In his role as CIO for Consumer & Community Banking (CCB) at JPMorgan Chase, Gill Haus oversees an annual technology budget of $4 billion and manages over 12,000 technologists globally. He is also a member of the CCB leadership team and the firm’s global technology leadership team (GTL).
Haus demonstrated his passion for technology in prior roles at digital native companies, such as PayPal and AOL, and later at other financial services firms like Capital One. Even with his leadership current responsibilities, he always finds time to keep up with the latest tech and indulge in his favorite hobbies: gaming and DJing. On a recent episode of the Tech Whisperers podcastHaus talked about how his experiences have shaped the way he leads, his intention around reimagining software delivery practices and how he’s using agile principles to improve the employee and customer experiences.
We spent some more time after the show digging into his leadership playbook, particularly focusing on how he’s growing the next generation of digital leaders at Chase. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Dan Roberts: What can technologists do to differentiate themselves today?
Gill House: One way is by being the “respectful squeaky wheel.” In any company, there will be things that need to improve. And even if you do everything right today, tomorrow there will be other ways of doing something. It is incredibly important that people who see something that needs to be improved push for change.
But you can push for change and make everybody around you hate you and ignore you and do not want to do it and cause a ton of tension and destroy the culture, or you can do it in a positive way. For example, you can ask questions: What is it that we are trying to solve? What have we not considered? You can also build a relationship and offer to help. These sorts of behaviors actually influence organizations more, but they tend to require a little more work from the individual. Just saying something isn’t working doesn’t help anyone and it doesn’t convince your colleagues that they need to take your advice.
The other way technologists can differentiate themselves is by having the passion to grow and improve. People say, “I want to be a manager and I want to grow. How do I do that?” The way you do that is by caring about solving the problems you see and doing something about them instead of waiting for someone to give you a problem to solve.
How do you encourage people to bring problems forward?
I place a lot of value on encouraging employees, regardless of their level, to raise problems so that we can solve them. It takes time to build trust, but that trust pays dividends in the long run. So, we make it easy for someone to say, “I think that there’s an issue here,” and they know they’re going to be believed and listened to. If I say, “You’re right, I got it, I’m going to follow up” and I do, word spreads throughout the organization. I hear people all the time say, go to Gill or Rohan [Amin, Chief Product Officer of Chase]. You can tell them because they will break down walls to help you get the job done. The bottom line is that people watch what you do more than they listen to what you say. When you follow through on your promises to people, those positive behaviors spread throughout the organization.
The other thing that I try to foster culturally is the importance of being kind to people, saying thank you when people bring things up, celebrating the good and the bad. For example, when someone raises an issue, we celebrate that they found something, they were spot on and now we think we have a game plan for how to move forward and do things the right way.
The market for tech talent is tight. How are you navigating that and making sure you have the talent to remain future-ready?
We spend a lot of time focused on our career mobility opportunities. This is talking about our talent through a diversity lens—where people are strong, do they have opportunities to grow, and how can we put them in positions where they are going to grow the right skills. That’s harder, but it’s something I’m really proud to do because a lot of times the managers love the people that work for them and don’t want them to go to some other team. But the right thing to do is to let that person go so they can build that well-rounded experience. So, we really value career mobility across the firm because it helps our talent grow and helps someone become an even more well-rounded technologist.
We also do a lot of upskilling. We’re modernizing our systems and will be exiting our mainframes over time. But we are not going to be leaving those people behind. We are going to train them, and that starts with leaders. We have a lot of leaders currently making the journey to become more modern technologists. If someone’s interested in technology and intellectually curious, we can train them. We do it to make sure we’re able to keep up with the demand we have for resources and to bring people along for the ride. That’s how you win the hearts and minds of talent. They are the future of the company. New technology is wonderful, but we can’t neglect all the incredible work and systems we have here.
Can you talk about a few of the initiatives you’ve implemented that are making a big difference in terms of talent and culture?
We have something called PowerUp, an internal, multi-day tech conference hosted by and for our global technology organization featuring in-person learning sessions for the firm’s technologists. The content is focused on strategies to help employees adopt new tools, practices, and ways of working, as well as to meet other people, build relationships and get educated on everything from data and machine learning to the cloud. We typically have a hackathon with that, too, which also gives technologists at our firm the opportunity to learn something new on a regular basis. That’s a powerful thing – it speaks to the fact that we want to make sure people continue to grow here. At the end of the day, we want people to have the opportunity to build an interesting career with us.
We also have something called Tech Connect, a program that helps those who are passionate about innovation, technology, and financial services jump start their careers with a multi-week intensive Java training.
Another great event that technologists globally across the firm look forward to every year is our Innovation Week, which includes global and local keynotes as well as local hands-on learning, discussion sessions, and panels. Innovation Week gives technologists the opportunity to engage with the firm’s foremost innovation subject matter experts and, through a global hackathon, collaborating on innovative solutions that will assist the firm.
When it comes to hiring, we hire a ton of engineers, but we also know that there are great “engineers” out there that are not coming through the traditional engineer track. One way we find them is through our Emerging Talent Software Engineer Program, which is for individuals who have previously held roles in other industries before deciding to begin a career in technology. The program gives them on-the-job experience with ongoing support from peers and mentors, professional development opportunities, assigned program managers and access to senior leaders.
Those are incredible ways to get more talent in, but the program also helps the talent we already have. Being a part of making these changes, whether you’re involved in a hackathon for PowerUp or mentoring someone going through our Emerging Talent Software Engineer Program, means you’re making a difference for other people to grow careers. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in a positive way. And that helps the climate because it is a hot job market like we’ve never really seen.
What are some things you’re doing to mentor junior leaders and get them more exposed to the business?
Here’s one example: I have a monthly business review with my team, and I invite six to seven high performers from every level in the organization—but usually more junior levels—to attend all of them. So, they get to see the entire dialogue. They get to understand the conversation we’re having, everything from our objectives and key results and metrics to our hiring to our demos.
We also ask them to read the material in advance and then ask questions, because asking questions to a senior audience doesn’t really get easier, no matter what level you are. It is a skill that needs to be learned and honed over time. That’s experience they will then use in future engagements. It helps them grow and it builds a confidence in them as they’re growing.
It’s also about encouraging intellectual curiosity. What I really admire about the leadership here is that, when you’re a senior leader, it does not mean that you know all the information. In fact, you probably know a lot less now than the people working for you. The best part about all of this is that these are incredibly bright individuals, and they look at things through a different lens, so they help us think differently.
For more from Haus, listen to our conversation in episode three of the Tech Whisperers podcast.