Hardwired for the Personal

The dynamic relationship between technology and people has always fascinated Troy Hardeman, from his first computer to his current role as chief compliance and technology officer at Ceannate Corporation

Troy Hardeman remembers his family buying their first computer when he was just seven years old. It was 1977, and the TRS-80 Model had just come out. His family bought it at the local Radio Shack, and that’s the moment he says he fell in love with technology. Hardeman grew up in a small farming town of 1,600 people. He used to work on the fields bailing hay, and he got his first job in 1993 with The Coca-Cola Company shortly after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in information systems. Yet his heart was always fixated on technology and computers.

After five years at the company, Hardeman went on to teach software classes at MicroGroup and took on a network-engineering role. In that time, he taught himself various aspects of information technology. “Perseverance is key,” Hardeman says. “It’s equally important to know that you’re never going to have all the right answers. You have to put aside what you think you know in order to learn what you don’t.”

That’s what Hardeman did, which helped him advance to his current role as the chief compliance and technology officer at Ceannate Corporation, where he is responsible for infrastructure, information security, business continuity, compliance, and facilities. He continues to put the people side of tech first.

Hardeman credits his involvement with Pathways To Successful Living Seminars and an online series of Savvy Service articles for his focus on communication and relationships in the technology space. “Tech drives a large portion of our world, but at the end of the day it’s still people who live in it,” Hardeman says.

“Motivation is my insatiable thirst. Even perfect can be improved upon because perfect is only a description of what exists at a moment in time.”

Part of Ceannate’s core business deals with consumers—providing services to student loan borrowers—so the people side of technology is that much more important, according to Hardeman. To keep people at the forefront, Hardeman says it starts with trust and education. People need to be in a space to learn and feel that their opinions and positions are welcome, he explains.
Without education, integrity, accountability, and compassion, learning can’t occur. It’s what drives Hardeman in his accomplishments in compliance and technology.

The compliance and tech leader’s first major accomplishment with Ceannate was implementing an information security program in 2008. The program was based on the US Federal Information Security Management Act, National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-53, and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, which the company needed before it could perform work on behalf of the US Department of Education.

Becoming fully compliant meant that Hardeman and his team not only had to implement the program, but also had to be in good standing each year without any flaws. With chip credit cards and PCI security standard changes, Hardeman has updated and improved the system to continue compliance. He’s also worked with his team to implement an infrastructure that’s reliable, scalable, growing, and ever-changing without variance in the company’s budget.

With technology constantly evolving, Hardeman has to deal with the threat of irrelevancy—keeping up with progress is essential. Compliance and productivity are often in direct contradiction, but the key is in having a constant dialogue with the team, according to Hardeman.

It hasn’t always been easy. There have been a few failures along the way in adopting or upgrading a product. “It all went back to key things,” Hardeman says. “Lack of communication, not enough delegating, too much delegating, or having the ‘one man can do it all’ syndrome.”

Hardeman has learned to recognize that other people have different beliefs and values despite his own expectations or beliefs. He strongly believes in the fact that everyone is an individual, and he strives to work with the best version of each individual on his team. He’s learned to challenge his team by asking the right questions, which he counts as his strongest asset in empowering the people behind technology.

Strong collaboration and relationships exist within Ceannate’s executive team, especially those with CEO Balaji Rajan and president Maureen Peterson. Hardeman credits them with furthering his understanding of the need to bridge the divide between people and technology. To maintain that relationship, he understands that when areas of technology transform, strategies for the people behind such technology must be modified as well.

The constant changes in compliance and technology make long-term planning all but impossible. Hardeman has led his life like his work: he loves what he does every day. His ability to translate technology to people and to manage emotional reactions is a valuable skill he’s acquired as Ceannate’s chief compliance and technology officer.

Hardeman hopes his work in strategy and compliance removes conflicts in technology. “I’m never satisfied, and I know we can always do something better,” Hardeman says. “Motivation is my insatiable thirst. Even perfect can be improved upon because perfect is only a description of what exists at a moment in time.”