Why GSB Dean Fired His Chief Digital Officer

Stanford University Graduate School of Business – Ethan Baron photo

‘MY REACTION WAS OOPS, I SHOULD HAVE TOLD THE DEAN WAY BACK THEN’

While Dean Levin’s only public comments on the controversy have occurred in two emails sent to GSB students, faculty and staff on Nov. 17th and Nov. 30, his second message suggests at the very least irritation that he was not notified of the breach when it was patched Jayaraman’s team. Levin wrote: “They did not understand the scope of the exposure and did not escalate it to me or relevant university offices for further investigation. The episode makes clear that we will need to implement improved practices around data security, and especially, to ensure that if problems are identified, they are escalated and promptly addressed in full.”

Stanford MBA student Adam Allcock

In October, after Dean Levin received Allcock’s report, the dean called Jayaraman into his office for a conversation over what had happened. Immediately, Jayaraman realized he had made a mistake in not notifying his boss eight months earlier when his team found out about the problem and quickly fixed it. “My reaction was oops,” concedes Jayaraman. “I should have done this way back then.”

On Friday, Jayaraman sent his colleagues a remorseful goodbye email, informing them of his departure. “I take full responsibility for the failure to recognize the scope and nature of the J Drive data exposure and report it in a timely manner to the Dean​ and the University Information Security and ​Privacy Office​s,” he wrote. “I am fully accountable for this inexcusable error in judgement.”

‘MISTAKES ARE AN OPPORTUNITY TO KNOW THE LIMITS OF OUR KNOWLEDGE & IGNORANCE’

For now, Jayaraman is wrestling with the lessons from the controversy. “A total network system is a combination of technology, process and people,” he says. “One of the greater lessons to keep in mind is that failures result from the interplay among tech, people and processes that result in possibliities, good and bad. As a soceity we must keep these things in balance. For all the benefits technology has brought, we are still in the infancy of understanding how technology can be both helpful and harmful and how we can protect against the downsides. The flaw would be thinking that at any given time we are perfect.”

A few years ago, when he was the CIO of NVIDIA, Jayaraman read a book called Chasing The Rabbit written by Steven J. Spear, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. A quote from the book has stuck with him to this day, he says: “No team can design a perfect system in advance, planning for every contingency and nuance. but great teams can discover how to keep improving a system to be better and better.”

“Failures, adverse events and mistakes are the little alarm bells that trigger the learning of teams,” reasons Jayaraman. “The greater lesson is that every organization that wants to be high performing should view mistakes and adverse events for what they are. They should trigger an exploration of where a system is weak and how it can be strengthened. I strongly believe that mistakes are an opporutnity for a team to know the limits of our knowledge and our ignorance and to learn from it and become stronger.”

DON’T MISS: STANFORD STUDENT NEWSPAPER SLAMS DEAN LEVIN IN EDITORIAL or STANFORD MISLED MBAS ON FINANCIAL AID