Clockwork recently hired Vince Cabansag, formerly of Chicago healthcare startup incubator MATTER, as Director of Technology. In his role, Vince will oversee Clockwork’s technology practice from operations to client innovation and delivery.
Now that he’s been on the job for a few weeks, I asked him about the role, the industry, and – of course – sports (because we’re not just geeks, we’re sporty geeks).
Lyz: Welcome! So, let’s cut to the chase. You moved here from Chicago, why Clockwork and why now?
Vince: Family comes first for me. That’s why I moved here. It’s been challenging visiting my sisters and parents in Michigan and my wife’s family in Minnesota. After our son was born, we decided to move closer to family. Our options were Michigan or Minnesota. It came down to proximity to family, career opportunities, quality of schools, and how inclusive and diverse the community was. We chose Minnesota.
When we made the decision to move, I wasn’t actively looking for a job in the Twin Cities. I loved the work I was doing at MATTER. I was going to try working remotely. That’s until I found out about Clockwork through my Starter League network (Thanks Bobbilee and Zeke!). When I learned more about the company and the role, I knew it was a one-of-kind opportunity. I went all in. It’s the only job I applied for and I put all of my focus on the hiring process.
What drew me to Clockwork was the values, the people, and the role.
I found that Clockwork puts people first. The culture was unlike anything I’ve seen. People are inspired to bring their whole self to work. The flexible work schedule empowers individuals to do their best work and live their best lives. The environment is collaborative and respectful. There’s an emphasis on self-accountability. And the work is challenging. All of that spoke to me.
You know the saying “People leave companies because of their managers”? There’s a reverse to that, too: “Follow the people you want to work with.” Amanda Lannert, CEO of Jellysion, gave this advice to my students at Starter School and again to my summer interns at MATTER. It’s sage advice. The more I learned about Nancy and Meghan, mostly through their thought leadership, the more I got excited about the opportunity to work with them – they literally wrote the book on digital project management. The other draw for me was the team. I met 16 people across different disciplines during the interview process. I found that Clockworkers are passionate, genuine, adept, and real. Those are the qualities of people that I want to be surrounded by, not just at a work, but in life.
When I learned more about this role, I knew it was a big opportunity. Leading the technical vision for a technology company is no small feat. The more I dug into the needs of the role, I knew that my experience leading cross-functional teams at MATTER and the Starter League would be valuable.
Lyz: Your most recent job was at a non-profit that was focused on incubating healthcare startups. What inspired you to switch to an agency?
Vince: Great question. I’ve worked with agencies as a client but not for an agency. That doesn’t scare me since I’ve worked in service-based businesses for the past 13 years. I get energized when I’m asked to solve hard problems for others, especially ones that require technical skills and a different way of thinking.
My experience as a builder in Chicago’s tech community lines up well with my role at Clockwork. At MATTER, I supported the growth of 200 healthcare startups and accelerated innovation for 80 strategic industry partners that resulted in improving patient lives and outcomes. My role spanned every aspect of running the business – technology, operations, finance, human resources, and product development. I’m proud to have led cross-functional that delivered technology solutions to internal stakeholders and external facing customers.
Before MATTER, I ran operations and taught software development at the Starter League (formerly Code Academy). It’s the school that pioneered the coding school revolution in 2011 before boot camps were a thing. People came from around to world to attend the Starter League and we were one of the first startups at 1871 when it launched in 2012. It was a humbling experience empowering others to solve meaningful problems with software.
Clockwork is also going through a transformative phase and that’s exciting to me.
Lyz: What things are happening in our industry right now that excite you?
Vince: Two things. The adoption of design thinking and the right to privacy.
There’s a consistent trend for businesses to stay competitive by being “innovative.” In many cases, new technologies (e.g. IoT, blockchain, artificial intelligence, edge computing) are seen as the springboard to an innovation strategy. But that’s like putting the cart before the horse. Innovation does not mean adopting new technology. It starts with adopting a different way of thinking. That’s hard to swallow for a business that is full of hierarchy, process, and existing infrastructure. Only when an organization embraces a different way of thinking does technology empower them to be change agents.
I worked with IDEO — the pioneers of human-centered design and the design thinking approach — at my previous company to accelerate innovation inside corporations. The premise behind design thinking is that innovation occurs at the intersection of three factors: human, technology, and economy. There’s a great case study on how design thinking helped kids get over their the fear of MRIs. Take 5 minutes to read this case study. It will inspire you to shift your thinking.
The other trend that’s exciting to me is the right to privacy. GDPR is here and it feels a bit messy and complicated. That’s usually the case when an entity attempts to regulate something they don’t fully understand. GDPR is a shift for companies to become accountable for user data. It’s the most significant development in data protection laws in the past 20 years. As more is revealed about how data processors and data controllers manage and collect data, it continues to be clear that consumer data is at risk. Big data was the precursor to artificial intelligence, but now we need to catch up and ask ourselves “should have we been doing that”? My opinion is that companies should embrace GDPR and be one of the good actors, a company that advocates privacy and the practices that ensure it. That’s how you’ll build trust with your customers.
Lyz: Where do you see Clockwork in a few years? In our industry that can feel like a lifetime away, and yet, we know it’s right around the corner.
Vince: I’d love to see Clockwork as the leading technology partner in the Twin Cities for digital transformation. As more companies see their infrastructure age, they’ll need a long-term technology partner that can help them innovate internally; both organizationally and with technology. Clockwork is a leader with it comes to social impact and responsibility. Not only do we have the capabilities to aid a digital transformation, we know how to foster a culture that puts people first. While that might be considered innovative, Clockwork has been doing that for over a decade.
Lyz: Lastly, Twins or White Sox? There is no wrong answer. (Yes, there is.)
Vince: Putting this out there…I don’t follow baseball, but I do follow roller derby. My wife and I recently attended a bout between the Windy City Rollers and the Minnesota RollerGirls. It was at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul and it was a straight production. I am so impressed by the roller derby community here. I’m a fan.
Lyz: Now that’s a perspective on baseball that I can get behind.