Anthony Fogel, CHRO of Ciber Inc., spearheads far-reaching initiatives with fire and flexibility.
Anthony “Tony” Fogel, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) of Ciber Inc.’s 7,000-person global workforce, is a man whose career choices have been guided by several different influences.
“Every one of the moves I made occurred at a different stage of my life,” Fogel said. “Early on, family was not a consideration. But as my family grew, as various companies appealed to me, as locations seemed promising—I made decisions based on a number of personal and professional factors. What motivated me on the professional side was the opportunity to learn, to work in a dynamic environment, to experience new cultures and new industries. I find it exciting to have those broadening experiences, to expand my skill set and experience base.”
Not one to get complacent, Fogel spent 20 years in large, multinational firms—both domestically and abroad. He then opted for small, private, entrepreneurial experiences, such as Marathon Asset Management—“a darling of the alternative investment space”—where he was able to work with the founders to help create an HR strategy.
Although he acknowledges he has made a mistake or two along the way, Fogel has no regrets about the choices he has made.
Variety & Unpredictability
“Varied” and “unpredictable” are the words Fogel chooses to describe his work, noting that many CHROs, even executives, might well choose the same words. Because Ciber has a large center in India and other locations abroad, Fogel is on the phone every morning with international colleagues. (It helps that his Executive Assistant, Cynthia Weeks, speaks several languages.)
“I don’t do anything else during the morning hours other than talk on the phone—with clients overseas, or with teams, or with individuals here.” After that, Fogel said he “moves around,” attending various review meetings, leading staff meetings, holding project reviews and such. He starts every week with an executive meeting and then invests time throughout the week working on projects, handling calls and optimizing the workday moments that could never be called “dull.”
The Psychological Perspective
Hatim Tyabji, former Verifone CEO, once asserted that the true power of running a company or growing an enterprise is “5% technology and 95% psychology.” Fogel, himself the holder of bachelor’s degrees in both Psychology and Business, concurs with the observation, although he might assign a somewhat different set of percentages to the power factor.
Fogel began his undergraduate work as a Finance major, primarily because his father assured him that the language of business was the only credible one to speak. In time, the younger Fogel found that he was not mentally stimulated enough by finance; so, he segued into Psychology and general business courses, tapping into his interest in the people side of business.
“We are talking about human behavior in some depth whenever we talk about business,” Fogel said, “especially a service business like ours.” His words echo those of Tyabji, who has said that “leadership is not robotics. [It] is human.”
“People on my team had little interaction with each other,” Fogel recalled. “There was minimal involvement beyond a limited scope. Many of them were veteran employees, but they did not have much exposure or experience with each other, or to other areas of HR. They were pigeonholed, essentially.”
Fogel set about establishing a global team, and has found the process immensely enjoyable.
Asked about clients who may not always welcome “outsiders,” Fogel points to Ciber’s focus. “We are very clear about the need to partner with our clients,” he said. “Yes, they are experts in their field, but they don’t have expertise across all areas. No one does. Our expertise is information technology (IT). We partner with our clients and help them deliver. We are not considered a threat, but rather an enabler. We offer technological, analytical and contemporary solutions: We can help move, for example, from infrastructure to the cloud.” Pride is apparent in Fogel’s voice as he emphasizes, “We live and breathe the fresh ideas, the leading-edge ideas, to help clients keep up with the pace of technology.”
Seeking Out Opportunity
Ciber works hard to obtain a deep understanding of its clients’ business. Often, the group provides solutions that clients had not thought of themselves. Sometimes, of course, thought leaders within a client company may have spotted an emerging trend and sought out Ciber to dive deeper into it on their behalf.
Fogel is fond of saying he saw an opportunity within the industry, and his company’s ability to win in the marketplace. Asked what opportunities he sees regarding future business, he first shared his satisfaction with his initial judgment: “I’ve only been here a short time and so far it looks as if our efforts are paying off,” Fogel said. “We are starting to see the actions we have taken result in the turnaround of our quarterly results and share price, measured over a period of time.” With considerable confidence, he maintains, “I’m continuing to see great opportunities for this company’s success and my ability to contribute to it.”
Fogel is especially excited about investments being made on certain internal programs, including talent management, and on external IT trends. He points to investments in developing and leveraging Ciber’s intellectual property (IP) across the globe and to emerging IT trends. In addition, he cites Ciber’s success in bringing in new people, particularly those with expertise in big data, mobility and social media. Confiding that he is “more bullish” than he was a year ago, Fogel predicts, “We will progress with our objectives to make Ciber even more successful.”
Next On the Agenda
Fogel recognizes the imperatives that come with his relatively new position. With his team, he is building an online university and using an outside vendor to provide some of the content. The online school is geared toward personal, professional and career development.
Fogel also is tackling issues surrounding performance management, compensation and benefits. “We had pockets of activity before,” he said, “but nothing comprehensive.” He talks now of a “feedback-rich environment,” one in which compensation is aligned with performance.
That’s not all. Fogel speaks of making a commitment to strategic partnerships with software companies such as Oracle, SalesForce.com, Infor and SAP. Yet another goal: to grow IP globally.
“In looking across the company,” Fogel said, “we realized we need to expand from a holding company model to one, global, integrated portfolio. We need to harness the power of our strengths around the world so we can deliver even greater services to our clients and build careers for our people. We are expanding practices—in fact, I’d say we are on fire—in the social space, in big data and in IP expansion.”
He speaks, too, of having piloted a 360-degree review of the senior-most executives in the firm, rooted in the importance of having established core values by which they all are evaluated. “Without defined values, it is difficult to specify the culture we want,” Fogel said. Further, he acknowledged the need for balance: “We don’t want to create too prescriptive a methodology. Flexibility is key in this implementation.”
Flexible & Focused
It is this commitment to flexibility that seems to govern many of Fogel’s choices, including his willingness to learn about new industries whenever he has taken a new position. “There is always a learning curve,” he granted, but adding “there are certain core aspects that pertain to virtually any business.”
Fogel makes an analogy to a great athlete who can succeed in several different sports. “I always start with the belief that I can build and deliver the right HR strategies that can achieve the desired business outcomes. But, I have to understand the business.”
As part of that learning, Fogel maintains a clear focus, puts the business’ goals in context, asks questions, tests his assumptions, meets people, assesses and finds solutions, and recommends, shares and facilitates implementation—with evident focus every step of the way.
Anthony's Key Partners:CT Partners (Executive Search) | HireVue (Digital Interviews) | OrgVitality (Employee Surveys) | McAleer Gray (Executive Search) | The Grodin Group (Financial Services) | Skillsoft (learning Solutions) | Lockton (Insurance) | United Health Care (Health Insurance) | Resnik Partners (Talent Management) | Jackson Lewis (Employment Law) | NFP (Insurance & Benefits) | Heidrick & Struggles (Executive Search)