Innovative hiring assessment technology transforms business at PDRI

Emily McLaughlin, Associate Site Editor

Our SearchCIO-Midmarket 2013 IT Leadership Awards recognize the contributions and innovations of IT professionals within midmarket companies. We sent out a call for nominations of individuals who have excelled in six categories, including cultural innovation, technological advancement, business value, green IT, IT engagement and customer experience. 

Finalist Mike Meyrowitz, vice president of systems and IT services at PDRI, was hired five years ago to take over and grow PDRI's essentially nonexistent IT services group. Meyrowitz's group currently plays a major role in most of the company's work and has brought innovation to PDRI's hiring assessment products, creating rich multimedia experiences and scenarios that have increased customer sales and gained recognition in their field. In this Q&A, Meyrowitz, a finalist for our cultural innovation award, shares his IT leadership experiences, from the best technology decision he's made to the biggest challenge he faces today.

Michael Meyrowitz, vice president of systems and IT Services, PDRIMichael Meyrowitz,
vice president of systems
and IT Services,
PDRI

Number of years in IT: 17

Revenue: $35 Million

Number of employees in the company: 120

Number of employees in IT: 32

Educational background: Master of Science in information technology and Bachelor of Science in business with an information systems concentration from Virginia Tech

First job: Software engineer

LinkedIn: Mike Meyrowitz

Twitter Handle: @mmeyrowitz

What's the best advice you've ever received? Don't be afraid to ask; worst they can say is 'no.' People generally want to say 'yes' and/or share information, and it's amazing how powerful the confidence to ask can be.

In the movie of your life, who would play your character? Adam Sandler. Funny, but gets the job done. That's me.

If you could have just one superpower, what would it be and why? Superspeed. Time is always the biggest limiting factor, and superspeed would help mitigate that.

What's your favorite app on your smartphone or tablet device? Flipboard. Its ability to aggregate desired information in a fluid, easy-use interface is second to none.

Where do you fall in the iPhone versus Android debate? Why choose? Both have their pros and cons. I use both.

An excerpt from Meyrowitz's nomination

Where [Mike] has taken the group has exceeded all of our expectations, and IT services now plays a major and critical role in most of the company's work. In fact, the IT services group is the fastest-growing group we have ever had, and it has enabled exponential growth in the remainder of the business, doubling in size over the past four years.  

Describe the best technology decision you ever made. To hire people smarter than myself. This can be your own hires, to consultants for short-term engagements. When it comes to technology, you can't be an expert in everything, and things get complex quickly. In a competitive business environment, hiring people smarter than you will save time, money and a lot of aggravation and problems.

Was there ever a technology that you thought was a gimmick but now you couldn't live without? If not, which current technology is a gimmick or overly hyped? I think NFC [near field communication] and contactless payments is currently overhyped for its current state of rollout and maturity.

What's the biggest challenge you face in IT today? Talent. Within IT, the ability to identify staff both external and internal to an organization, with the right mix of knowledge, skills and abilities, is key in today's workplace environment. It's not enough to just have staff with pigeonholed skill sets, like programmer or network engineer. IT organizations today need staff with those skills combined with business and strategic analysis skills that can interface and cut across functional organizations at all levels. Not only are workers with this broad ability in short supply, but so are effective tools for identifying them. This is even more of a problem in still-developing areas like cybersecurity, where the job roles are still evolving industry wide.

Which role or internal partner do you rely upon the most? My boss. I believe having a supervisor that can set clear goals and support the obtainment of those goals without micromanaging, by assisting to resolve problems that impede your success, is key. I am fortunate to have found that.

What's your prediction for the next big technology? [Three-dimensional] printing and personal manufacturing. The rapid advances in the 3-D printing technology, along with associated cost reductions, have the potential to open whole new industrial revolutions in product delivery, inventory reduction, personal innovation, manufacturing and more.

From the nomination

Mike has brought together a happy, productive and engaged team. He fosters a strong culture for innovation and creativity, which has resulted in the new products and contributed substantially to business growth. He is extremely well-respected by his team and colleagues, sought out for his leadership, and is a critical business asset.

What's your favorite nonmonetary benefit or perk of your job? The people. Both my staff and the company at large [are] staffed with very hard workers who are team players and experts in their respective fields. Even with the rapid growth we have seen over the past several years, we have been able to maintain consistent quality and culture within our corporate environment, and for me that is a good thing.

What is the biggest problem you see with corporate cultures today? Lack of emphasis on open, frequent communication and [on] feedback. I think this is really driven by antiquated performance management within most organizations. These antiquated policies and processes for performance management systems basically just serve compliance versus actual performance management function and drive hard conversations to only occur once or twice a year. I would argue that today's corporate performance management systems actually reduce or impede performance, which negatively impacts a productive corporate culture and reduces moral and performance within organizations. Companies should really be focusing on performance management programs that improve the culture by stressing direct communication and feedback at large, and do this on an ongoing basis, which improves moral, retention, individual and team effectiveness, leading to overall improved corporate performance.  

What are 'rookie mistakes' that you see in up-and-coming IT leaders? Trying to take on too much, whether personally or as an organization. A lot of new leaders are afraid to delegate, as it takes a lot of trust, which usually takes time to develop. Force yourself to take a leap of faith. Also, don't be afraid to outsource or bring others in when needed. A lot of new leaders try to keep everything within their organization and/or take options off the table without even evaluating them, which puts you at a competitive disadvantage.

Describe your leadership style. I try to set clear expectations for my staff, then get out of the way. I try to make my staff feel like I work for them. I don't do their work, but I feel that my role is to set direction, then clear the obstacles and roadblocks that are in their way, impeding success.

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