Alumni Husband-and-Wife Collaboration A Success

By Jennifer Ammoscato

Everything in life is a process.  Just ask University of Windsor grads Tristan Boutros BComm ’06 & Jennifer Cardella BA ’06

Photo credit: Steve Biro

Photo credit: Steve Biro

Boutros, who majored in business, and Cardella, who focused on psychology, not only collaborated on their book, The Basics of Process Improvement—they even applied its principles to planning their wedding.

“Life is full of processes, whether you’re talking about how a business functions, or how to make sure your wedding goes off without a hitch,” says Boutros. “The idea of process improvement is something that goes far beyond the corporate world.”

When it comes to business, Boutros suggests thinking about every company as an ecosystem where everything is interconnected to a wide variety of touch points, both inside and out.

“Process connects it all. How a company operates from day to day within itself and with its suppliers and customers, including people, process and technology, he says. “For example, how an order is placed, right through the entire order to cash process. My job is to make sure things are being handled as efficiently as possible.”

Boutros serves as chief operating officer, Product, Technology & Design, for The New York Times. In that role, he spends his days considering ways to optimize how the 165-year-old news organization operates, and develop solutions which allow it to maintain its high-quality, well- respected product while saving costs.

Boutros, who began in the position in January 2016, brought to it more than 10 years of business, technology, and management consulting experience at such companies as DTE Energy, IAC, BlackBerry, and Warner Music Group. He also holds more than 10 professional designations.

“I’ve always been a process-oriented person,” says Boutros. “Very analytical and organized. It’s in my DNA.”

In university, he focused on marketing and advertising with a minor in computer science.” As a student, he ran his own e-commerce business selling DVDs, Books and CDs. He says that experience was the basis for where he is now.

“I learned all about business processes. I dealt with orders, kept track of revenues, and learned how to automate. I was learning about process management without knowing it.”

In his current role, Boutros focuses on the digital side of The New York Times—its robust website and the consumer products it offers, as well as its internal systems. It must compete in a difficult environment in which most newspapers are undergoing large, digital transformations in the wake of declining ad revenues and increasing market pressures.

“My specialty is to come into those difficult transitions, where companies want to be excellent and efficient, and find a way to increase quality while increasing agility and efficiency.”

Jennifer Cardella says her “passion” for process management was ignited courtesy of UWindsor psychology professor Ted Vokes.

“He was a phenomenal professor,” she says. “I took one ofhis courses and we had a great conversation about organizational psychology. I immediately connected to it. I saw how psychology and business go hand-in-hand. He had a large influence over where I am today.”

Post-graduation, Cardella held positions at some of the same places as Boutros, including Pernod Ricard, IAC and Blackberry. Her roles evolved from the accounting department, recruitment and business analysis to project and process management.

Today, she is Vice President, Strategic Vendor Management, and Project Management Office for Viacom, an American media conglomerate that’s home to such brands as MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, CMT and Comedy Central. She joined the company almost two years ago.

In her role, Cardella is responsible for the vendor management and project management offices. On a day-to-day basis, that might mean making sure that the departments within Technology have the process, tools and services available to execute their projects whether that be internal initiatives or an award show.

“I’m not the project manager delivering the solution,” she explains. “I’m making sure they have the right agile project management tools for both planning and execution. I oversee the greater portfolio.”

Cardella considers herself “in love” with “agile methodology”—a disciplined, project management process that encourages frequent inspection and adaptation, a leadership philosophy that encourages teamwork, self-organization and accountability, a set of engineering best practices to allow for rapid delivery of high-quality software, and a business approach that aligns development with customer needs and company goals.

There are several different software methodologies thatcan achieve this. Cardella is an ardent fan of Lean Six Sigma,a methodology that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste. The training for Lean Six Sigma is provided through the belt-based training system—white belts, yellow belts, green belts, black belts and master black belts— similar to judo.

Earlier in her career, she acquired her Green Belt and then continued to earn more certifications. “It was really important to me and I paid for it on my own.”

She brought the green belt course to Viacom. “I want people to recognize that we want to invest in them. At the end of the day, it’s the people who make the company.”

Cardella volunteers as a mentor to young women today and is looking forward to volunteering in co-ordination with Viacom as a part of Girls Who Code, a national mentoring program in the US meant to encourage young women to consider technology as a career.

“Tech jobs are part of the fastest-growing in the country but girls are being left behind,” she says. “The job is to close the gender gap in technology. I want to help women succeed and to be fully integrated into that.”

The decision for husband and wife to collaborate on a book about process management was a natural one for them. But it wasn’t Boutros’ first book on the subject.

In 2013, Boutros and his mentor, Tim Purdie, published the award-winning book, The Process Improvement Handbook:A Blueprint for Managing Change and Increasing Organizational Performance with McGraw Hill. “It was much more of a textbook about process management,” he explains.

The second, The Basics of Process Improvement, in collaboration with Cardella, came out in 2016. “It’s much more of a practical read. The feedback we’ve received is that it is very easy to use in day-to- day jobs,” says Boutros. This book has also received critical praise, and has been a finalist in both the USA Best Book Awards, and Book Viral Awards, while being nominated for several others.

Working together had its challenges, the largest being how to divide family responsibilities while writing. “Some days I was largely with the kids and other days Jennifer took the lead,” says Boutros. “I think the toughest thing was dealing with the amount of timeit took to write the book with a young family, as we had deadlinesto meet.”

The Basics of Process Improvement was featured at a January 2017 conference with the Process Excellence Network in Orlando, Fla. The couple gave the keynote address. Cardella is also slated to be a panel speaker in April at The Workfront 2017 Leap Conference.

They plan to launch a new book in summer 2017, Agile Process Management. “It won’t be focused on process improvement as much as how a company can be agile—more responsive to needs and changing situations,” says Boutros. “It will be for people who want more innovative and newer methods of product delivery.”

So devoted is the couple to the value of process management that they incorporated it into their wedding planning.

Says Boutros, “We planned a destination wedding in three or four hours. We prioritized, assigned duties, and largely completed any needed tasks within a four-week period.”

“We had sticky notes all over the walls,” says Cardella. “It was our wedding war room.” The wedding went off without a hitch.

This approach has continued into their marriage and daily lives. “We look at every aspect of our family and assess if and how we could improve it. Things like, outsourcing certain household chores such as having groceries delivered directly to buy us more time as a family together. We also use visual management, like having a family board with chores and tasks on it.”

Although Boutros and Cardella are in the same field, Boutros admits that they differ on how rigorous to be about planning. “Jen is more relaxed. She’s accepts shifts and evolution more so than me.I push execution a bit much sometimes.”

“I know when to slack off a little,” adds Cardella. “But, he’sthe one who gets us back on the right path. He’s definitely had an excellent influence over my path and I attribute a lot of my success to him.”

The Basics of Process Improvement (CRC Press 2016)  Agile Process Management (CRC Press 2017)  Available on Amazon

This story, reprinted with permission, originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of VIEW, the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine