Geek of the Week

Geek of the Week: John L. Scott CIO Teresa Duran takes on ever-moving calls for of actual property tech

Teresa Duran and her son Noah, along with pooch Pearl. (Photo courtesy of Teresa Duran)

Teresa Duran began her career with roles as an organic and analytical chemist, but after a couple years she moved away from science and discovered a passion for technology. Having now worked in a variety of tech roles across several industries, Duran’s home is with John L. Scott Real Estate where she’s chief information officer for the Bellevue, Wash.-based brokerage.

Our latest Geek of the Week, Duran obtained her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from San Diego State University and ended up at Pfizer, where her pivot from chemist to technologist took place.

Teresa Duran. (LinkedIn Photo)

“There was an opening in their IT department for a scientist who knew how to communicate with scientists and technologists and would learn project management as well,” Duran said. “Apparently they needed a different kind of geek who could bridge the gap and talk to tech geeks about the work scientists were doing — this role was intriguing to me.”

Duran spent almost 13 years at Pfizer, and has since had roles at Starbucks, PATH and TEK Systems, before joining John L. Scott in October 2017. She leads a department providing all aspects of technology services for the brokerage, including mobile development, innovation and product development, web services, infrastructure/DevOps, networking, desktop engineering, business intelligence and cybersecurity.

“Supporting the real estate industry compared to other industries I’ve worked in is very different,” Duran said. “The real estate industry is shifting with changing business models, technology innovations and growing competition from public companies. These disruptions have resulted in a striking influx of new products and companies moving to aggressively address consumer trends.”

John L. Scott supports more than 3,000 agents across Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California. Duran has spent a considerable amount of time modernizing every aspect of the company’s technology landscape across people, processes and technology.

“Our infrastructure required a significant lift to both a hybrid cloud and cloud environment,” she said. “Our mobile platform required a complete overhaul with a newly designed sleek mobile app planned for release this year. Our department also moved software development back in house to develop a platform with a plug-and-play environment that allows agents to leverage the best technology solutions aimed at winning clients and improving productivity.”

Learn more about this week’s Geek of the Week, Teresa Duran:

What do you do, and why do you do it? A CIO’s role varies significantly based on the size and complexity of the company. My responsibility is to set the technology vision and strategy for the John L. Scott. I spend the majority of my time influencing how technology can transform our business and improve productivity. I evaluate innovative and emerging technologies for the company across the enterprise and also set policies and processes for the company for cyber security, identity management and account management. Additionally, I spend a considerable amount of time managing the strategy and plans for what my technology department can realistically deliver, given the demands we face.

It is very important in my role to communicate the complexity of technology projects and the level of commitment and change required to deliver successful outcomes. Digital transformation efforts requires a significant overhaul both internally within a technology department and executives, as well as end users across companies. And let’s face it, humans are naturally resistant to change and need technology leaders to demonstrate confidence, successful use cases and clear strategies to influence change that will produce a positive result in the long-run.

What’s the single most important thing people should know about your field? Running an IT department is one of the most intense positions in the C-Suite. Your department will have relentless demands and your primary responsibility will be to balance priorities to deliver products, improve productivity and protect company data and assets. You need to recruit and retain talent that embraces new technologies and change. Additionally, fostering a positive work culture free of workplace politics is crucial so your team can deliver.

Typically, technology departments will garner more scrutiny over other departments because they tend to have one of the largest budgets and most visible services, as technology changes reach every user and consumer. In today’s supercharged technology environment, change often occurs faster in IT than in other departments, so your department (and ultimately company) needs to be able to take risk, embrace change, or risk being left behind. Influencing change, setting and following technology priorities, marketing changes and achievements internally and externally, and mitigating serious security exposures is where I spend most of my time.

Where do you find your inspiration? I’m inspired by my family. Without the support of my husband, I simply couldn’t take on a CIO role. I am also inspired by my son Noah; he is such a cool kid and much smarter than I was at his age. My family inspires me to be a better person.

I am also inspired by my amazing IT department at John L. Scott. I have a lot of energy and our department had to go through significant modernization efforts across every technology focus area when I joined the company. We all came together to achieve amazing results in such a short time, and I appreciate everyone’s expertise and hard work.

