August 2, 2023

Navigating the Tech Landscape: Q&A with CIO Scott Frost

Scott Frost, CIO of 3Pillar Global, was recently honored with the Capital CIO of the Year ORBIE® award in the Corporate category. The prestigious award recognizes technology executives for their outstanding leadership, innovation, and excellence within the rapidly growing technology landscape.

In this blog post, Frost discusses his vision for the future of technology, how he keeps up with emerging trends, and his advice for aspiring technology leaders.

First off, congratulations on receiving the Capital Orbie Award! What does winning this award mean to you?

Thank you. I am honored to be part of the CapitalCIO organization and partner with so many outstanding CIOs. This award is recognition of the amazing work our entire team at 3Pillar is doing. We have seen such dramatic scale the past few years and it has required collaboration across the global company. Everyone has been very supportive of the system and process changes and it is really refreshing to have that strong sense of shared focus on successful outcomes.

As a technology leader, I love bringing stakeholders together to solve these complex challenges. I could not be more proud of the professionalism, integrity and accountability our entire team has displayed throughout this growth.

Your team has described you as a visionary leader. What drives your passion for technology leadership, and how has it shaped your approach as a CIO at 3Pillar?

I graduated from Virginia Tech with a Management Science degree and in school we were using computer science to develop and solve different types of business problems. I have been doing just that for my entire career – using technology to solve problems that businesses face, either with product development or solutions at the enterprise level. The technology landscape is vastly different from thirty years ago but a lot of the core principles are the same. I tend to be “technology agnostic” because tools (and software languages) come and go so you have to focus on the business problem you are trying to solve for. Ultimately, you select the best technology at the time that can solve the problem, scale, and be cost effective into the future. A common trap is to make short sighted decisions (a lot of times based on cost) that do not factor all of these things in.

How do you keep yourself informed about emerging trends and assess their potential impact on an organization’s mission and goals?

Relationships. Throughout my career I have built a strong network of technologists whom I can brainstorm with on emerging topics or whiteboard solutions to problems. I have sat in a coffee shop with a collaborator sketching thoughts on a napkin that are then translated into a roadmap. I have always encouraged colleagues to nurture strong relationships across multiple disciplines and build that network of trusted partners. Even with vendors, because something may not be relevant today but strategies evolve so keeping in touch with someone can pay dividends down the road as you grapple with a new problem.

What are the key challenges and opportunities you see in the current technology landscape, and how is 3Pillar positioned to address them?

The current global macroeconomic climate is still putting downward pressure on a lot of companies as they look to streamline their businesses. As technology leaders, we have to balance operational expense with delivery and growth, which is more art than science. I have been in this industry for a long time and have seen these peaks and valleys before. I believe 3Pillar is well positioned to help organizations re-evaluate their product strategies, ideate on new offerings and also design/build those products in a cost effective, secure and scalable manner. I have spoken with many CIOs and CTOs whom we are now helping deliver against their product strategies so they will be ready to capitalize on the economic peaks in the coming years.

Given your experiences and achievements, what advice would you give to aspiring technology leaders who aim to make a positive impact in their organizations and the industry as a whole?

Early in my career I was at an executive dinner and the CIO at our multi-billion dollar parent company (who was also a great mentor to me) turned and asked “What was your EBITDA and margin last quarter?” I did not have an answer and he replied, “You really should know these things.” He didn’t care about the numbers, he cared that I didn’t know the answer. It was such an eye opening moment because I realized I was not in tune with the fundamentals of how our business operated. My advice to aspiring technology leaders is get a very firm grasp on how your business works, how you earn revenue (or memberships or whatever it is that brings cash in), and what the key metrics are that drive the organization. Without this understanding there is no way you can successfully map out budgets, tools, and processes to support the strategic mission. I also coach high school and college students to get involved in as many public speaking classes as they can. This is one of the biggest pitfalls I see in technology leaders. They can be the most amazing technical talent in the room but if they cannot speak in front of an Executive team or a Board of Directors, their entire messaging gets lost. I always say EQ > IQ.

How have you seen the role of the CIO change in the last 5-10 years, and what changes do you see on the horizon in the years ahead?

I always encourage startups and business leaders to bring in a CIO as one of their first executive hires. Too often companies think they are not big enough for a CIO role, yet as they start to scale, they quickly realize their manual processes, homegrown tools, and lack of data insights are not giving them what they need to maintain success. I think many leaders are now realizing how important the CIO function is to ensure there is a harmonic balance between process automation, actionable data insights, security and operational expense. This is evident by having a dedicated organization like InspireCIO that brings together over 1,200 CIOs across the country – and we all share very similar goals and challenges.

How do you approach security awareness at a large global company like 3Pillar?

One of the keys to building a successful employee security awareness campaign is repetition and variability. Hackers never rest so you want to build enough muscle memory in an employee so they pause and question something that may not feel right. Using a platform with multiple training modules twice a year, ethical phishing campaigns and several email reminders to stay vigilant can help keep this message top of mind. At a former company, we ran a phishing campaign during a major product launch and tricked a lot of staff because they were caught off guard. My response to several complaints on the timing was, “Imagine the damage that could have been done if it were real.” It really opened their eyes.