Welcome to our New VP & CTO – Andras Szakal

The Open Group is proud to announce that Andras Szakal will be taking the role of Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. He will be responsible for leading the company’s technical strategy and strategic technical vision for evolving standards. 

Andras has been a long-standing contributor to the standards and open-source community including serving as the Chair of The Open Group Governing Board. In his previous role, he was the driving force behind IBM’s adoption of government cybersecurity and IT standards. Prior to joining The Open Group and in addition to representing IBM in the Governing Board Chair role, Andras held various Forum leadership positions including Chair of the Open Trusted Technology Forum and Co-Chairman of the Open Professions Work Group. He is also a key contributor to the SOA, Cloud, and security standards, including multiple government Supply Chain Security work groups. 

“Perseverance is the most important quality in an individual. You can be wildly intelligent but if you never finish, you’ll never be successful. Success requires intelligent persistence!”

 – Andras Szakal

What motivated you to join The Open Group in your new role?

I truly believe in the mission of The Open Group and its impact on the global technology industry. Not to mention that I am constantly learning from a wildly smart, fantastically engaged group of Members and staff. I love being around so many intelligent and passionate folks working together on common goals. 

I also saw this role as an opportunity to get in on the ground floor to influence something I’m passionate about, by creating a new platform for effectively communicating and measuring ecological impact within the newly formed Open Footprint Forum. And I’ll be able to contribute more broadly to other Member bodies of work including OSDU™ Forum and the Open Process Automation™ Forum (OPAF).

How would you describe your job to a 10-year-old?

My job is to be the technical thought leader and technology facilitator of the company through four perspectives: 

  1. As a technical evangelist for the company and our Member initiatives 
  2. Finding new business and being an entrepreneur
  3. Working with our business development to close deals and increase member activities
  4. Being an innovator to adopt new technology for use both internally and in some Forums

What is your short-term strategy for success?

I’m trying to stick to the 30-60-90 day plan of listening and understanding, learning and analyzing, and then strategic planning. My goal is to get settled into my new role in a way that will make the biggest impact to both The Open Group and the Members by the end of January.

In your opinion, what are the top benefits The Open Group brings to its Members?

Our Members can create a foundation for innovation in an open, collaborative environment with their competitors and customers in a meaningful way, working together to transform their area of the industry to make a global difference in society and in technology. Together, our Members are exposed to different viewpoints in a way they would not normally get that exposure within the walls of just their own business environment. 

A Forum provides a level playing field and opportunity to openly collaborate and gain consensus on issues of importance to your corporation in the context of industry ecosystems, standardization, and joint development. Based on my experience, organizations that learn to collaborate on mutual objectives are better off than those working in silos.

Which projects are you most excited about leading?

Artificial Intelligence (AI), by connecting it with ethics in the application of technology. I think we all should be keenly aware of the potential for manipulation of underlying data and perception. For example, in the docudrama The Social Dilemma on Netflix, they explore examples of businesses using social media to make us believe one thing or another.

Perception is reality. When somebody tells you their opinion, you have to understand their perception. If you change their perception, even if it’s not right, then you’ve essentially changed their reality, and I think that’s something we have to be very careful about as AI is employed across technology solutions. 

The Open Group has been transitioning to standards and methods that are more agile and support this content concept of Digital Transformation. I will be working with David Lounsbury, former CTO and now Chief Digital Officer, to align the company’s goals both internally and externally as we support member activities around Digital Transformation and agility. Our immediate focus will be making sure that we become a digital enterprise and that we embrace Digital Transformation as a key core capability and concept from a consortium perspective.

How do you define Digital Transformation and how does it influence what you do?

I keep the recently published DPBoK™ (Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge) definition close at hand to remind me where we are heading:

“Digital Transformation is the use of digital practices supported by digital technologies to achieve a shift in the business model value proposition operating system or distribution system to radically improve relationships, profitability, internal process, performance, accessibility, and market reach of an enterprise.”

Digital Transformation is the intersection between business practices and technology implementation and my role will be to:

  • Promote our internal transformation for the adoption and implementation of our technology infrastructure and capabilities to support the business of managing the consortia 
  • Become a digital enterprise that attracts members interested in developing agile, open standards as a service using digital technologies, especially the cloud and AI, to deliver new industry focused capabilities 

What is the biggest challenge now or on the horizon for The Open Group or Members?

Almost every organization is facing similar a similar challenge in letting go of the past and embracing the future, which has been psychologically tested and proven to be difficult for humans in general. We are risk averse. We are more than hunter-gatherers; we have become technological hoarders. Organizations must make a concerted and conscious effort to give up old ways and embrace continuous change for Digital Transformation. I believe you’ve “got to give to get,” specifically by applying outside-in design thinking to reimagine business practices and processes for the purpose of transformation and maintaining relevance. 

It’s an evolutionary approach for most businesses, including The Open Group, which I’ve seen constantly going through this reinvention process of digitally transforming their infrastructure. But in general, how do you get somebody to move in that direction? I start by employing design thinking to explain the value proposition, showing the potential value proposition, and giving folks the freedom to adopt. Sometimes this requires a little push and other times a pull; even a little chaos is good for reinvention. Regardless, organizations must find a way to evolve or they will cease to be relevant. 

To me, the most compelling element of Digital Transformation is witnessing what happens to an organization that is unable to react to changing market dynamics. They can very quickly become irrelevant, or worse, incrementally less important over a long period of time. A slow ride down to the bottom is very painful. Amazon, eBay, and others have shown what it means to directly connect with customers. It’s important to recognize the shifts in the industry and react with constant pressure to evolve.

What do you do for fun?

I am an avid competitive tennis player and swimmer who loves the outdoors. I enjoy designing and building my own gaming computer systems. I also look forward to traveling again. My favorite cities are Singapore and Paris. My wife does a fantastic job of planning our excursions which we lovingly refer to as “Leng’s Great Adventures.” I can’t wait to enjoy diving in Hawaii and eating Satay in Singapore!

Do you have a favorite meal at home or when dining out?

We’re a big foodie family and we make very eclectic dishes inspired by our family heritage with mostly Southeast Asian and Hungarian recipes. My favorites are Hungarian Lángos, schnitzel, and plain old comfort foods like pineapple fried rice. For dining out, it would have to be the hawkers centers in Singapore; nothing beats the food there.

What are you currently reading or watching?

I’m a big sci-fi fantasy reader and I’m currently reading the latest book in the His Dark Materials series. I’ve also been streaming The Mandalorian and Star Trek: Discovery. They’re completely different fandoms, but if I had to pick one, I’d say I’m a Trekie.

Who do you most admire?

My mother and father, Norma and Andy. My mother was her family’s first college graduate, and she became a successful senior staff attorney for the state of Virginia for almost 30 years. My father picked up two master’s degrees and two PhDs, worked for NASA and got to see moon rocks before anyone else, and was full professor at the Medical College of Virginia. He also discovered the follicular dendritic cell, which is how your immune system remembers the things that get you sick, resulting in an immune response later. It’s funny how so many people have come out as closet immunologists as a result of the pandemic.

From an industry point of view, I really enjoy listening to Steve Jobs and Elon Musk. I’m a big Tesla fan. And now we have come full circle – they exemplify intelligent persistence!

Any mantras or words of advice?

Everybody fails. Fail forward to grow.