Dalan Winbush is 6’4” and weighs 260 pounds. He lives in the Denver metropolitan area. When he meets the Broncos that live down the street from him, they assume he, like them, is a football player. But Winbush isn’t a former NFL star—he’s a self-proclaimed geek and (former) leader at some of the biggest companies in the world.
That geek status is a big deal to Winbush, because the computer information systems expert, veteran IT head, and respected chief information officer wants others to know that people of color and other minorities can succeed and lead in all fields, including those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. “There was nobody that looked like me doing this when I started, and I want to be part of what changes that going forward,” he says.
Winbush calls advocating for change “letting the ladder down.” He hopes his career path, inspiring example, wise mentorship, and deliberate actions will “pull up” those from underrepresented communities and show them a possible path.
It all started when Winbush was just eighteen years old. The Colorado native landed an internship with IBM and never looked back. Always interested in engineering, Winbush was one of those kids taking apart toys and gadgets. In fact, he remembers carrying around a suitcase packed with the motors and circuits he had liberated from his family’s devices.
Although they may have preferred to have working alarm clocks and remote controls, Winbush’s parents noticed his interest and aptitude. They sacrificed to move him to a private middle school, where he would have a greater opportunity to explore his skills. Teachers in Winbush’s public school often encouraged him to pick a trade. “They looked at me and told me people like me would never make it in math or science,” he says.
But with the right opportunity, environment, and resources, Winbush thrived—a fact that he credits to his parents for recognizing both his talent and desire. Later, he joined groups like a local chapter of JETS, a national nonprofit that helps students discover careers in engineering and technology.
An IBM internship helped Winbush get a foot in the door, and he parlayed that into a job at a large cable provider known as TCI. There, he was part of a data warehouse team. At just nineteen years old, he worked on the precursor to broadband internet for a leading company.
Over his long career, Winbush served at companies like NICE Systems, Western Union, Ping, and Comcast. He was working as an individual contributor at NICE when a senior director mentored him through thoughts, debates, and customer feedback.
“All I cared about then was my work and my results, but she taught me to understand the value of the customer mindset. If you factor in the customer mindset to your engineering process, you can really achieve dramatic results, and that changed everything for me,” Winbush explains.
The experience took Winbush into leadership, which he saw as another engineering challenge; he was no longer an engineer of things, but of people, systems, and outcomes.
Although there were many successes along the way, there also was one notable setback that helped Winbush learn an important lesson. He recalls taking on a major leadership role a little too early. The business was moving fast, and Winbush found his brand being tarnished as he struggled to keep up. He asked to return to his former role, moved his things out of his management office, and sat with his old colleagues to further develop his skills.
Later, he moved back into the management role and progressed into senior management and director level positions. “Jumping straight ahead would have led to failure, and I was doing a disservice to the business. I learned to slow down and prepare to be in it for the long term,” he says candidly.
A series of good leaders and mentors helped Winbush build his skill set and develop his own philosophy of what it means to lead in IT. “Tech in business is more than transactional,” he says. “Leaders can leverage technology to transform how a business operates and how it serves its customers.”
That’s what Winbush has spent his entire career doing. During a stint as vice president for IT in Comcast’s West division, he applied a system mindset to help drive collaboration, increase efficiency, and maximize results in a complex ecosystem. He also developed strong relationships with other leaders, including the CFO.
As the leaders with a full view into the business, they had to act as “truth tellers” to help guide strategy. Winbush calls the powerful combination of the tech lead and CFO an emerging trend as businesses learn to see IT as more than a cost center. Tech should not only help a business run, but grow and transform.
Winbush continuously pushes his teams to do more than the traditional IT helpdesk duties. “Availability and uptime are table stakes. We can implement programs and strategies that actually serve an organization and transform culture,” he says.
If every employee is initiating three or four service requests per month, they are having a bad experience. Should a company be OK with things breaking or going wrong that often? Winbush isn’t. His methods help systems self-serve, anticipate, and heal proactively and prevent problems from happening in the environment; so those service requests drop below an average of one and a half per user per month.
Then, employees and leaders aren’t spending their time waiting for repairs or using slow equipment—they can do their jobs and have business conversations with their colleagues in IT.
“Dalan is the consummate IT executive,” acknowledges Rob A. Simeti, global account manager of Comcast NBCU at Dell Technologies. “He’s a strategic thinker, and as such treats his vendors as true collaborative partners. Together, Comcast and Dell have partnered on various IT projects, delivering a high-level of operational efficiencies to the Comcast business. [Dalan is] a natural leader and a pleasure to work with.”
Brad Wood, SVP of global customer experience at Riverbed Technology, is quick to agree. “Dalan and Comcast have focused on truly understanding the user journey to better support and deliver IT services. Riverbed supports Comcast with Alluvio Aternity from our unified observability portfolio, which provides actionable insights that allow them to be more proactive to ensure a great digital experience for employees and customers.”
In September 2022, Winbush made the hard decision to exit Comcast to seize an opportunity at Quickbase. He now serves as chief information officer for the low-code workflow automation platform. He’s helping an innovative and fast-growing company understand how customers are using its technology and implement new processes as it scales.
At this stage in his career, Winbush is still focused on letting that ladder down. He mentors his younger colleagues and participates in formal and informal programs, alike. He also volunteers with local nonprofits like Von’s Vision, a group founded by former Bronco Von Miller that gives local kids access to free eye exams and glasses. Those efforts will help correct their vision; Winbush’s efforts in the professional space will help them see that they can accomplish their dreams.