business leaders, etc. The best practice that I’ve seen is a couple of organizations that really have the move to cloud, the journey to cloud all of this change is really a set of metrics, a set of KPIs that a group of people are jointly responsible for. And this eliminates a tremendous amount of conflict between, you know, someone saying, I gotta go to cloud and someone else saying, well, it’s not safe to go to cloud and someone else saying, I don’t understand the risk of going to cloud, and an application or owner saying, you know, you should have been there yesterday, because I need the functionality. And so you know, when it’s when it’s divided up, and isn’t a mutual responsibility, change just doesn’t happen as quickly because everyone kind of has questions. And certain people are empowered to be blockers to a process. And when an organization agrees on the high level metric, and the outcome, that for example, that application owner actually is the person that’s right, so to say that the business will get more value out of being on the cloud, because there’s going to be new functionality and new capabilities that they integrate, then everyone understands what the high level business objective is, the move to the cloud becomes the enabler. And people work together, you know, to get that outcome. And so I think there’s some very, you know, concrete things in kind of joint accountability, that can really help facilitate the pace of change,

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  37:28

I think that puts it very clearly. So it’s about getting people to agree on an outcome first, and then the change is just an enabler to get to the outcome. So you’re not necessarily saying, Hey, everybody, we’re moving to cloud, or we’re making this digital transformation. It’s, do you want this outcome? And if you can get all the right people to agree on that, then the rest just becomes obvious?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  37:52

Yeah, you know, and I just share a concrete example, that some folks may be interested to look up, I recently got to work with some colleagues. And we wrote a paper called Deep cloud, and deep referred to an analogy that a colleague came up with with regard to the ocean, right? There’s small fish, there’s anchovies, and sardines, and such sort of at the top of the ocean, you know, you can block off very straightforward, smaller things like a website, or the dev test for a mobile application or something, and you can put those on the cloud, those are fairly easy, it’s easy fishing, just go out with a net and catch them. But there’s, you know, tuna and other high value large things, you know, down deeper, and getting to that more transformative kind of conversation is an intentional decision in an organization. And one of the examples in there is a banking organization in Latin America, that IBM had worked with, you know, to look at their process from someone having an idea through to when they had revenue from that idea. And it turned out, because it was not collaborative, there were, you know, dozens of steps between someone having an idea that we should have banking accounts for children just as a random example. And then the bank actually signing people up and getting revenue from it. And actually, it turned out that, you know, a modernization of the IT enabled them to take a clean slate and say, Wait a second, you know, what should the process be, that would actually enable us you know, in weeks rather than months or years to get from someone having a good idea that we acknowledged is a good idea, through all the checks and balances and it connectivity and actually get the things stood up and you know, running online, as a new account type that people can sign up for and that we can make money on. And so that’s a much more collaborative, a little bit deeper organization organizational conversation, but that’s where you can really kind of, you know, get value. And I think there’s a ton of change involved in those kinds of things to say that we’re going to go from dozens of checks and balances and people that could say no and such, and people that need to design little pieces of the process to a more holistic end to end thing that’s supported by it, but it’s a much bigger outcome also. And so when people are understanding the outcome of the chain change, they will buy into a more aggressive agenda. And they will also understand why they’re being asked to change why they’re being asked to learn new things, and what the opportunity really is. And everyone can then you know, feel proud of what’s created.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  40:13

It’s a really good way to put it. I love the deep analogy from anchovies all the way to tuna, and how to basically, you know, move the larger, more impactful things. Hillery, this has been an awesome conversation. You know, we started out with you know, I love this phrase, and I think I’m going to remember this, which is I don’t agree, and I’m not surprised. We’ve talked about balcony moments how to do mentoring, we’ve talked about enabling change, and, and driving it forward. One of the questions we always like to end with is for all the managers and leaders constantly looking to get better at their craft. Are there any final tips, tricks or words of wisdom that you would leave them with?

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  40:53

Yeah, I feel this could sound a little bit trite. But I would say keep on learning. You know, I think that leadership is a journey. Being a manager is a journey. Anyone who’s listening, who’s the manager is an incredibly important role. And you know, kind of having both the humility and the curiosity continue to learn, I think is key to people forming a career and forming a leadership journey that’s going to be successful for them.

Aydin Mirzaee (Fellow.app)  41:19

That’s great advice and a great place to end it. Hillery, thanks so much for doing this.

Hillery Hunter (IBM)  41:23

Thanks so much for talking with me.

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