Richard Hook’s career path began at the family cottage near the Michigan International Speedway, where he listened to stories of then owner Roger Penske’s positive impact on business and community. Years later, Hook’s computer information systems degree from WMU and nearly 20 years of professional experience, led to his current appointment as senior vice president and chief information officer at Penske Corporation.
Hook returned to campus recently for the 2016 Western Michigan IT Forum as the keynote speaker with his presentation "Driving Technology @ Penske Corporation." During an interview, Hook provided some insights into his career, thoughts on trends in his industry and tips for success.
Q: What trends do you see in big data and the internet of things?
A: When you look at the areas of big data and the internet of things, I think we are only at the beginning of the art of the possible. IoT is extremely exciting, but what is really needed are the applications and services that wrap around the devices to make them meaningful and useful in the life of consumers and business. The lack of standards and consistency could drive some short- to medium-term challenges as there appears to be limited integration between disparate IoT platforms and systems, creating islands or pockets of dysfunction or frustration. In addition, security and privacy will continue to be a big focus as it should be. We will continue to see the ecosystem of IoT mature through standards and partnerships of companies working together. A small example of this are smart home systems. There are great technologies for home automation and intelligent homes, but the management of these devices is still fragmented through different platforms, applications and levels of security.
On the big data side, the fact we have so much data is amazing when you think about the history of computing power. The explosion of data will continue at unprecedented rates into the future. There is still a shortage of data scientists, but over the past several years the tools and platforms continue to mature to help address some of those challenges. The cloud has also enabled the ability to collect more data and make it accessible everywhere, while the analytics tools are plentiful to help mine the data. The protection of this data and information is critical as well.
Data is fascinating, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see new ways to leverage data to turn it into information, actions, insights and products.
Another trend that will have a significant impact on IoT, big data and security is the autonomous vehicle, for both cars and commercial vehicles. The next five to 10 years in this space will be extremely exciting as digital transformation moves to the next levels.
Q; What trends in your industry/field are you most excited about.
A: It’s a very exciting time for our profession as technology truly enables and empowers consumers, business and the transportation services industry. Over the past several years we have seen how mobile and social media positively impact our businesses and enhance the customer experience. That trend will continue as we continue to digitally transform our businesses. The use of data is critical to every business, but looking to turn insights into actions will continue to take us to the next level. There are some exciting things happening around artificial intelligence, big data, augmented reality and IoT that will be exciting to drive through our businesses in the upcoming years and will positively impact our customers and employees.
Q: What is the most interesting aspect of your role at Penske?
A: I’m fortunate to work for a diverse transportation services company that allows me to get involved in our various businesses—large, small, domestic and global—meaning many days are not the same. The most interesting or unique aspect of my role is probably the involvement with Team Penske. Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Currently competing across the Indy Car, NASCAR and the Australian V-8 Supercars, Team Penske has produced 438 major race wins, 502 pole positions and 29 national championships. This year we are celebrating 50 years of Team Penske and our drivers went 1…2…3 in the Indy Car Championship, and we have one of the final eight cars competing for the NASCAR championship.
My involvement with Team Penske deepens as there are significant technology partnerships with Verizon, Hewlett Packard Enterprises, Hitachi and others who are both partners in racing and in our business. This engagement with our partners may include key projects within our organization or speaking engagements to support the partnership. As you could imagine, the racing theme runs throughout our business and adds a different element than a traditional organization, which is truly amazing and makes Penske a great place to be.
Q: Who is the most interesting person you have met during your career?
A; Honestly, I think the most interesting person is Roger Penske. When I was a kid growing up in Michigan, our family had a cottage near Michigan International Speedway, which Roger owned throughout much of my childhood. I remember hearing stories of Roger then, which carried on as I transitioned into my professional life and continued to see his positive impact on business and the community. Finally, in 2009 I received a call about an opportunity with Penske Automotive Group and jumped at the chance to join the organization. The Penske organization is one of a kind! Having the opportunity to work for and learn from the “Captain” has been outstanding, and I am looking forward to helping our business continue to grow into the future.
Q: What are the key skills and traits students need to succeed in information systems?
A: The technical, analytical and mathematical skills are definitely critical in building a foundation for success, and we will continue to see the need for more developers, data scientists and security professionals throughout the industry. Going beyond the foundation, the characteristics needed to succeed are tenacity to never stop learning, rigorous attention to detail, strong work ethic and a passion to be the best.
People who can effectively communicate and work well in a team environment, while also providing significant individual contributions, will go far.
When I look back at my days at WMU (Go Broncos! #RTB), I definitely believe the Haworth College of Business and my focus in computer information systems gave me a “leg up” on my competition coming out of college. Whether it was cutting-edge assignments, strong business knowledge or group projects, it certainly differentiated me from others. The complement of information systems with business knowledge truly gave me a foundation to build upon as I entered into my professional career.
Thinking through something I learned in college that is used today ... I don’t think it’s just one thing, but rather a collection of my experiences I was able to take from my experience at WMU into my professional life.
After earning his degree in computer information systems from WMU in 1996, Hook began his career as a technology risk consulting manager at Arthur Andersen. Following a position with H&R Block as information security manager, Hook joined Federal-Mogul Corp., where he held positions as manager—information assurance; security and enterprise architect; quality assurance and program manager; information systems manager—infrastructure service delivery; and global site support manager. In 2009, he joined Penske as vice president, IT infrastructure. In 2015, he was named senior vice president and chief information officer.