Forbes Technology Council members are in a wide range of industries and come from a diverse set of experiences. However, they all have lots of great insights to share, from best practices for technology departments to smart predictions for the future of tech. To showcase their expertise, we’re profiling Forbes Technology Council members here on the blog. This week: Andrew Takacs.
Andrew Takacs is the CTO of Zumasys, a custom cloud service for businesses of all sizes. Takacs directs all virtualization, storage and infrastructure practices for Zumasys’s data centers and on-premises customers, such as Panda Restaurant Group, Ganahl Lumber and Bradshaw International. Takacs began his career in technology directly out of high school. While attending college to pursue a degree in music, Andy took an IT consulting position with the Capistrano Unified School District, where he supported the district’s first-ever “Laptops for Kids” program.
What is your background, and how has it influenced what you do today?
When I was in high school, school districts everywhere were overwhelmed with a sudden influx of technology. District IT guys were running around to each school just trying to keep up with IT tickets. Someone had the idea to recruit students to help be the “boots on the ground,” and that’s how I got into IT. The district paid me to work an hour a day during a free study period. After I graduated, I continued consulting with districts and schools on various IT projects, which led to a part-time job with a district.
In my district, there was a new school that was starting an optional laptop program. Parents could buy their kids laptops, and the school would make sure that technology was integrated into the curriculum. But it was 2000/2001, and the district wasn’t prepared to centralize management for a 1:1 program. They hired me to deal with the fact that they would have three times more devices than any other normal school. The day the school opened, we had 40 laptops. After Christmas, there were 40 more. We had to develop and refine an imaging process to manage the sudden growth in devices. We also had to implement wireless at a time when enterprise wireless simply didn’t exist.
From there, I went on to work at a mortgage company that was on a growth tier. When I started at the company, there were three of us in IT. When I left five years later, there were 18 developers and six engineers. We started with five servers and ended up with 95 servers.
So from very early on, my career has been defined by growth-oriented IT — being out on the bleeding edge and solving problems that didn’t exist before. I’m drawn to that sort of crazy pace and challenge. It’s the same where I am today. At Zumasys, we were out in front of the cloud trend. Our cloud platform is now on its ninth generation of technology, and we’ve gained a lot of hands-on experience building cloud infrastructure that is becoming relevant to our customers as they build hybrid clouds.
What do you think is the most interesting piece of new technology today? (And / or how do you see the technology landscape changing in the next 5 – 10 years?)
Technology changes quickly. Every six months, there’s something new. But if you’re asking about today — in this moment — I’d have to say that I am most excited about what Microsoft is doing with Azure. They’re marrying their ability to run a very large-scale public cloud with their application IT expertise — all the apps that businesses have been using over 20 years. They’re taking that application IT and building unique capabilities and interesting, rich ecosystems as public cloud software with Azure.
Anyone with enough cash and operational sense can build a large-scale public cloud, but what’s unique about Microsoft is their ability to weave in all their technology stack. Office365 is great, but beyond that, there are also apps like SQL 2016, which can seamlessly extend the database into Azure. That is really exciting.
As far as trends go, I’m excited for the ability for businesses to have their apps be much more open and able to communicate with each other. In other words, to be less like islands. For example, I don’t want to have to go to my CRM system and export a bunch of data, go to my accounting system and export a bunch of data, go to a customer service app and export that data, and then cram those datasets together myself to see how they correlate. I am excited for apps that are built to communicate openly through an open interface. This is still fairly new, but I think it will happen more as businesses demand a better flow of information across their applications.
What’s your best piece of advice for technology executives to keep on top of the rapidly evolving tech space?
I get asked this question a lot. My obvious answer is to network. For some people that means going to events to meet and talk to people. I do a lot of that virtually by finding user groups that communicate persistently online, and I try to surround myself with people who are smarter than I am. If I can do that, I figure the rest will work itself out.