Leadership Q&A: Tom McElligott Talks Day-to-Day IT Operations, Cybersecurity and Life-Changing Events
At Sharp, we’re always looking for ways to help you think “simply smarter.” So, we thought it would be a great idea to feature our leaders to get an inside look at what they are working on and their views on the office technology space while learning some fun facts about them too! Today, we’re interviewing Tom McElligott, CIO & VP of Information Technology. We hope you enjoy getting to know Tom.
Tell us a bit about your role at Sharp and your day-to-day responsibilities.
"The definition of a CIO is: “the company executive responsible for the management, implementation, and usability of information and computer technologies.” The actual definition of today’s CIO is way beyond that simplified statement. My role as CIO of Sharp Electronics Corporation is to be as agile as possible and respond to trends and changes and the needs of the organization."
Day-to-day responsibilities vary from overseeing integrations, assessing technologies and enhancements, meeting with vendors, contract reviews and negotiations, providing information around cybersecurity and overall IT security for bids, improving information flows, approving expenses for the team, and managing our budget. Overseeing the different areas within IT such as infrastructure, telecom, applications, deskside, ERP and reporting are part of the job as are reviewing and approving security control access. Meetings with business users are also a key part of day-to-day operations. Of course, cybersecurity is always front and center of every day."
Sharp: Walk us through some of the priority projects you’re working on today.
"Some of today’s priorities are how to improve the services we provide. As a shared service group, we provide support across all business units. So, our priority projects always help the business drive more revenue. Then we have our internal projects, which vary from upgrading systems, applications, or databases. We are constantly striving to maintain a secure existing environment for our company. "
Sharp: How is digital transformation playing an integral role in the IT space?
"Everyone has heard the buzz words “digital transformation.” What most people don’t realize is that unlike in the past when IT was the leader of these types of projects, digital transformation is jointly owned/led by all business users and IT. It’s part of a tech ecosystem that is not just implementing a new system but rather a new way of working that can change how things are done. In other words, how we use technology to improve the business workflows and achieve our goals is the crossroad for technology, business, operations, and employees. So digital transformation is a vital and integral part of the business and IT."
Sharp: What do you see as the hottest trends in technology, and how has Sharp leveraged it over the past few years?
"Since the first commercially available computer was released in 1951, technology has accelerated each year. Over the last few years, the hottest trends are around Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI)/Machine Learning, Extended Reality/Virtual Reality used in the medical field/retail modeling, and Computing Power, with just about every appliance/device being computerized. Here at Sharp, we have implemented some Robotic Process Automation in IT processes and finance. This is an area where we see a lot of potential for use at Sharp so we will continue to build out more processes for RPA."
What challenges have the IT team faced since the COVID-19 pandemic started, and how did you enhance cybersecurity measures to protect the business?
"We were faced with many challenges at the beginning of the pandemic. How to transition the workforce from the office to WFH, including call centers, was a big one. We had just rolled out Microsoft Teams, so we still had to get a lot of the workforce up to speed on how to use it. Many employees/consultants before this never used the Sharp VPN. Other challenges were the provision of hardware for users with desktops and not laptops. Some had to bring a desktop home until we could replace it with a laptop. It was a lot of coordination of pushing out software that was required for the call center workforce so that they could operate from home like when they were in a Sharp facility. We all learned a lot from the experience of WFH. Some people had issues with home networks and not enough bandwidth, difficulty connecting home printers…the list goes on."
"Security was also a big concern. Of course, the hackers/bad actors took advantage of the pandemic when people were more vulnerable. So, we had to make sure employees/consultants checked in regularly through the Sharp VPN so that their appliances got the latest patch and security updates."
"We deployed additional security changes to protect the business. Since then, we have continued to add protection for Sharp through several changes such as the Outlook mobile application, multi-factor authentication (MFA) implemented company-wide, and the move to deploy a globally recognized security solution named CrowdStrike."
"I am proud to say that we all successfully made this transition."
Sharp: Since cybersecurity is still a concern for businesses, what can OEMs do to address the growing cyber threats?
"I have always said and continue to say that cybersecurity starts and ends with the workforce. While cybersecurity tools are essential, employees can be the weakest link or the strongest cyber advocate. Every technology we deploy is only as strong as the people using it. So, we do have to change the culture. Cybersecurity is every employees/consultant’s responsibility, and they need to know that they have a critical role."
Sharp: From your experience, what is the key to a long-term IT strategy?
"In today’s world with everchanging technology, the key is that the strategy that is devised must be adaptable and flexible. Too many times it’s a failure for that reason."
Sharp: Tell us about some of your extracurricular activities outside of work.
"I like to take a mental break from Technology by gardening, walking, hiking and cooking. It’s nice to be able to pick fresh crops from the garden and cook them. You can’t beat that taste of freshness. I also love to travel, see new places and revisit some old ones."
Sharp: What was a life-changing event that had a permanent impact on you?
"I grew up in Ireland and moved to the USA when I was 25 years old. So that was quite a big change for me. In today’s world, we all must deal with frequent life changes and adapt. Some of those changes are driven by new technology or changes to old technology."