ESG's Mark Peters discusses business challenges during these challenging times with Cathy Southwick, CIO of Pure (or Pure Storage), including shifting company culture to enable remote work, learning to embrace collaboration tools, and gardening.
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Mark: Welcome to another edition of "Marketing in Challenging Times." You know, I think maybe for this one, it should be a different title, maybe "Business in Challenging Times," because my guest this time is Cathy Southwick, who is the CIO of Pure Storage. Hi, Cathy.
Cathy: Hi there. It's great to see you again.
Mark: Fascinating to be able to talk to someone who's, you know, a little out of my normal area of talking to marketing folks all the time. Clearly, these are challenging and distressing times for many of us, but how are things personally? How has your life changed?
Cathy: So, I have started to do some gardening, since I don't have the commute any longer. And that's been a lot of fun, watching things grow, which I've never had the opportunity to do that before. Although, I will say, I've never really been able to get the fruits of my hard work, because we have too many critters that come in the yard and steal everything before I have a chance to see actually the riped vegetables and fruit.
So that's been a little disappointing, but otherwise, it's been a fun thing to try doing while I've been working remote.
Mark: So when the attractions of Pure Storage, and being a CIO, drag you back indoors, what about work? How has that changed?
Cathy: You know, it's really interesting. I think there's been a lot of great things that have come out of these changes in the, and in the role, especially for a technology company who's really trying to evolve not just ourselves, with our customers. I think people are recognizing that it's hard on all different kinds of fronts. So everyone has to kind of do their part. So, doesn't matter what the issue is, the problem, the good things that you're working on.
They, it's like everybody really feels like they want it to be successful. So that's a really big change, because it does feel like that's across the board with, you know, like I said, everyone, from customers to partners, to our employees. So that's a...it's pretty exciting.
Mark: Let's just, I don't want anything secret, but get a bit more specific. As I say, as the CIO, you are both working for a vendor that sells things in this business, so you're seeing presumably extra demands from employees, so maybe talk a little bit about the work from home and whether that's really impacted Pure Storage or not. And I'm also just interested in providing IT generally. There must be some changes you've had to institute that were unexpected.
Cathy: Yeah, I think the biggest part is Pure has always had a culture of, I'll say, somewhat flexibility of where you work. So people have been able to work in a variety of locations, whether it's in different buildings or different rooms, or it's in your home office, or etc. And so I think that that component of it wasn't as much of a shift for us. We've had very few issues when we started working at home, because we were somewhat equipped.
We had to make some changes to some of the practices that we had, things like how do you deploy a laptop to someone who now is remote around the world? What does that look like? I would say that there were a couple things that caught us off guard, is we had actually made some conscious decisions last fall that we weren't going to move forward with some of the collaboration kind of tools that we had been looking at. And partially because we were a very much on-prem kind of culture, of people getting together in meeting rooms and whiteboards, and all those type of, you know, forums.
So I think that, for us, it's almost that motion of, oh my gosh, we had made some just conscious decisions to say we're going to back-burner some of those efforts. Now we're having to put them to the front, to say we need to really make sure our business is prepared as we start our re-integration plans, which is some of the things we're working on right now, is how do we re-integrate employees safely into the environments around the world, and what does that look like based on local needs and employees' needs, etc.
So those are some of the, I'll say the re-shifting that we've had to do.
Mark: Whether from a personal perspective, a CIO perspective, a Pure Storage person perspective, have we learned lessons from what we've gone through? Is some of this good? Do we keep some? Are you anxious to start your commute again, and leave the plants to die? You know, where do we go over the following months and quarters?
Cathy: I think the part that we're in a, I think in a pretty solid position is we have technical capabilities to allow us to, all that flexibility, and I think that's the part that we have to make sure we all keep. So whether you're on the sell-to side, or you're, you know, like ourselves, where we're being sold to, and it's trying to re-think how you do all that, and I think it's that whole re-invention of the workplace of what is going to occur, that for all of us, it's going to look so different.
So, I'm really hoping that we keep the flexibility, we start to think outside the box. We do think about how collaboration tools have to evolve and look different than how they are today, that maybe a one-dimension way that we communicate through, you know, variety of different technologies isn't the right way to do it, and so, I think the part we have to keep is the flexibility, the agility, and the willing to probably try some things that maybe have always said, "Oh, that will never work. We can't do it."
And it might not have worked in the past, but we're in a very different time now.
Mark: Well, thank you very much for your thoughts. I appreciate it. You know, this was a true pleasure, because whenever I'm speaking to marketing folks, as is often the case, I'm always waiting for them to sneak in a little pitch for the product, which I knew I'd be safe on here, but thank you for your thoughts. Good luck with the flexibility, good luck with the plants.
Cathy: Great, thank you for having me.