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WestRock CIDO Amir Kazmi on building resiliency

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There are two sides of the coin to this risk, and the other side is about recovering faster and building tactical resiliency. Joseph Hinkle [vice president of technology platforms and global operations] runs global platforms, infrastructure, and the cloud. Through his leadership, we developed and executed a global cloud strategy, with most of our global computing in the cloud today, and strengthened operational recovery capability.

The partnership between those two leaders and their teams has established a solid foundation for expanding our digital solution capabilities. This foundation has allowed us to strengthen our customer experience and double our e-commerce revenue to approximately $600 million. Additionally, it enables over $300 million of packaging revenue from digital connected packaging solutions so customers can answer: Where is my product, what is the quality of my product, and how can I strengthen consumer engagement with my brand on the package?

As for resiliency at a more general level, whether it’s cyber or disaster recovery or something else, it’s the ability to recover faster to support the operations. We’re a manufacturing company, so it’s important to maintain uptime. Every hour or minute we’re down — especially across our over 300 production facilities across 30-plus countries — has real impact and consequence. It’s building a response plan and then testing. Everything is perfect until you put the plan into action and test it. So we run simulations and tests to prepare and manage our business risk.

The need to continuously learn as you’re going through it seems even more important today, and I’m not sure everyone has adopted the necessary mindset for it. I call it ‘grit it until you get it.’

Grit is an incredibly important trait, and I don’t believe a lot of things can replace hard work. For me, some of that learning happened when I was in P&L roles working with our product R&D teams and diverse end-market customers on product market fit with a focus on velocity of iterations. The importance of grit and humility was reinforced when I was starting a company, raising funding, building a team and customer pipeline. At WestRock, we are applying similar principles as we develop digital packaging solutions that combine IoT in packages with SaaS to help solve the three customer needs I mentioned earlier. We’re actively learning as we mature these digital solutions across different end markets.

To loosely quote the philosopher Seneca, ‘Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.’ I think luck is created through preparation and hard work, and also through resiliency — being willing to try and fail more than once.

And by the way, what fun would life be if we just played it safe?

For more insights from Kazmi on his approach to leading digital innovation and how he brings out the best in his team, tune in to the Tech Whisperers podcast.

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