The Most Important Characteristic For Tech Professionals Today

It isn’t technical expertise, says Richard Cox, CIO of Cox Enterprises.
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Richard Cox knows a thing or two about transformative change: he helped evolve the digital capabilities of the once paper-based Kelley Blue Book at Cox Automotive, and is now spearheading the shift into new energy and technology at parent company Cox Enterprises, an Atlanta-based media conglomerate whose brands also include Autotrader and Cox Homelife.

Cox’s career with Cox (no relation) began in 2013 at Cox Automotive, where his positions included vice president of client performance and vice president of business operations and customer care. Cox was instrumental in supporting operational transformation and the analytics function across Autotrader and Kelley Blue Book. Now senior vice president and CIO at Cox Enterprises, Cox provides oversight and direction to corporate IT and business leaders on strategy, standards and opportunities for data analytics and business intelligence, development and support, infrastructure, security and technical services.

Cox spoke with StrategicCIO360 about how to keep all stakeholders—including employees—connected, his focus on artificial intelligence and what traits technology professionals need to cultivate.

Cox has migrated from a company known just for newspapers and media to one on the forefront of new energy and technology. From a strategic standpoint, how have you led through this transition?

Our president and CEO Alex Taylor is always looking for business opportunities at the intersection of transforming industries and having a positive impact on the community. If you look back at our history, you see this theme play out over time—it’s really a values-based strategy. As we explore new business opportunities, we find we are able to get alignment in large part because of our tremendous employees. Our “why” is to empower people today to build a better future for the next generation. When you think about it, this is exactly what has happened in the past and what drives us forward.

What initiatives at Cox Enterprises have made the biggest difference in keeping your stakeholders—employees and customers—connected?

Broadly speaking, keeping people connected is what we do. Whether it’s the Cox Communications team connecting our communities as a leading cable provider, or Cox Automotive connecting the entire automotive ecosystem, connection is in our DNA. Kevin Hart, CIO of Cox Communications, another subsidiary of ours, and Mitch Gerstein, CIO of Cox Automotive, are both leading incredible teams that focus on delivering forms of “connections” every day.

During the pandemic, we all made a concerted effort to stay connected with our employees across the globe. And while I think we all miss human interaction, we have also increased, and in some ways improved, our communication over the past year using various remote collaboration platforms.

What emerging technologies are having the biggest impact on your industry?

There are a number of emerging technologies impacting the various industries we are in today. I would say artificial intelligence is one technology that has utility across the board. We believe the use cases will continue to rapidly evolve, and we are focused on leveraging it to deliver value for both our customers and our employees.

What are the essential characteristics and traits of new technology professionals entering your field?

I believe there is one characteristic that is more important than any other today: the desire to continuously learn. The rate of change in our society is unprecedented and is largely fueled by our use of technology. What is new today is obsolete in the not-too-distant future. This means you can be an expert in a field today and need to learn a field that is yet to be invented in the future. I also think being curious is always helpful as it can be a catalyst for the desire to learn and the beginning of innovation.

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