As global CIO at tech supplier Box, Ravi Malick wears two hats. The political science graduate runs IT operations at the cloud storage firm and provides his expertise in the supplier’s business operations to help it connect with its CIO customers.
This split is what attracted him to the job, he says. “I am 50% internal, running IT, security and the normal CIO kinds of things, and then I am 50% external, working with our customers, sales teams, product management and marketing, focused on conveying how to best use our products.”
It is not surprising that this job diversity is appealing to Malick, who does not have a typical educational background for a pure technologist. He graduated in political science at Brown University, Rhode Island, in 1996, but says tech has always been part of his life. “I am a technologist. Even as a kid I was a tinkerer, and taught myself Pascal and Basic. It has always been part of anything I have done,” he tells Computer Weekly.
For example, after starting his career in investment banking, Malick used IT to support his work, learning Visual Basic to automate his spreadsheet model. After this stint in investment banking, Malick became a consultant at PwC. This is where he cut his teeth on enterprise IT, doing large implementations.
During this time, he did a 13-week “crash course” in various technologies and system design, and was sent out to work on different PwC projects. His technology interest continued, and he was one of the very first people at PwC to learn Java, in the late 1990s. He also worked on e-commerce implementations during this time.
In the early 2000s, during the first dot com phase, Malick left PwC and entered the startup world, where he held various business roles, including consulting, product management and sales, over a period of several years. He continued to use his technical background in these roles.
“Everything is in the cloud – we were born software as a service and we like to drink our own champagne. With the exception of a few, all our applications are truly SaaS”
Ravi Malick, Box
After working at startups for about 10 years, he joined energy company Vistra Corp, where, as CIO, he became an early adopter of Box technology. In July 2020, about 11 years later, Malick left Vistra and ended up in discussions with Box over the CIO role.
“I ended up taking some time off to reset. In discussions with Box, I wasn’t sure I wanted a pure [internal] CIO role. What enticed me was not only the company and leadership, who I knew well, but also the role being both internal and external.”
Box, which employs about 2,500 staff, mainly in North America, has a team of about 100 IT workers, including Box employees and those from suppliers. “This is very similar to most IT departments, focused on making sure things are running smoothly with operations, applications and end user groups,” says Malick.
While the total IT team at Box is just over 100 people, Malick says he has an entire workforce that works in IT and is tech savvy, which makes things easier.
He says his internal CIO role sees him focusing on three things: how to minimise risk, how to maximise value and how to manage cost.
Box is a supplier that practices what it preaches in terms of operational IT, says Malick. The core applications it uses are Salesforce for customer-facing technology, Workday for people management, and financial systems from NetSuite.
“Everything is in the cloud – we were born software as a service (SaaS) and we like to drink our own champagne,” says Malick. “With the exception of a few, all our applications are truly SaaS. Even those that, for whatever reason, are not, are running on infrastructure as service (IaaS).”
Exploring machine intelligence
Beyond this, Malick and his team are investing time in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). “Since I started, some of our more interesting and bigger efforts have been around artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
He says this includes internal developments and the use of other platforms, with a number of projects underway. “Most recently, we had a project in our legal space to use an AI-based platform to organise, manage and articulate the risk in our contracts with customers and suppliers,” Malick tells Computer Weekly.
The company is also looking at a “potentially bigger initiative” around an enterprise helpdesk. “Think of all the things employees ask, whether IT, finance, HR – how do we use and automate AI to make that more self-service and intuitive, with less burden on the people part of the business?”
Malick says his strategy is to consider using AI to do all the things up to the point of human decision-making. He adds that Box is currently exploring the potential use cases of natural language processing tool Chat GPT.
On the business side, Malick says his experience as a Box customer, as well as his internal knowledge, has made him an advocate for Box, particularly with existing customers, helping them to think about content strategically and whether they are using Box to make sure they are getting the most out of their investment.
“For many customers, most of their important information sits in Box, so being able to get insights and expedite these things, through AI – like employee onboarding, legal reviews, policy review and even content creation – are the kinds of things you are going to see us exploring and working with when it comes to AI,” he says.