What’s the one piece of technology you couldn’t live without, and why? I couldn’t live without my Google Home Smart Speaker & Home Assistant. This technology helps me organize my life and I love the quick ability to search anything through the device, make calls, or listen to music.

I also couldn’t survive without my Keurig machine — it saves me time and money and helps me get my caffeine fix.

Pearl perched in Teresa Duran’s office chair at John L. Scott. (Photo courtesy of Teresa Duran)

What’s your workspace like, and why does it work for you? In my role I literally work everywhere — from our IT suite in John L. Scott’s headquarters in Bellevue, to my home office setup. While I enjoy the face-to-face time with our IT professionals at John L. Scott, my best ideas come from working at home.

Your best tip or trick for managing everyday work and life. (Help us out, we need it.) This is the first year I had to let go of trying to manage every email that comes into my inbox. With the heavy flow of inbound emails that hits my account every day, I simply can’t tackle it all.

I start my day avoiding meetings right away unless there is an emergency. This allows me to start my day grounded and focused. I recommend setting the top three goals for the day (personal and professional) the night before or first thing in the morning. I also block times out of the day that are critical to me (this includes time to complete critical work tasks, plus personal time). I openly communicate time constraints with those who work closest to me — I think it’s important to be realistic and not overpromise when it comes to the time I have available. Technology roles are not 9-5 type roles, so in order to maintain the work-life balance needed to avoid burnout, it’s key to protect your time through setting limits and boundaries with others. I work hard to set a good example for establishing healthy boundaries for my department as this practice retains talent and creates a positive work culture which results in high performing teams.

Mac, Windows or Linux? Windows.

Kirk, Picard, or Janeway? Picard.

Transporter, Time Machine or Cloak of Invisibility? Time machine (as long as I don’t create a paradox like in “Flash”).

If someone gave me $1 million to launch a startup, I would … Develop innovative, low-cost wearable devices to detect food allergens and devices that can inject epinephrine more seamlessly if someone has an allergic reaction.

I once waited in line for … Several hours to pick up the latest Harry Potter books for the midnight release! Yes, I am a nerd and love the Harry Potter book series. I also waited in lines for the Harry Potter movies as well. And I waited in line for the San Diego Comic-Con panels and events.

Your role models: I admire Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. Hermione is smart, a hero and dealt with a lot of adversity. She saved Harry so many times, and never needed credit or recognition after doing so. I also admire Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games trilogy. She is a strong and relentless hero who was always willing to sacrifice herself for those she loved.

Greatest game in history: “Wheel of Fortune” — I was a contestant in my college days!

Best gadget ever: The HTC Vive Pro virtual reality headset is great. Your options are endless with virtual reality — I love that you can play cool games or go through scenic adventures and experiences.

First computer: Apple IIe.

Current phone: Pixel 3 (I love Google phones!).

Favorite app: Spotify.

Favorite cause: Humane Society.

Most important technology of 2019: I think 2019 will be the year when we will see more of virtual reality and augmented reality benefiting key industries including healthcare, auto, entertainment and education.

Most important technology of 2021: Looking forward, data mining and analytics tools for consumers are of paramount importance. There is virtually no privacy or respect for our data, and our laws (and politicians) are behind the curve in protecting consumers. Consumers need the ability to sign up with a platform and service to view how their personal data is being used and sold.

Final words of advice for your fellow geeks: Geeks: Understand your company strategy. Just because you can code something doesn’t mean you should. Gain an understanding for what it takes to support a product once it is developed and make objective build vs. buy decisions. Cybersecurity, data protection and consumer privacy are all responsibilities that geeks should prioritize.

Non-Geeks: Partner with the geeks supporting your company to help employees adopt new technologies and move your company forward!

The most important advice I can offer anyone: find time every day to drop the phones and technology and enjoy your family and friends.

Website: John L. Scott

Twitter: @johnlscottnews

Instagram: Follow the cutest team mascot, Pearl! @bitty_pearl

LinkedIn: Teresa Duran

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