Dirk Wood on His First Three Months at the Helm of Contino US
Dirk Wood, President of Contino US, reflects on his first three months at Contino: the culture, the talent, the clients!
You can read more about his background and why he joined Contino here.
Hey Dirk, how are you feeling about your move to Contino?
I’m absolutely thrilled! Whenever you take a new job there are always some unknown unknowns, but I’m pleased to say that I 100% made the right decision.
By this point I’ve been around the block a few times, and I can safely say that what’s going on at Contino is something special. I’m very privileged to play a role in shaping how it moves forward!
What expectations did you have and how do they reflect reality?
During the interview process the two themes that came up again and again were people and culture. Before I joined, Contino had already made themselves known for having developed a unique culture—complete with their own unique operating model—that attracted top talent and gave their people the space they needed to deliver exceptional work.
So I was expecting talented people and a great culture, but even so the strength of both really surprised me.
The level of talent in the US business (not to mention globally) is exceptional. From sales, to the back office and especially delivery...to see all this raw potential assembled in one place is fantastic. And the culture is so strong! Lots of companies talk the talk...but you see people here who really live the Contino culture and believe in the company.
And even our clients love our Contino t-shirts (featuring Maurice the Spacepug)!
What are you bringing to how Contino works on a day-to-day basis?
What I value most is openness and transparency.
The culture at Contino is already one of honesty and hard work, but I really try to bring that openness.
What that does is to ensure that information is flowing freely through the business: from the bottom all the way to the top. Companies operate on the basis of real-time data; if that flow is obstructed for any reason then that translates into poor decisions.
So, to take an example: never shoot the messenger. If you do, what will happen is that next time you won’t even get the message! Or at least not in time to do something about it.
There should not be any topics that are considered taboo. No sacred cows. Just a willingness to be honest and let the chips fall where they may. When people see that you really live this way, then they begin to trust you. They come to you with issues that wouldn’t have arisen otherwise. And that is the information you need to run the business.
When clients see us working like this they suddenly realise that there’s no such thing as “bad” news. There’s only news! When they see the effects of this openness on the quality of their culture and work, it really opens their eyes.
You mentioned talent and culture, what else stands out?
I would add to those two critical aspects a third aspect that has impressed me no end: the work Contino does with its clients.
I don’t think I will ever stop enjoying seeing the insane value that we are giving our customers. The feedback they give us about our teams, or even specific individuals who have contributed something special, is always a thrill.
And this is reflected in the very high percentage of customers that keep us around to work on deeper and deeper problems as they realize how much help we can give them. They want us to stay—and these are companies that are hard to please!
Why do you think that customers keep Contino around?
The difference is that we don’t just go in and ‘do a thing’ for the client. We are right by their side, strategizing the way forward—together. We’re not just a tool in the client’s shed. We’re standing with them, bearing the load of making the difficult decisions that will affect their entire organization.
It’s something special that they really do see us as the experts: whether that’s technical expertise, helping them upskill their people or changing their operating model. And it’s that range of change across people, process and technology that makes for meaningful transformation for our clients. Take just one and you can gain some efficiencies. Executing on all three results in game-changing benefits.
So we don’t just help our clients with a specific tech play. Ultimately, we help them to wield competitive advantage; to deliver business value. Some companies do tech for tech’s sake, but it’s about taking that and wrapping around it a coherent business case and a clear path to business value—a sense of what it’s bringing to the bottom line.
And we’re helping customers to see that. Customers sometimes see IT as a cost centre. It’s not! It’s the wellspring of their innovation! And that’s what we help our customers to realize: the latent competitive power that is within their tech, people and processes!
What have some of your priorities been?
Well, we’re still growing at around 100% year-on-year so the main priority is growing the team while keeping the level of skill and talent where it is today. No easy task!
In particular, the geographic challenges in the US have been a focus. We are going to be growing regionally and want to start developing a regional strategy for sourcing talent closer to clients. That makes things easier for the business, while keeping our people closer to their homes. This will take some time, but we are committed to it and to our people.
From a technology perspective, there are some strengths we have that aren’t being utilized as widely as I would like, such as our data and analytics capabilities. I’m looking forward to seeing more data projects take off as we build out this capability for our clients.
What does the future of Contino US look like?
Growth! There are 83 of us right now in the US (probably more by the time this is published) and I would love for us to hit 150 by the end of 2020. That means growth for individuals as well to step up to take bigger and bigger roles as we continue to expand.
We just hired a new VP of Sales for the US, so I’m looking to bring in more new business, as well as expand into new geographies.
Other than that I’m just going to do my best to ensure that everyone is happy and to enjoy the ride myself!