As we profiled the leaders of the top 10 companies of the FinTech 100 this year, we spoke about the characteristics and best practices of great tech bosses.
A few themes emerged:
Nurture good ideas - At Teaneck, N.J. outsourcing firm Cognizant, employees are encouraged to form teams that conceive and execute ideas. These groups report directly to president and CEO Francisco D'Souza, "so I can give them the air cover they need to grow, to be successful and operate with harmony and independence, which is what you need to shepherd new good ideas from idea to launch and then growth," he says. "Our model is to incubate very separately and then reintegrate back into the core business these new ideas once they've reached some degree of critical mass."
Provide diversity of work - This came up a few times. Developers and IT people, like anyone else, get tired of doing the same thing all the time. And letting some people do all the apparently fun, shiny and new projects - HTML5 program development, mobile payment apps (who are we to question a developer's sense of fun) - while others get stuck with the dreary, legacy upgrade projects is a recipe for discontent, jockeying for position and plain old ennui. "Young people today are more comfortable with multitasking," says N. Ganapathy Subramaniam, president of TCS Financial Solutions in Mumbai. "If you give them only one thing they will get bored."
David Hamilton, president of the banking division of SunGard in Wayne, Pa., notes that when he has put HTML5 developers on "nostalgic" system projects, they grimace and grumble. "But they come out of it having learned a great deal about what it takes to build a resilient, scalable product," he says.
Give people geographic freedom - This one was a bit of a surprise. Fiserv CEO Jeff Yabuki says that letting people work at whichever of Fiserv's many offices around the world they choose has been a big element of attracting and hiring good people. "We have a lot of intriguing technology and we have locations from Atlanta to Singapore to Portland to Dublin," he says. "We don't care as much where people are housed; we want good people. In addition, the company gives people the freedom to work from home."
Mingle with the people - Jeff Yabuki speaks of the need to mingle with employees. "I try to spend as much time as I can with associates. It's never enough," he says. "I feel that if I'm knowledgeable about what's going on in the market, people see that I'm out there and dealing with the same issues they are, that can be energizing." At Apple, CEO Tim Cook sometimes joins random groups of employees in the cafeteria for lunch.
Stay out of the way - Although none of our interviewees brought this up, Tina Fey said something I found profound in her memoir, Bossypants: "Contrary to what I believed as a little girl, being the boss almost never involves marching around, waving your arms, and chanting, 'I am the boss! I am the boss!' In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way."