Want to be successful? Study those who are, says CIS partner

David Jarvis is the chief information officer, vice president and, in his newest role, the lead of information enablement for Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix.

David Jarvis is a big believer in learning from those who have made it. He reads about successful businesses and leaders, and he suggests students do the same.

Jarvis is Honeywell Aerospace’s chief information officer, vice president and, in his newest role, the lead of information enablement for the company. The self-made man paid his way through college and moved up the ranks with hard work, real-life experiences, and by studying successful people.

Jarvis is a member of the Executive Council and the Executive Advisory Board for the Department of Information Systems as a way to give back to the W. P. Carey School of Business. Here’s his advice for students looking to climb the information systems ladder.

What do you wish you knew as a college student?

That’s a whole thesis as many, many things would have been good to know. I wish I would have had a deeper understanding of the business strategy and how technology could enable that at the highest level. It's great to learn from real business case examples. Additionally, I would have benefitted from a better appreciation of the value of key influencers and relationships in an organization and how these affect collections of people, how they make decisions, and who influences who. It’s essential to know in a large corporate environment.

The college experience tends to focus on understanding business and technology basics, and the foundational side of software, computers, accounting, finance, and marketing. The trick is knitting them all together, so you understand how the business operates. You’ve got to learn enough about each of those areas and understand how they fit together, which gets back to understanding how the business works.

How can students work smarter?

Get practical experiences, such as internships, co-ops, project assignments with local businesses, and international assignments when they’re available. Spend time understanding how successful companies and business leaders accomplished what they did. I don’t think it’s a case of taking a few more classes; it’s figuring out how to apply it.

If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?

I would have gained more real-world experience during college. I didn’t have the benefit of attaining that expertise in a corporate setting. The internships were there, but I had to work in the summer just to earn money to pay my tuition.

What are you trying to accomplish this quarter?

I'm focused on accelerating enterprise data management across all of Honeywell, which includes business processes, tools, technologies, and a broad range of people from multiple functional areas in the whole supply chain, engineering, sales, marketing, finance, and more. Just think of it as our collective goal: making data better.

What should keep students up at night?

If you narrow it down to W. P. Carey information systems graduates, they should worry about cyber-related activities. All the technology that creates benefits — whether it’s insights through data or enabling something by automating a manual task to make things more efficient — has a downside. For example, cybercriminals can hack self-driving cars, the electrical grid, or the cockpit of an airplane. I don’t know if it should keep people up, but it should be a concern, especially for technology professionals. There have to be fail-safes built into the technology. Other than that, students should appreciate the pace of change, particularly in the technology domain. It’s accelerating, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow anytime soon.

What used to be your biggest weakness?

Early in my career, I didn't work with teams as well as was needed. I did a lot of work hierarchically. In this generation, everybody gets together, at least in small teams, and they figure things out as a group. Earlier in my career, I would be hesitant to share my point of view. I’d sit quietly in a class or business meeting, not voicing my perspective, especially if it contradicted or challenged something that a senior person proposed. That gets to be a little bit sticky sometimes. I’d encourage students to learn from that; you can question things without being offensive, just make sure you get your point of view across. You just need to be ready if the idea gets rejected. Providing your input, particularly combined with working in teams, is how you make better decisions because you have more information to consider.

How do you balance your work and home life?

I haven’t figured that one out yet. It’s not easy. In my case, I’m very fortunate. My wife is amazing, and she takes care of our home and does an outstanding job raising our two daughters. I’m the banker. I earn it, and she figures out how to make it work. I attribute most of our success to my wife. That’s how it has worked for us.

What business books are on your nightstand?

  • Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
  • "It’s a good book about making sure you understand what you’re trying to accomplish to get everyone aligned."
  • Alibaba: The House That Jack Ma Built by Duncan Clark
  • "This book is about China’s version of Google and the gentleman that created it. It’s getting back to learning how others are successful, and maybe there’s some value in that."
  • Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob P. Buford and Jim Collins
  • "You focus on your career, you raise a family, and you evolve through those experiences. Then you get to a point where you’ve done what you’ve set out to do. You raised a family. You put your kids into college. Now you’ve got to figure out if what you’re doing is not that thing you have a burning passion for, and how do you transition into the second half of life so that you’re doing something that has a lot of meaning."

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