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Richard Baird

Richard Baird: An Eminent Personality Shaping the Future of Technology

In today’s technology-driven business environment, being a CTO requires a blend of technical expertise, strategic thinking, leadership skills, and business acumen to drive innovation and success. Meet Richard Baird, who brings a wealth of experience to his role as Senior Vice President and CTO, Core Enterprise and zCloud, for Kyndryl. In this capacity, he oversees the strategy, development, integration, and testing of mainframe services, capabilities, and offerings provided by Kyndryl.

As the world’s largest IT infrastructure services provider, Kyndryl designs, builds, manages, and modernizes the mission-critical information systems that organizations depend on every day. Kyndryl serves thousands of customers in more than 60 countries around the world. Kyndryl’s Core Enterprise & zCloud global practice helps organizations manage and modernize their complex mainframe systems, which are often part of hybrid cloud environments, and Richard is at the helm of the practice from a technology perspective.

Before his current position at Kyndryl, Richard held several management and technical positions within IBM throughout his distinguished career spanning over 25 years. His most recent role was VP of IBM Global Technology Services Client Technology Enablement. In this capacity, he was responsible for client solutions and production reviews globally across all infrastructure technologies, demonstrating his breadth of expertise and technical leadership.

In recognition of his contributions and expertise, Richard is honored as a Fellow of the British Computer Society, highlighting his significant impact and influence within the field.

His leadership, strategic vision, and extensive experience make him a valuable asset to Kyndryl and the broader technology community.

Richard’s journey in the technology sector began after graduating from Bradford University, UK, with a BSc (Hons) in Computing and Data Processing. His academic background laid the foundation for a successful career, complemented by his continuous dedication to staying at the forefront of technological advancements.

Early Aspirations

As a kid growing up, Richard initially dreamed of becoming a history teacher. However, his path took a turn when he discovered his passion for computer science around the age of 13. He found himself drawn to technology and decided to switch to the IT industry at a relatively young age.

Richard’s journey into the world of technology began with his exploration of computing magazines and his computer at home, which fueled his excitement and led him to write his first commercial application—an accounting application—at just 15 years old while still in school. His love for technology and continuous learning propelled him forward, shaping his career in IT from a young age.

Focus on People

Richard explains that Kyndryl emerged as a spin-out from IBM in November 2021, branching off from the Global Technology Services unit to become an entirely separate entity. With Martin Schroeter at the helm as CEO, Kyndryl embarked on a new journey, free from its former parent company’s influence and with the autonomy to chart its course. Despite being relatively young, Kyndryl quickly established itself as a desirable workplace, earning recognition as one of the top 100 companies people want to work for and securing position #225 among the Fortune 500 companies. Kyndryl is often cited as one of the world’s largest startups.

Kyndryl’s success is built on core principles centered around its ‘3As’ strategic initiatives: Alliances, Advanced Delivery, and Accounts. Through its strategic alliances with the leading hyperscalers Microsoft, AWS and Google, and its broad ecosystem of technology partners, Kyndryl leverages its advanced delivery methods, including the AI-infused Kyndryl Bridge open integration platform, to provide cutting-edge managed and modernization services. With a focus on serving Fortune 100 and Fortune 50 clients, Kyndryl plays a crucial role in driving digital transformation for its customers.

At the heart of Kyndryl’s operations are its people, who bring the necessary skills and capabilities to deliver on the company’s goals. Despite being technology-driven, Kyndryl recognizes the importance of its workforce in driving its success. As it continues to grow and evolve, Kyndryl remains committed to its people-centric approach and its mission to lead in the rapidly changing landscape of IT services.

Modernizing Mainframe Environments

As the global CTO of Kyndryl’s Core Enterprise and zCloud practice, Richard oversees all services related to mainframe platforms (IBM Z® and IBM i), including relationships with alliances and technology partners.

He manages partnerships with various suppliers and works closely with customers undergoing digital transformations on these platforms. Kyndryl’s strategy focuses on helping customers modernize their mainframe environments and define the right platform for the right workload, whether they want to modernize workloads on the mainframe, integrate them with cloud or distributed environments, or move workloads off the mainframe to the cloud. Richard and his team provide technical guidance to customers, assisting them in making informed decisions about platform and technology choices and workload placement.

Richard’s responsibilities also include nurturing technical skill growth within Kyndryl, particularly concerning these platforms. This involves initiatives such as a robust college hiring program and ongoing skill development for employees at all career stages. Additionally, Richard is deeply involved in shaping the future strategy of Kyndryl and its customers. This entails identifying emerging trends and technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), and determining how they can be applied to help customers address their digital transformation initiatives where the IBM Z and IBM i platforms are involved. Richard ensures that Kyndryl provides insights to customers about future trends and helps them make strategic decisions about workload placement and platform utilization in hybrid cloud environments.

Embracing New Technologies

Richard’s experience with older programming languages such as COBOL and RPG and application runtime environments like CICS and the evolution of Java, as well as the adoption of internet technologies from the ’90s into the 2000s, taught him valuable lessons about embracing new technologies. He emphasizes the importance of not being afraid to try out new technologies, even though some may not stand the test of time. In the early days of the Internet and Java, technologies were constantly changing, and it was essential to be open to innovation.

