ON Partners Client Spotlight Series offers timely insights and strategies from leading global executives. In this spotlight: Q+A with Mohamad Ali, President and CEO of Carbonite on bridging America’s technology talent gap, the impact of mentors, and other talent priorities.
Mohamad Ali’s exceptional career includes formerly serving as Chief Strategy Officer at Hewlett Packard, where he played a pivotal role in the company’s turnaround. Earlier, he led the creation of IBM’s $8B business analytics software unit. Mr. Ali currently sits on the boards of iRobot, Oxfam America, and the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.
Carbonite, headquartered in Boston, provides a robust Data Protection Platform for businesses, including backup, disaster recovery, high availability and workload migration. The Carbonite Data Protection Platform supports businesses in locations around the world with secure global cloud infrastructure.
Technology companies face significant talent shortages. How can we address this?
Mohamad Ali: It’s been estimated that there are about 500,000 open IT jobs in the U.S., but we as a country are graduating only 50,000 computer science grads each year. There is a clear gap. To close it, we as a country—which includes both business and government—need a two-pronged approach.
First, we must further develop our nation’s domestic talent base. That includes continuing to invest in K-12 education. At Carbonite, we have established a charitable fund for STEM education and we urge other companies to support STEM as well.
Additionally, investments in our large student population in public colleges and apprenticeships to retrain our existing workforce are critical.
We also need to recognize that the U.S. historically has attracted talent from abroad, including many who come to study at our universities. We must be able to retain these individuals to help fill the technology talent gap. Doing so helps our businesses grow, and in turn, creates more jobs for Americans.
Given the technology sector’s “war” for leadership talent, how has Carbonite been able to build such a strong leadership team?
Mohamad Ali: It starts at the top, with our overall strategy. We have a uniquely exciting mission—to keep businesses and individuals going, no matter what bad thing happens to them, whether it’s a cyberattack, or a computer system failure, or a hurricane.
Another layer to this is our compelling product roadmap. We get letters from our customers that you just wouldn’t believe—because we have a great product and we execute well. It’s a performance-oriented environment, without a lot of internal politics.
I believe that employees at all levels—including the leadership ranks—truly value Carbonite’s holistic culture. It’s centered around succeeding as a corporation, making work meaningful, and giving back to the community, which, in turn, provides us with talent. It’s a full circle.
Are there certain experiences or attributes that have been especially important for you throughout your career?
Mohamad Ali: I’m a graduate of New York City’s public school system, and there are a lot of people like me, who may have come from poor backgrounds, families of immigrants, or struggled in other ways.
To progress, it’s important to have a mentor or people who watch out for you, and I certainly had that. There are qualities that are innately strong in each one of us, but in some ways that’s not sufficient for success. You need people who help you.
I am now in this amazing position at this wonderful company, but my early experiences are part of what makes me want to give back to the community. It’s up to each one of us to make a difference.
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