Failure loomed for Cary Wagner. After months of hard work developing a demo portal for a small software team at Hitachi Vantara, Cary saw his innovative work disintegrate when the project was shut down. He had a half-fledged platform on his hands and still so many ideas and ambitions of innovation. He would be devastated if it all went to waste.
He then remembered an offer he had received six months earlier that now became his unlikely beam of hope. “Hey, is that job still available?” he asked the vice president of Hitachi University. Surprisingly, it was.
Now a part of Hitachi University, Cary’s mission was to create a product training resource for employees and partners. But he saw an opportunity to do more than just that. Cary saw something bigger. The lack of something bigger, actually. “In the beginning, there was a void,” he jokes. Knowing firsthand the struggle to remember product training, he felt that people needed a place where they could refresh their skills. So, Cary sought to fill that void with a central source of education and training. “I had a premise, I had an idea, I didn’t have any team whatsoever, but I did have a little bit of budget to build proof of value.”
Cary had a little more than an idea, though. That failed portal he worked on earlier? It was now the spark of a breakthrough. His ingenuity quickly caught the ear of a colleague who wanted to make training more efficient. Cary found himself with another bold chance to improve the way we learn and work. In mere months, Cary emerged with a portal that created automated training labs online. This game-changer of a portal made training faster and easier, and products and training materials would no longer have to be shipped around the world.
But sometimes good isn’t good enough. Despite the incredible reception his work had already received, Cary knew the portal should be even bigger and better. “Creating a monster in me,” he says, Cary soon had another version of the training platform.
“It took off like wildfire,” Cary recalls. “I never really thought it would be that big of a deal. I was more focused on making sure it was successful.” And it was. Maybe a little too successful. Cary quickly became buried under the rapid growth of his training portal. He was a one-man operation that ran data center management, built labs and supported several business units.
Cary soon received a team of employees to support scale and help him see his vision realized. In just a few short years, the automated training portal went from supporting 20 users to 4,500. The number of labs supported grew from 9,000 to 16,000 in the past year alone, with an increase of almost 100,000 lab hours. Now in its fifth year, the award-winning platform continues to expand. And it all started because Cary saw innovation in the opportunities that have serendipitously come his way, even in a failed project.
“I never expected that this would be a front-runner and get the attention it has,” Cary says. An ambitious and perhaps maniacal visionary, Cary sees even bigger outcomes with what’s already successful. Always thinking what others consider to be “outside the box” to drive progress, he says “I’m that oddball that doesn’t believe there is a box.” And that’s a good thing for us as Cary continues to think up daring new ways for us to learn and work.
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