Richard advocates for a leadership style that encourages innovation, curiosity, and thoughtful exploration of new technologies. He believes in providing teams with the freedom to experiment while ensuring they operate within a safety net to mitigate risks. Rather than imposing strict limitations, leaders should empower their teams to explore new approaches and technologies while providing guidance and support along the way.

By fostering an environment where teams feel encouraged to innovate and take calculated risks, leaders can ultimately drive success for their organizations. Richard believes that by supporting and enabling their teams’ efforts to embrace new technologies and approaches, leaders can pave the way for both individual and organizational success.

Contributing to Strategic Discussions

Richard has always been passionate about playing around with technology, starting in his teenage years. Even today, he makes it a point to dedicate time to exploring and understanding new technologies, albeit not as frequently as he’d like. He believes it’s essential to have enough knowledge to engage in meaningful conversations with his team and offer valuable insights. By staying informed about emerging trends and industry developments, Richard ensures he can guide his team effectively and contribute to strategic discussions.

In his role, Richard doesn’t just focus on the technology itself but also considers how it intersects with various industries and market trends. He recognizes that different sectors move at different paces when it comes to adopting IT innovations.

Therefore, he spends time analyzing how technology is transforming industries like retail banking, travel, and transportation, allowing him to anticipate future trends and adapt Kyndryl’s strategies accordingly.

By immersing himself in both the technical and strategic aspects of technology, Richard maintains a balanced perspective and can effectively lead his team. He finds that this approach not only keeps him up-to-date with the latest advancements but also enables him to connect with his team members on both a technical and leadership level.

Continuous Skill Growth

Richard underscores the importance of continuous skill growth and experience accumulation in the tech industry. His background, a mix of computing, accounting, and economics, exemplifies the value of a diverse skill set. He advocates for ongoing education and career development, citing programs like the British Computer Society’s continuous education initiative as vital for keeping professionals up-to-date and preventing stagnation. He likens professionals’ career journeys to carrying a “virtual backpack,” filled with both formal skills acquired through education and experiential learning gained through work.

Periodically, individuals should examine their backpacks to identify areas for growth and seek guidance from mentors or coaches. Richard’s involvement with university review boards and as a visiting professor highlights his commitment to bridging the gap between academia and industry, ensuring that educational programs align with the needs of the tech sector.

Addressing the misconception that he’s solely focused on mainframe technologies like COBOL, Richard acknowledges the broader skill challenges facing the IT industry. He emphasizes the importance of nurturing skills across various technologies, including those perceived as legacy. Kyndryl’s efforts to cultivate COBOL skills demonstrate its commitment to addressing these challenges.

Richard believes in fostering a collaborative relationship between industry and academia to shape the future of tech education and ensure professionals are equipped with the skills needed to succeed in the evolving landscape.

Informed Technology Decisions

Richard shares Kyndryl’s ambition to maintain its position as the top IT infrastructure services provider worldwide. The company’s goal is to help customers achieve their strategic objectives by leveraging technology effectively. Kyndryl aims to be the partner of choice for customers seeking to harness technology to meet their goals.

One of the significant challenges Richard faces in his role is ensuring that customers make informed technology decisions aligned with their strategic vision. This involves providing guidance and insight to help shape these decisions and ensuring that technologies, particularly emerging ones like AI, are deployed safely and according to best practices. Richard also highlights the importance of problem-solving within his team. This includes staying abreast of new technologies, acquiring skills, and gaining project experience.

Whether customers require revolutionary changes or evolutionary adaptations, Richard’s team adopts a pragmatic and informed approach, challenging norms and providing input to decision-making processes. Also, Richard emphasizes the importance of fostering a free and open environment where conversations can occur, ideas can be exchanged, and decisions can be made collaboratively. By doing so, Kyndryl can continue to excel in helping customers navigate the evolving landscape of technology and achieve their business objectives.

Industry Leadership

Richard believes that, as the world’s leading IT infrastructure services provider, Kyndryl has a responsibility to contribute to shaping the future of the industry. With his extensive skills, background, and experience, Kyndryl is well-equipped to fulfill this role. The company’s role will involve serving as an advisor, implementer, and provider of ongoing managed and modernization services to customers as they navigate their chosen paths.

Kyndryl aims to power the direction of both the broader industry and the specific industries of its customers, helping them achieve their business objectives. Eventually, Kyndryl’s success is intertwined with the success of its customers. By acting as a trusted advisor and partner, Kyndryl ensures that its customers thrive, thereby solidifying its success.

Sharing the Excitement of the Future

Richard finds the future incredibly exciting because it’s like an undiscovered country, full of possibilities and opportunities. While we can use our crystal balls to make predictions, the outcome will always be different from what we anticipate. What excites Richard most is the idea that we have the power to shape the future, but he also emphasizes the importance of learning from the past.

Reflecting on his career aspirations in history, Richard recognizes the value of looking back at the history of the IT industry. By understanding what worked well and what didn’t, we can make more informed decisions about where to go next.