Hilton Sturisky | Executive Profile | ATLANTA TREND
Hilton Sturisky - SVP
By Karen Rosen
After beginning his career at two Fortune 20 companies, Hilton Sturisky moved into his first high transaction environment.
“My sweet spot is providing the security, performance, application and data quality architecture to support complex high volume, global transactions,” he says. “I’m very comfortable in that environment.”
Sturisky continues to demonstrate these skills as Senior Vice President, Information & Communication Technology for BCD Travel. BCD Travel is the third-largest global corporate travel management company, with $17 billion in revenues, and operates in 90 countries with 11,000 employees. Sturisky joined BCD Travel in 2008.
Sturisky believes that regardless of the industry vertical, it’s important to recognize “how unique high transactional environments are. In a high transaction environment, technology is the cornerstone of the organization’s operations -- because if processing these transactions is jeopardized, your customers know it immediately and your business reputation may be at risk.”
A technology disruption in another sector, such as consumer products, he adds, “While critical, may take longer for it to impact the customer, and in that time things might be resolved. If we have technology issues, the customer may find out about it at the same time we do.
“And that’s one challenge that makes this sector interesting -- because we are truly an integral part of the business. ”
Motivating the Team
Sturisky refers to his approach to leadership as “building stories for a resume.” He says his aim is “to motivate people by engaging them in projects and technology that they want to be work on, improve their skillset, and, in turn make them more marketable.”
Sturisky’s leadership style not only inspires loyalty to the organization and himself, but it motivates his team to work harder – while recognizing a work life balance. The reality is that it is very difficult to simply disconnect from work out of the office. Sturisky has no problem telling employees that he wants them to be working more than 40 hours a week -- as long as it is on their terms, the work is engaging and motivating, and they are provided the appropriate technology to do so.
“ I’m proud of this approach,” Sturisky says. “The caveat to that is I don’t want them sitting at their desks just working. I want them to be so motivated by what they are doing during the day that when they are out doing personal activities they’re happy with the working environment, and they are solving business problems -- not because they have to, but because they are engaged, motivated and they want to.”
However, Sturisky doesn’t pay too much attention to how many hours members of his team actually spend in the office.
“I’m flexible; it’s about delivery and it’s about the results,” he says. “I take leadership responsibility very seriously.” While building his team, Sturisky also makes sure he understands how people motivate and assist each other.
“It is important to me to have a very good relationship with each of my direct reports, but more importantly I want them to have a better relationship with each other,” he says, “because the real work gets done at the next level and I want them looking out for each other.”
Sturisky earned his undergraduate Mechanical Engineering degree in his native South Africa. “South Africa is a terrific country with great people and enormous potential he says.”
Sturisky always wanted to work in the USA, and recognized that his ticket to the U.S. was in education. He was accepted at Georgia Tech, where he received his Master’s Degree in Industrial & Systems Engineering.
“While I have a post graduate degree in engineering I don’t really consider myself an engineer per se,” he says. “I loved the challenge of the degree and engineering has provided me with a strong foundation because of the analytical problem solving skills required -- but I’m not an engineer at heart.
“I love technology, I love building, and I get excited to see things come to fruition – systems are deployed, improvements are made. I’m someone who loves making things happen and enabling change.”
At Georgia Tech, Sturisky also earned a certificate in computer integrated manufacturing systems. “I’ve got a passion for widgets and improving process, which doesn’t necessarily connect with what I’m doing now,” Sturisky says, “although you could say we’re building infrastructure, tools, networks, applications, hardware and software.”
The Coca-Cola Company
Sturisky launched his career in technology by helping design and deploy workplace collaboration solutions at The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta
During his first job interview, his future boss asked him what he knew about Lotus Notes. Sturisky offered to read the manual over the week-end. “It intrigued me,” he says.
Sturisky was able to utilize his engineering degree while working on the new technology. He not only built the server, he housed it under his desk. He also built and supported the databases, and conducted employee training of 200-300 engineering employees around the globe. The creative work he helped implement is still in use today.
At The Coca-Cola Company Sturisky obtained an MBA at Emory’s Goizueta Business School with a concentration in finance. While studying at Emory, Sturisky met his future wife, who was also originally from South Africa.
“When I was getting my engineering degree, I knew that I wanted to supplement it with a business perspective,” says. “
Sturisky turned down an offer to implement Lotus Notes within The Coca-Cola Company’s corporate IT department, choosing to stay in the engineering group. He was most interested in the work they were doing on wireless intelligent vending machine -- which could inform bottlers they were out of a particular product or having coin acceptor problems -- ultimately improving productivity and customer service.
Move to NY -- Pfizer
Shortly after getting married, Sturisky received a job offer from Pfizer to become Director of Business Technology in Manhattan.
At Pfizer, Sturisky focused on bridging the gap between technology and the business. “Pfizer were very set on using technology, being creative and innovative and really just pushing the boundaries of what you can do,” he said.
Back to Atlanta -- Harland
Sturisky and his wife moved back to Atlanta in 2005 to raise their boys ages 3, 5 and 7. Sturisky’s parents and three other brothers also live in Atlanta.
Sturisky became Director of Architecture and Infrastructure for John H. Harland, a $1.5 billion financial services company, quickly rising to Vice President IT Operations. Harland was acquired by Clarke American when Sturisky was 14 months into the job, which presented a number of key IT challenges.
“We can push the boundaries of execution,” he told his team. “We knew that in 6 months when the deal closed the acquiring company technology team would be looking closely at everything we had to offer. We simply used that time to push forward and execute on our initiatives in such a way that we quickly became invaluable.”
Sturisky was subsequently promoted to VP of Operations & Infrastructure Services for the combined company. “I’m very proud of the number of careers I was able to develop and protect,” he says.
Sturisky joining BCD Travel in 2008 when they were looking for someone with significant IT operational experience, knowledge and capability, leadership ability, and professional recognition.
As a corporate travel agency, BCD Travel delivers corporate travel solutions and services that accommodate the ever-changing business drivers of their clients.
Sturisky says BCD Travel is driving global consistency and common standards across the organization. “We are leveraging our global workforce, capabilities and assets to more efficiently service our customers.”
Sturisky calls travel “a tremendous industry.” I really love it,” he says. “It is a challenging, high paced, technology intensive and evolving industry. There is on-going change with a constant need to improve how we’re doing things to stay current. Our systems and tools have to continually be faster, better, stronger, and more secure.”
Secrets to Success
- I care about the employees in my organization and subsequently take my leadership responsibly extremely seriously.
- I am passionate about supporting internal/external customers.
- I’m extremely fortunate to work with great leaders that understand the intense integration of technology with our business
Hilton Sturisky is Senior Vice President, Information & Communication Technology for BCD Travel. Atlanta Trend expresses its appreciation to Hilton Sturisky for sharing his thoughts with us.
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