Travis Howerton is the Founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Innovalysis Corporation. Innovalysis is a technology company focused on selling innovative mobile app solutions for Small to Medium Businesses, provides high end consulting services to Fortune 50 companies on cloud computing and cyber security, and develops next generation scalable applications by architecting Linux solutions built upon micro-service architectures, continuous integration, and Docker. Howerton has over a decade of executive experience beginning as the Chief Information Officer (CIO) for the Y-12 Site Office, continuing to become the CTO of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and most recently as the Deputy Director of the Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Howerton holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Information Systems from Boston University, a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Management from Tusculum College, is a Certified Information System Security Professional (CISSP), a certified Project Management Professional (PMP), and holds a certification in Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) Foundations.
We were fortunate enough to be able to get him to answer some questions on how not only to become a successful CEO, but also on how to be successful in life.
Jon D. Webster: What would be your top ten pieces of advice in order to succeed in your chosen career?
- Pick a career path with long term growth and opportunity.
- Whatever you pick, make sure it is a career you love. If you love your job, you will do well at it.
- Take risks early in your career to get ahead faster.
- Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.
- Treat everyone you meet with the same level of respect and courtesy, from the janitor to the CEO.
- Never use the work “I”. Always give credit to your team and encourage others.
- Be willing to work as hard as it takes to accomplish the most important goals in your company/business.
- Surround yourself with great people and great things will happen.
- Find someone who is better than you at something and go out of your way to learn from them.
- Set lofty goals and find ways to foster competition as you try to achieve your goals.
J.D.W.: What would be your top ten pieces of advice in order to succeed in life in general?
- Smile all the time and have a great attitude, even when you are feeling down.
- Remember the golden rule – treat everyone the same way you would want to be treated.
- Details matter and little things add up – find ways to stand out by doing the little things better than anyone.
- Make lists and get things done.
- Learn how to save money and invest wisely, debt is never your friend.
- Maintain a healthy work life balance – work to live (not vice versa), surround yourself with people you love, admire, and respect.
- Make sure some part of every day isn’t about yourself – do something for someone else, help someone, or donate to charity.
- Diversify your options for success – I always like to have more than one opportunity I am working.
- Take your health serious – eat healthy, work out, and maintain healthy habits/ lifestyles.
- Remove bad influences from your life – they will try to make you feel bad and bring you down.
J.D.W.: How important is it to continue your education even after you have landed your ideal job?
- There are very few good jobs in today’s economy that are not constantly evolving, you have to keep learning to keep up.
- We live in a global economy, you are not just competing against other Americans, we have to outwork everyone in the world now. If you don’t keep up your education, someone somewhere else will.
- Early in your career – try to find one thing that you are better at than anyone else and keep learning to keep it that way.
- Later in your career – excel by becoming very well rounded and experienced.
J.D.W.: How important is it to have the latest technology?
- Very few things happen in business today without technology, it is essential that everyone have at least basic technology skills.
- The rise of the cloud will democratize business and make it a meritocracy of ideas. Anyone can create a cloud company at low cost now if they have the right skills.
- Combining expertise in your field with technology skills makes you instantly more valuable to your business/company.
- Everyone should know the basics for coding/programming.
- Get really good at using/supporting the software that runs your business.
J.D.W.: What ten pieces of advice would you give in order to be an effective CEO?
- Leave your ego at home – it is all about your customers and your employees, don’t make anything about you.
- Lead as if you have no power, your employees will respect your more.
- Take your job seriously but not yourself, always have a good sense of humor.
- Set lofty goals, do not be afraid to aim high.
- Speed is everything – time to value and being first to market is what separates winners and losers in today’s economy.
- Shareholder value is a joke…it is the worst way to run a business by managing quarter to quarter. Focus on delivering value to customers and that will drive the stock price (not the other way around).
- Take care of your employees – offer great benefits and job perks to attract and retain the best employees.
- Ensure your employees have a good work/life balance so they don’t burn out.
- Get the wrong people off the payroll as soon as possible – they can be a cancer on the organization.
- Highly compensate your best people – you never want them to leave and they should always feel appreciated.
J.D.W.: Thank you for your time.