Jeff Stott has been with Extra Space Storage for nearly five years now. As Vice President of Information Systems Technology (IT), Stott works directly with a variety of teams to build the next generation of software, optimize the current website, migrate applications with cloud platforms, provide data for reporting and analytics, and much more.
In the following Q&A, Stott shares more about his career with Extra Space Storage, including insights into his work, the projects he’s most proud of, and what he believes makes a good team leader.
Q: How did your career path lead you to Extra Space Storage?
A: Prior to joining Extra Space Storage, I worked in IT for a variety of industries, including retail, food distribution, and consumer products. In those industries, they rely heavily on systems to support accounting, web platforms, and operational functions. Over the years, I gained experience and expertise implementing and developing these types of systems.
Back in 2014, our CTO, Bron McCall, set his path on a new IT strategy for the next several years. This new strategy involved replacing several aging legacy systems and replacing them with more modern and flexible systems. Part of this change was not only rebuilding our systems, but also restructuring our teams and retooling the skill sets within IT.
That same year, I was introduced to Bron through a mutual acquaintance. I was compelled with his vision and fascinated with the growth the self storage industry. Once I was understood how Extra Space Storage was poised for growth and experienced the culture, it was an easy decision to join the team. Nearly five years later, I can say it was one of the best career decisions I have ever made.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received in your career?
A: Our CFO, Scott Stubbs, gave me the advice to never shy away from having direct conversations. Early in my career, this is something that was difficult for me. Sometimes, it seems easier not to have hard conversations with people. But having those tough conversations increases mutual trust and respect. If the person that you need to deliver a difficult message to knows that they can trust you and that you care about them personally, you can tell them anything.
Q: Which experience(s) in your career influenced who you are today?
A: Early in my career, I worked for an entrepreneur who had built several successful businesses. He taught me a lot about how to make business decisions and thinking like an entrepreneur. I remember one day I came to him with a problem involving a large financial dilemma we were facing. I expected him to bail us out of the situation. But he didn’t do that. He forced us to work through the problem, which is the best thing he could have done. It taught me how to face tough situations with more resolve and figure out how to creatively solve problems.
Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of your career?
A: One of the most challenging aspects of IT is managing change. I’m often in situations where I’m asking people to change the way they work and try something new. Whenever a new technology is implemented or a new software system is deployed, it can disrupt what people are used to doing in their day-to-day work. I have learned over time that it’s important to have empathy for those whose jobs are impacted by the technology changes. I need to listen more and understand their concerns so I can help them overcome their challenges.
Q: What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your career?
A: Seeing people come together to accomplish something big that they couldn’t do individually. Hitting a target, a goal, or a project deadline is important. But what brings me the most fulfillment is being part of team that has the confidence to overcome difficult circumstances and consistently strive to get better all the time. Teams like this take on an identity that is bigger than any single individual.
Q: Describe your most successful endeavor with Extra Space Storage.
A: There are several significant projects and initiatives I have been part of in my time with Extra Space Storage. During my first year, I worked on a team that replaced our financial and reporting systems. This was a rewarding project because it delivered on many of the expectations the company was looking for. It had a positive impact on several departments within the company.
Since then my focus has been on delivering a new system to all our stores and implementing a new web platform for extraspace.com. Both initiatives have been challenging and require a high level of teamwork. It’s too early to claim success, but I can see it on the horizon.
Q: What advice would you give to future Extra Space Storage leaders?
A: The biggest advice I would have for future leaders is to be vulnerable enough to talk about your mistakes and know when to ask for help. We have an amazing culture at Extra Space Storage. As a leader, you have an obligation to foster a healthy culture, and one way to do that is being open and humble. Share your challenges and mistakes so others can learn from them.
This article is part of an ongoing series of interviews with Extra Space Storage (NYSE: EXR) team members. Jeff Stott is the Vice President of Information Systems Technology at Extra Space Storage.