Stephen Vieira

Chief Information Officer at SAV Consulting Group

Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself
Currently working part-time in Providence, Rhode Island, assisting a friend with a myriad of projects. I live in Bridgewater, Massachusetts which is about 40 minutes away.

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

My career as a CIO began as a sixth-grade teacher in Charleston, SC. I studied at The Citadel and acquired my Master's degree. Applying and being accepted at Boston College in the PhD Educational Research program, I learned my first programming languages, Pascal and Fortran. Having time during the day to work, I was fortunate to land a position as an Operator Trainee in the BC Computing Center, based on the fact that I had that previously-mentioned programming experience. I became immersed in technology at that point and never finished my degree search, replacing that with continually challenging myself to learn as much as possible working in Operations. My path through the Data Center steadily escalated to the point where I became familiar with other roles at BC involving technology that I might follow. Once I had reached the pinnacle of what I could achieve in the Data Center, I applied for and came a programmer analyst. Once again, I wrapped my brain around everything I could consume regarding this role and soon had the opportunity to become a manager of user services for the university. Leading a group of ten staff, I was totally enjoying the work and being a lifelong learner, kept adding to my repertoire. Leaving BC, I went to work at Clark University as the Director of Academic Computing supporting Macintosh computers, training faculty on their use and building courseware on those devices. A couple of years at Clark, with a long two-hour commute from home, I moved to Bristol Community College where I became the Manager of Computing Services leading an ERP implementation, using Oracle and DG/UX. with only two programmers onboard, I spent countless hours learning to manage the Unix environment, grasp and use all the Oracle functions I could, and deploying a major relational database system supporting the business of the college. Taking on the three roles was exhilarating but also very challenging. With my skills improving with the ERP, the vendor hired me to work at Virginia Tech. I spent four months there but wasn't satisfied with the work and not learning anything new, so I took a position with two community colleges in Massachusetts that were in close proximity to each other. At one location I supported DG/UX, Oracle and the ERP system with which I was familiar. At the other site, I supported DEC Unix, Oracle and the same ERP system. Travelling back and forth to each site was an interesting experience because it forced me to learn the needs of two colleges at the same time while supporting the different versions of Unix. Having done that for a couple of years, I was offered a position with a cryogenic vacuum pump manufacturer to manage their SQL Server environment. The ability to add one more system to those I supported was again quote compelling and fun. When the chip market collapsed there were many layoffs and the day finally came where my skills were no longer needed. My journey then took me to a consulting company who was looking for someone who could provide database support to various sites across the US and Canada. Travelling from one location to another was a unique experience I had never had. But at some point, the consulting company sent me to Canada to be a project manager and learn yet another database, UniData. The times in Canada were very interesting and a challenge to master the new database. Having filled this role for quite some time, the company then sent me to another site in Canada to become the CIO at that site.

This adventure enabled me to learn more about the supported technology, the strategic use of new and innovative tools and leading a team of 50 people. I loved it but the travel finally caught up with me and I went to work for a community college near home. The college was using outdated software, and hardware and knew next to nothing about virtualization. I wrapped myself up in meeting with vendors and learning everything I could to offer better services to students, faculty and staff. My time at this college saw incredible growth in what IT could offer, the satisfaction level of those we served and the amount of learning I was soaking in. At this time, I was asked, due to my experience with data warehousing, to participate with the Commissioner of Higher Ed for the state to help build a K-20 database for tracking students in the state. Bringing together many stakeholders, collecting the required data and working with state agencies tested my ability to negotiate and facilitate the sharing of information. One day, I received a call from a headhunter asking if I would be interested in being a CIO in the State of Tennessee. with the data warehouse well on its way, I agreed it might be interesting and the next thing I knew, I was the CIO for 47 public higher education institutions in the state of Tennessee. In my four and a half years there, I learned much about integration of various applications, how to build an eCommerce system that the vendor incorporated into their offerings at one point, and how a cloud tenant worked. Again, the opportunity to continue to learn and soak up everything I could provided that wonderful experience. State fading dried up with the pandemic and I am now operating a multi-service consulting group enabling small and mid-level organizations to utilize technology to enhance their business models. I am also writing a book about my thoughts on supportive leadership and how to minimize the effects of the "big resignation."
CIO Guest interview 1
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?
No, I intended to teach college using my PhD to perform data analysis and show how others how to do the same. Only when I started working at the BC data centre were my eyes opened to this really cool path.
Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?
There are seven individuals who provide me with mentoring. a role model and path correction throughout my career. I was always asking questions never being concerned that I might be embraced by their simplicity. I sought out leaders who were born to be leaders and technical folks who were meant to be technical.
How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?
The leader of tomorrow must develop the social as well as technical skills to lead. I have heard so many prospective employers stating that the technology students of today lack the "soft skills." I think the leader of tomorrow will need to be an avid listener, a teacher, a facilitator, and extremely empathetic with those they lead. Providing support for the team members' aspirations and goals is a key as much as ensuring that meaningful work is being assigned, Team members want to be appreciated, valued and shown that their contributions are important.
What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?
Empathy, Ability to question and then listen, Provide support for personal goals and the work-life balance.
How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?
Read everything I can. Research new terminology. Try new things like virtual environments, azure tenant activity, Django, Python, Wordpress, podcasts, blogs.
What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?
Contextual delivery of content. Similar to what Amazon does in tracking purchases, having websites and other content delivery systems track and remember who you are and what you consume and alerting you to something that is new in those areas. anything related to augmented or virtual reality enabling a person to try experiments without risk, and more use of machine learning and AI in data analysis and reporting. Increases in agile development to decrease timelines for deployment.
"Continue to learn every day. Don't be afraid of what you don't know."
If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?
Continue to learn every day. Don't be afraid of what you don't know. Try everything. Learn what you must and what you want to learn and let the rest come to you as needed. Understand the tools you have and their capabilities before looking for other solutions.
Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?
Finishing my book, creating more educational videos to help people positively affect the learning curve, and continuing to challenge myself to learn even more until I can no longer do that.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Eliminating the digital divide.
Other details that you'd like to add.
I guess it would be, you don't have to eve stop learning and you should have confident in yourself to do so. Never be afraid to ask for help because those people helping you did the same thing at some point.

A big thank you to Stephen Vieira from Sav Consulting Group for sharing his journey to date.

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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The CIO Circle Editor
Post by The CIO Circle Editor
December 9, 2022