Staff Spotlight — Frank Mathew

Always thoughtful, pleasant, and calm, the associate CIO for Enterprise Applications, Frank Mathew, is responsible for oversight of Yale’s enterprise applications. Frank’s role also plays an integral part in the University-wide Information Technology (IT) planning, governance, and policy development.

Before joining Yale almost five years ago, Frank came to us from the University of Mississippi where he was the director of Application Development and Integrations. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration, majoring in Production and Operations Management, a Master of Science in Computer Information Management from the University of Mississippi, and a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Goa University in India.

Frank shares a glimpse into his personal life and some good advice he received along the way.

What was your first job?
As I was finishing my undergraduate degree, I was recruited to be a software engineer. It was perfect since I just finished four years studying computer science and engineering. My first on-the-job experiences included systems programming in Windows and Unix environments.

Favorite childhood memory?
Spending time with my grandparents. Both of my grandmothers doted on and spoilt us, while both of my grandfathers had tremendous personalities. They both fought in World War II–one was in the Army and the other in the Navy. They had many interesting stories to tell, great senses of humor, and always willing to play games with us.

What are some of your hobbies?
During the summer, I enjoy tending a vegetable garden with my wife. We love growing a variety of different vegetables. In the wintertime, we enjoy playing the card game 56 with family and friends. This game originated in the Netherlands, but is very popular in South India where my family is from. The game is similar to bridge, involving teamwork and math.

Favorite thing about living in Connecticut or the Northeast?
Besides the easy driving distance to Boston, New York, and New Jersey, another pleasant aspect of living here is the four distinct seasons. I grew up in a tropical climate and spent many years living in the south, which has a milder climate. I appreciate the different seasons and the vegetation changes that happen in the spring, summer, and fall.

What was the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
In a previous job, I was dealing with a major technology incident. While I was trying to figure out how to mitigate the problem, it felt like time was standing still. During this issue, the chief technology officer, who had weathered many such “storms,” was very supportive. He said, “This too shall pass. No matter how robust an IT service is, it can fail and when it does, our team can and will figure out a way for it to recover, so this period of downtime will pass.” He reminded me that in the process, it is particularly important to be attentive and figure out why it failed and do what is needed to make sure it does not fail again. It was his way of telling me that enabling and supporting IT services can be rewarding when you deliver services that run well, but can be frustrating when things go wrong and you don’t know why. It is important not to let these kinds of incidents get to you and treat each incident as a learning opportunity.

How does your past experience inform your present role?
My experiences have taught me that our stakeholders need us to help them understand how Yale’s systems fit in with their business, priorities, and challenges. Also, it’s important to partner with them to be most effective. If our stakeholders are successful, we are successful in the support we’ve provided. The currency in my profession is trust, and it is earned over time with consistent delivery of results. That can never be taken for granted. This is how the enterprise applications team and I approach our work with the stakeholders we support. Keeping a healthy level of team morale is also important. I think team leaders have to be intentional about building and sustaining team morale. 

Explain in one sentence what enterprise applications are?
If I had to describe it in one sentence, enterprise applications are sophisticated technologies and tools used to enable all the major functions at our University, sustaining their operations, and helping them be effective.

Words of wisdom for people just starting in their career in IT?
Be patient and stay positive! Yale is a complex and fascinating organization. It takes time to understand and navigate. Decision-making mechanisms that are in place are more deliberate but well-thought-out decisions are made, and there is always steady progress. Working in IT allows us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our colleagues on campus as the services and applications we enable help support the mission of this incredible University!

If you weren’t working in IT, what other job would you have?
I’ve often thought it might be interesting to work in the hospitality industry as I get a lot of satisfaction seeing people around me having fun and enjoying themselves!

Do you have a favorite quote?
Anything that is worth having does not come easy. I remind myself of this when I go after something that seems difficult to achieve.

If there was one world problem you could solve, what would it be?
Education. More educational opportunities for those in areas where it is just not available. Education has great dividends! It empowers individuals to change their own lives and make a difference in the lives of others. 

Mac or PC?
PC always PC!