Q+A: Ngoni Murandu:

IT exec: ‘Your reputation, ethics and integrity are invaluable and irreplaceable assets’

Ngoni Murandu, vice president and chief information officer for Southwest Gas, poses in his office in Las Vegas Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018.

When Ngoni Murandu was a teenager, his father bought him an Apple II computer, because he wanted his son to be an accountant. But the boy was captivated by the machine itself. “My parents continued to finance my fascination in computers because they believed it would help me appreciate the power of spreadsheets, an essential tool for a future accountant,” he says, “but I was already lost to the technical art of computing itself and was certain that this is what I wanted to do.” Murandu followed his fascination into the IT world and today is vice president of information services and chief information officer at Southwest Gas.

Tell us your background.

I was born very far from Nevada, in Harare, Zimbabwe. As a young boy, I always had a passion for computers. I probably fit the mold of the stereotypical computer geek, building my own computers from components and trying out new software programs. My passion for computers motivated me through two college degrees focused on technology, and ultimately into a career that I find very rewarding.

Over the past 23 years, I have progressively worked my way through the ranks of IT leadership at West Virginia University, Mylan Global Pharmaceuticals, and finally in the energy industry in Alaska and Oregon, before my current role at Southwest Gas.

I have been fortunate to have spent the past decade serving at the executive level for three multibillion-dollar organizations, which has given me a unique perspective on the role that technology can play in enabling business success.

Do you have any recent news about yourself or Southwest Gas that you’d like to share?

We are working on technology solutions that are centered on enhancing our customers’ experience. Our goal is to provide our customers with different technology options to use when interacting with our company. We want these interactions to be positive and engaging, whether it’s face-to-face, on the phone with our call center, or self-service through digital channels like web and mobile.

What is your management style?

I have had many positive role models throughout my career, but one piece of advice that I’ve always held close was, “Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself and then enable them to soar.” I believe an organization’s success is entirely dependent on the talent and enthusiasm of the people who work within it, and as such, I try to create an environment where ideas can flourish. I strive to manage by engaging with my colleagues and learning, even in the face of adversity sometimes.

Is there a specific background or skill-set you look for when hiring people to join your team?

The technology profession requires a fair amount of flexibility and ability to adapt to changing conditions. Our line of work changes so rapidly that new innovations affect our solutions on a regular basis. To succeed in IT, you must have a strong sense of curiosity, an appreciation for regulations and compliance, and savvy in evaluating disciplined risks.

Which three things about your current role give you the most satisfaction?

1. I come to work every day excited to collaborate with peers and colleagues who share the same passion about transforming the utility business through technology.

2. In IT, we are focused on building solutions and technologies that help people do their jobs. Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than walking through the hallways of our company and seeing people busy at work on systems that we support.

3. I know with a high degree of certainty that the technology we use today will only improve in the future, and that brings with it a certain level of excited optimism.

What is the biggest change seen in IT in recent years and what’s currently trending?

Our investment and protocols for cybersecurity have certainly changed significantly as we adapt to evolving threats. We have also seen significant growth in the availability and viability of cloud-based solutions for common business processes. Another positive development has been the evolution of the CIO role from one that was focused purely on maintaining existing systems toward being a strategic partner in multifunctional company efforts.

What is the best career advice you’ve received?

A mentor named David Springgate identified me as a young professional he wanted to develop, and encouraged me to take the risk and switch into an industry — energy — that I was unfamiliar with.

He taught me that in business, your reputation, ethics and integrity are invaluable and irreplaceable assets. This helped me to constantly keep at the forefront of my mind that, in all that I do and say, I must always stay true to my principles, always maintain my integrity and conduct myself in an ethical manner. David also had many other outstanding gems of advice, including “be bold enough to think outside the box” and “give everything your very best effort.”

How do you decompress after a long week?

I enjoy continuously learning, especially with my two young boys, ages 10 and 14. We will often sit as a family and enjoy an episode of “Modern Marvels” or “How it’s Made” together, with my very patient and supportive wife. We also enjoy spontaneous trips, and living in Nevada has made that very easy.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

I have traveled to and lived in many states and countries, and Las Vegas is my favorite. This city has it all, from outstanding entertainment and restaurants to all the wonders of the great outdoors in such proximity.

What is something that people might not know about you?

I am an avid chess player. I often have at least five chess matches going on at any time online with opponents from all over the world.

What advice do you have for aspiring IT professionals?

Be curious and always look beyond the horizon for opportunities to leverage the innovations that are discovered every day. Our field is a promising one with tremendous potential, and we are truly living in the golden age of technology.

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.

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