Senior Director IT Security & Compliance, Nestlé, St. Louis, Missouri.
Andrew participated in the Harvard Professional Development Program, Leading Through Digital Disruption.*
Why did you choose to participate in Leading Through Digital Disruption?
In 2019, I attended a Nestlé executive course on digital disruption and I really, really enjoyed it. This internal course was designed to help us brainstorm disruptive ideas that might come from outside our industry.
When I came back from that course, I told my team how excited I was about it, and how I wanted to try different things. One of my team members who is taking courses at Harvard had heard about Leading Through Digital Disruption and thought I would enjoy it. So I checked it out and it looked like a good fit.
For me, there was a clear difference [between the Nestlé course and the Harvard course]. The intent of the Nestlé course was to think outside the box about external competition. The intent of the Harvard PDP was to focus on the things you can do from inside your organization. To look at some of the steps, processes, and tools that you can use to actually disrupt your own organization.
The two of those courses together really helped me to get a 360-degree view of digital disruption, both from an outside and an inside perspective.
How did the program help you make a difference in your role or in your organization?
Speaking broadly, the Harvard course really helped me make a difference as part of an internal Digital Transformation Initiative here at Nestlé .
Specifically on the IT security side, the focus on digital disruption has really helped me focus on making sure that IT security is embedded at the beginning of all of our programs. From a security perspective, our nightmare is that our teams develop significant IT systems and push them live without the proper security mechanisms. We then have to step in to backfill firewalls, multifactor authentication, and other critical protections.
After taking the Harvard program, I now have the background in thinking about digital disruption that enables me to push for and help with these types of IT security issues right from the start.
How has the program helped you in your career, in your personal development?
This program employed a very structured approach. It focused a lot on the tools and methodologies that you can use to disrupt a Fortune 500 organization. And in this course, everyone came from the perspective of their own company. In the Nestlé executive course, we were all Nestlé executives. But for my personal development, the Harvard PDP helped me to see other people’s perspectives. It’s great to be able to bounce ideas off those other people, both during the course and in the future.
In which ways did the program help you build your professional (or personal) network?
Most of the participants have stayed in contact after the course. And I would say all of those people are at different levels of their journey in digital disruption. Some are at the finish line. Some are just getting started. Some are somewhere in the middle. So this network is a great place for everybody to bounce around their new ideas or things they’ve thought about. And people give comments and feedback. So for me, it’s a great professional network.
Most of the other participants are on the side of e-business, not IT security. Having that perspective has been very helpful. One of the things that I want to understand is my business partner’s perspective.
For example, if I stick to my own perspective, I’m going to focus on specific issues such as stronger passwords. But if I can understand the business perspective and what they’re trying to do, I’m better equipped to suggest ways that they can handle their side of the business securely, in a way that’s not going to end up in a widely-publicized data breach.
*PROGRAM NOTE: Leading Through Digital Disruption has been replaced by Leading Your Organization’s Digital Transformation, also taught by Pamela Rucker.
What was the most memorable lesson or takeaway from the program?
For me, the two biggest takeaways were the professional connection with the students and the professional connection with the instructor. The PDP instructor, Pamela Rucker, clearly walks the talk of digital disruption. She was really, really, great. Really engaging. I have had some excellent follow up discussions with her as well.
What was the most challenging aspect of the program for you?
I found the assignments we were given in the breakout sessions quite challenging. In one session, for example, we were tasked with imagining that we’re Toyota and we have to compete against Tesla. The assignment was to brainstorm ways that we could create positive disruption at Toyota in order to do that. We really needed to draw on all the readings and lessons Pamela gave us. Trying to figure out, as a group, the best way to complete those assignments every week was really challenging.
But it was also really rewarding when we went back to present our work to the whole class. Even though we read the concepts, even though Pamela taught the concepts, the peer presentations really make the concepts stick. The small group discussions led to greater understanding of the concepts, which we were then able to teach back to others—that was really a key part of the process that I liked a lot.
Is there anything else that you can add about your experience, or anything that you’d like someone to know about the program?
I really want to give a shout out to the instructor, Pamela Rucker, again. Like everybody in the last year-and-a-half or so, I’ve been in all kinds of virtual meetings, conferences, training, you name it. Pamela was really inspiring, really interesting, and really held the attention of the class the whole time. She was able to explain very complicated processes about how to keep your business competitive. And she explained them in a way that was not only understandable to you at that moment, but in such a way that enabled you to go back and execute it within your own organization. I would recommend her or any courses that she’s going to teach in the future. She was really excellent.
If you could describe your experience at Harvard PDP in one word, what would that word be?
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.