Witad Awards 2021: EDM professional of the year (newcomer)—Saori Fotenos, IHS Markit

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Churn is a challenge. First, there’s the technical churn: modernizing development groups to generate faster, more frequent software updates to clients. Then, there’s managing churn associated with hiring, replacing, and retaining staff. Both are significant business challenges, but—if you ask Saori Fotenos, product management executive director for IHS Markit’s EDM solution—both can be overcome.

Fotenos began her career as a software engineer at Bridge Information Systems. The company went out of business in 2001, and its assets were divided between several vendors, including then-Reuters, where she stayed until October 2019—also serving a couple of years as director of Vamos Blogar, a literacy and media training program in her native Brazil—when she joined IHS Markit.

There, she says her technical and product management experience at the intersection of data and technology allowed her to spot opportunities to streamline the vendor’s product management processes, and move from twice-yearly product releases for EDM to six-week sprint releases, accelerating its response to client demand for new features. The other factor behind this was the company’s willingness to embrace change. 

It means more churn—both internally, as well as for clients’ IT departments, who need to accept the new releases—but has benefits, including shorter feedback periods and turnaround times for new enhancements. “With those release schedules and the feedback program, we can take that feedback and incorporate it into a release within six weeks,” she says.

During Covid-19, senior management tapped Fotenos and others to lead a Belonging and Inclusion committee to ensure that staff didn’t feel isolated and lose their “sense of belonging” while working remotely.

“You can never do enough in terms of informal reaching out. I’ve been a beneficiary of someone spotting that I’m the only woman on a development team. But that’s not enough—you need a formal network to encourage that at scale,” she says. “IHS Markit has several groups devoted to women in finance, women in energy, and so on. We have a chief diversity, equality, and inclusion officer, and the culture of the company is very inclusive and encouraging.”

That “sense of belonging” has proved important in engaging and retaining employees and preventing staff churn, and the vendor is also going out of its way to identify candidates who have left the workforce and lure them back in, through its IHS Markit Return to Work program, yielding what Fotenos says is “the goal of diversity—different points of view.” 

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