CIOs are being tasked with developing processes to meet strategic business goals, so think about which industries are of interest to you.

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

July 31, 2008

3 Min Read

Career Track

Rob Shostak

Rob Shostak
Founder and CTO, Vocera Communications

How long at current company: Eight years

Career accomplishment I'm most proud of: Co-recipient of the Edsger W. Dijkstra Prize in Distributed Computing, 2005, for a paper that has spawned an important branch of distributed computing dealing with problems of fault tolerance. The problem solved in the paper came to be called the "Albanian General's Problem."

Most important career influencer: Benjamin Rosen, founder of Sevin-Rosen Ventures and responsible for the creation of numerous startups, including Compaq, Electronic Arts, and Lotus Development. Ben taught me the importance of keeping your sense of humor while riding the ups and downs of Silicon Valley.

Decision I wish I could do over: At my first startup, whose product was the Paradox database, we were late to understand the importance of embracing upcoming standards--SQL, in this case. Had we not made that mistake, the company might have become another Oracle.


The next big thing for my business will be ... to integrate with clinical systems inside hospitals and become a conduit that connects caregivers with the information they need. The technical challenge is that there are few existing standards, so interfacing to a multitude of systems is a nontrivial task.

Best advice for future CIOs: You must be conversant with networking and associated security technologies. Note also CIOs are being tasked with developing processes to meet strategic business goals, so think about which industries are of interest to you.

On The Job

IT budget (approximate): $750,000

Size of IT team: Three

Top three initiatives:

  • Shipping a new form factor for our Star Trek-like communicators to give our [hospital-system] customers more choices

  • Shipping a feature-packed upgrade of our server software that will make it easier for our customers' IT departments to support our product

  • Exploring new ways in which we can integrate with legacy clinical systems inside hospitals

How I measure IT effectiveness: Whether you're managing an internal service organization or creating products to sell outside the company, the happiness of your customers is usually the best indicator of your success.


Colleges/degrees: Harvard University, AB, MA, Ph.D., applied mathematics and computer science

Leisure activity: Photography and music

Best book read recently: Les Enfants De La Liberté, by Marc Levy, about the teens of the French resistance in World War II<

If I weren't a CIO, I'd be... starting another company.

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