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McGraw-Hill Construction CIO sees future in the 'Internet of Things'

McGraw-Hill Construction CIO and IT Leadership Awards finalist Isaac Sacolick shares his views on leadership qualities and the 'Internet of Things.'

Our SearchCIO-Midmarket 2013 IT Leadership Awards recognize the contributions and innovations of IT professionals within midmarket companies. We put out a call for nominations of individuals who have excelled in the following categories: cultural innovation, technological advancement, business value, green IT, IT engagement and customer experience.

Isaac Sacolick
Isaac Sacolick, CIO and
vice president of technology,
McGraw-Hill Construction

When it comes to Agile development, Isaac Sacolick, CIO and vice president of technology at McGraw-Hill Construction (a McGraw-Hill Financial company),sets the bar high. Sacolick has leveraged best practices in Agile development with his entrepreneurial and startup background to blend the best of both environments in the IT space. Sacolick's efforts are spreading out to the rest of the company, along with what McGraw-Hill Construction's president calls "Isaac's Agile," driving revenue through new products and portfolio management. We wanted to get to know the man behind all the motion. Sacolick gives us a glimpse at his zeitgeist and tidbits about his personal joie de vivre, and opens up on everything from the "Internet of Things" to his favorite smartphone business app.

Read on for more information about Sacolick, an IT Leadership Awards finalist in the technological advancement, IT engagement and customer experience categories.

Number of years in IT: 18

Revenue: McGraw-Hill Financial reports 2012 full-year revenue for the Commodities and Commercial segment (which includes McGraw-Hill Construction, Platts, J.D. Power and Aviation Week) at $973 million. It is not our policy to report revenue for individual business units.

Number of employees in the company: 500 to 1,000

Number of employees in IT: 30

An excerpt from the judges

Mr. Sacolick's focus on efficiency and transparency clearly impacted his organization. By making his department play a more proactive role in contributing toward the company's business goals, he has managed to place his organization in a leadership position in his industry.      

Educational background: Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Binghamton University and Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from University of Arizona

First job: I ran a BBS (bulletin board system, a modem dial-up information service) at age 12 and sold computer supplies and access to gaming areas of the BBS. During high school, I ran the kitchen at a local day camp for 300 4- to 7-year-olds.

LinkedIn: Isaac Sacolick

Twitter handle: @NYIke. I also blog and have several articles published on Engineering News Record.

What's the best advice you've ever received? I blogged about it last year. CIOs get asked a lot of questions, and the best advice I received helped me understand how to go about answering questions from executives. My colleague advised me to pause and make sure I understood the question before saying anything. Executives want the question answered before going into details or supporting information.

In the movie of your life, who would play your character? A young Sean Connery. I still watch Hunt for Red October (strong leadership), Highlander (a good mentor) and his Bond films (smart, quick-witted, a man of good taste). It would be interesting seeing my character played out with a Scottish accent.

An excerpt from the nomination

Isaac has the unique ability to understand business goals, match his knowledge of technology to successfully meet those business goals, foster collaboration across all functional areas throughout the process, and contribute to the company's dedication to meeting and exceeding customer needs, while at the same time achieving revenue growth.

If you could have just one superpower, what would it be and why? Definitely flying, because I love to travel. Breakfast in Paris, hiking the Grand Canyon during the day, dinner in Singapore would be a fun day. I'd also be able to visit my global teams easily and use my flying ability to meet and inspire lots of people.

What's your favorite app on your smartphone or tablet device? I have many favorite apps that deliver personalized content, but my favorite is Zite. It does an amazing job prioritizing content based on user activity and understands my topics of interest derived from my Twitter feed.

Where do you fall in the iPhone vs. Android debate? I'm glad there is competition for mobile devices. I remember the PC-Mac, Windows-Unix and Java-Microsoft debates. In the end, the competition helps drive innovation.

Describe the best technology decision you ever made. One month into my current position, I recognized that a strategic project for delivering a new customer-facing product was in trouble. I had to deliver the bad news. Then, over the next couple of months, I changed the structure of the team, the development process and the platform being used. Several months after that, we completed the product and, over the next two years, went on to deliver two more products on this platform and with this team.

Was there ever a technology that you thought was a gimmick but now couldn't live without? Cloud technology and the Amazon cloud in particular. When it was first rolled out, it looked nothing more than self-service hosting, which has been around for some time. I blogged on this in 2009. Now, leveraging the elasticity of cloud environments is a cost-effective way to scale systems on demand and when usage spikes.

What's the biggest challenge you face in IT today? The biggest challenge is connecting people -- technologists, business sponsors, users and customers so that they can develop a shared understanding of priorities, possibilities, potential opportunities to innovate and places where technology improvements are necessary -- then make smart decisions on what and how to implement product enhancements and technology improvements one Agile sprint at a time.

Which role and/or internal partner do you rely upon the most? I rely on my team. We're charged with building and enhancing our product line and providing sales with new competitive products. When the team accomplishes this sprint to sprint, release to release, we develop confidence and credibility with our partners and customers to do more. After that, my team relies on strong partnerships with our product owners to help set priorities, partner on defining requirements and balance short- and longer-term needs.

What's your prediction for the next big technology? The Internet of Things. Sensors in homes, buildings, cars, roads, people (via wearable devices) -- all interconnected and delivering big data that will drive better experiences, reduce costs and improve environmental conditions.

What's your favorite nonmonetary benefit or perk of your job? I enjoy speaking at conferences and contributing articles to Engineering News Record, our magazine and website for the engineering and construction industry. As a father of three, being able to spend quality time with them is important, and McGraw-Hill's culture of promoting a work-life balance is a very important benefit.

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