CIO Leadership: HMG Live! 2020 Boston CIO Executive Leadership Summit: Demonstrating Empathetic Leadership to Safeguard Employees for the Long Haul

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted the way technology executives have led their employees and organizations through these uncertain times. The 2020 HMG Live! Boston CIO Executive Leadership Summit, moderated by Hunter Muller, President and CEO of HMG Strategy on September 11, brought together technology executives to discuss how they’ve adapted to these new challenges.

Now that companies are more than six months into a remote work environment with distributed work continuing to be the norm for the foreseeable future, CIOs, CISOs and technology executives continue to focus on keeping employees engaged and motivated. According to a survey of 150+ tech executives conducted by HMG Strategy, more than 70 percent of tech leaders share that employee engagement and motivation remains as a top priority in the post-COVID environment.

For technology executives such as Brian Shield, VP of IT for the Boston Red Sox, the crisis has created an opportunity to forge closer ties with his team members. “I think we’ve developed more empathy for one another and developed closer personal relationships,” said Shield.

The pandemic has also created an opportunity for CIOs and technology executives to focus on team building. Patrick Thompson, CIO of Albemarle Corporation, spoke about his passion for building strong teams. For the past 30 years, Thompson has helped nurture 32 of his own employees from across various organizations who have since become CIOs.

“We’ve created a culture of fun and winning,” said Thompson.

For some IT leaders, team building starts with making sure your team is protected first.    

Brad Whitehall, VP of IT & CIO of UniFirst Corporation, said that being able to protect his own employees first is paramount to him. He also said that winning to him isn’t about money – it’s about if you are “playing for the long term,” looking out not only for your clients but for your employees first.

Making the Digital Pivot

At the onset of the crisis, many executives were concerned as to how they would adapt to having the entire workforce shift to remote work without disrupting the business.

For some, switching over to cloud computing was the catalyst to working from home to drive user productivity and enablement. David Politis, Founder & CEO of BetterCloud, notes how the use of cloud computing has grown rapidly since the pandemic, and his company is currently focusing on helping its clients make that transition seamlessly.

“The mindset and the focus and the priorities shifted very quickly to how do I make sure my users can work from home and communicate,” Politis said.

Another by-product of the transition to remote work is the criticality of having the same level of cyber hygiene at home that you would in the office. According to Snehal Antani, Co-Founder & CEO of, hackers do not hack into your system – they simply log in because the cybersecurity controls in the home setting aren’t as secure as they are in the office. Now that employees are relying on cloud computing, it’s easier than ever to access confidential documents while they are working from home. Antani also advised security leaders to look out for blind spots and exercise greater security controls in the home environment.

Cybersecurity has been a top priority for many companies as remote work has the potential for being less secure. Now, the focus for many professionals is building secure infrastructure to maintain the same level of privacy and security in a remote setting.

COVID-related threats have also placed a higher number of companies under attack, especially those that are working towards making a vaccine, according to Mike Towers, CISO at Takeda Pharmaceuticals International.

To learn more about the 2020 HMG Live! Boston CIO Executive Leadership Summit, click here.

To learn more about HMG Strategy’s upcoming CIO and CISO Summits, including its 2020 HMG Live! Detroit CIO Executive Leadership Summit on October 8, click here