September 17, 2009

Breathing Room

With so many projects to juggle at once, Westermann admits, it’s hard for him and his staff to come up for air. "I have an absolutely extraordinary team," he says. "They’ve been running full speed for two years. Trying to take our foot off the accelerator to give everyone a little breathing room is the toughest thing for us now, especially as the team has such a high sense of ownership of the overall technical environment. The team just wants to keep on running. It’s a great problem to have."

It's no wonder that Westermann says he just can’t unplug when he’s out of the office. "I find it difficult for me to mentally disconnect,” he relates. "I constantly focus on projects or issues on my commute, nights and weekends. I’m always connected to it. I’m not necessarily pecking away at my BlackBerry, but I’m mentally trying to prepare for the next day or week.”

And, incidentally, Westermann points out, he’s exclusively a BlackBerry man — no iPhone for him. However, he acknowledges, the younger generations are good bellwethers in terms of which technologies the industry should pursue next.

"Personally, I go more for the application-type tools as opposed to the more collaborative ones," Westermann notes. “For example, I see a lot of value in something like [personal financial management site] Mint.com. And I’m still pretty old school in that I talk to my friends on e-mail and on the phone. But when I talk to my peers about these applications and I watch my wife on Facebook, you just kind of see the ebb and flow of this technology. They initially find it interesting, but then their interest wanes. So I wonder at the long-term viability of these technologies.

The Elite 8 2009
Gary GreenwaldJohn BeranBarbara PerinoFrancisco 'Frank' DeArmasThomas KunzFred CookDavid DowningDonald Westermann
"However, harnessing the underlying concepts and innovations here is key. And if it's so engaging for the younger generations, then it's important to see if it will be the next e-mail." Plus, Westermann adds, he never loses sight of security, which is another reason why he is not quite so active on the social networking scene.

With his degrees in economics, business administration and management information systems, Westermann recalls, he landed a position in the technology risk consulting practice at Arthur Andersen. When his group later moved to Grant Thornton after the Andersen implosion, he noticed that one of Andersen’s clients, Eastern Bank, was also a Grant Thornton client. The familiarity eventually led to a position with the bank.

“When you focus on information security, systems analysis and risk management, they tend to trend you toward the financial services industry,” Westermann explains of his move to Eastern Bank. “And it has been an interesting two years for me.”

Things will no doubt become more interesting as Westermann’s work progresses and the bank further positions itself for the economic recovery. “In relation to the rest of the business, IT has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years,” Westermann notes. “Much of these changes were welcome as people were given the tools to more easily collaborate and were better able to interact with the customers. We have quite a partnership with our [internal and external] customers, and I hope it continues to grow.”

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