Kader Sakkaria: Leading Technology Augmentations

Kader Sakkaria | Chief Information Officer | Ruffalo Noel Levitz
Kader Sakkaria | Chief Information Officer | Ruffalo Noel Levitz

As a pivotal figure in modern organizations that rely on advanced information technologies to stay competitive, Kader Sakkaria leads with a combination of leadership, technical expertise, and business acumen, navigating the constantly changing landscape of technology.

By aligning business objectives with large teams of IT professionals and technology platforms, Kader succeeds as Chief Information Officer at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. He prioritizes product-centric attitudes over project management, builds a culture of innovation and scalability, and fosters collaboration and empowerment across cross-functional teams. In this fast-paced and challenging environment, success is a complex and dynamic mix of factors that demand continuous improvement and agile flexibility.

Let us learn more about his professional journey.

Inspired Roots

Kader has always been passionate about transforming organizations, primarily through digital means. He understands that digital transformation is critical to the evolution of technology-centric organizations. He has studied various frameworks to guide transformations, such as McKinsey’s 7s model and the digital value chain framework. For Kader, designing, optimizing, and innovating business processes to build customer experiences on solid value-creating foundations that leverage advances in cloud technologies, optimization, and market differentiation is a tremendous task.

He knows that Artificial Intelligence is one of the most crucial differentiating factors that drive transformation in analytics, data engineering, and new product development lifecycle. Moreover, Kader strongly believes that large organizations have a social responsibility to contribute beyond the ramifications of the business model. As a transformational leader, Kader is committed to creating value through ethical and accountable actions, social responsibility, and environment-conscious decisions.

Inspiring Relevant Engagement

Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL) is a leading provider of higher-education analytics solutions, offering services such as enrollment modeling, consulting, student success management, resource allocation management, marketing insights, and prescriptive fundraising planning. With a clientele of over 1900 universities, colleges, and non-profit organizations, RNL strives to create hyper-personalized client engagements that drive these institutions toward their goals and long-term objectives. These engagements entail a multifaceted and data-driven analysis of market research, enrollment consulting, academic advising, and student success during all stages of their academic life.

Along with personalized consulting services, RNL’s vision emphasizes technology leadership with stable and scalable computing platforms. As part of their expertise, RNL boasts industry-leading AI-driven data analytics, data-driven insights with real-time machine learning capabilities, and advanced data engineering capabilities on a cloud platform. To ensure scalability and integrate all value chain processes, RNL is currently executing a digital transformation strategy with state-of-the-art support for integrating client data sources, infrastructure as a code paradigm, and real-time capabilities for model execution. Their data processing methodologies can handle diverse formats, multimedia, and unstructured data. Their solutions are exposed to clients through advanced dashboards, providing a wide range of features for customization and democratization of their technologies with instant feedback loops.

Driving Significant Impact

Kader believes that his experience leading transformative initiatives for large and medium-sized organizations has given him valuable insights into market forces and what it takes to build a thriving organization. While there is no “secret sauce” or quick answer to success, Kader believes prioritization is crucial. One key guiding principle for him is his belief in the servant leadership style, which he feels is uniquely suited to transformative strategies and is increasingly essential given complex situations. He believes that caring for employees, the organization, and the environment is the way to go and that fostering collaboration and empowering team members to participate in decision-making is vital in today’s fast-paced and complex environment. Kader believes that empathy in a transformational context contributes to work, life, and philanthropy and that socially responsible initiatives, ethical use of technologies, sustainability, and governance reflect the servant organizations movement.

Dynamic, Empowered, Unified

Kader strongly believes that social responsibility and ethics-driven values should be a cornerstone of modern organizations. He has always been motivated by the potential impact he can have on both the organization and the environment, which has been a critical driver throughout his career. While he has worked on many transformational projects, he also feels that being a part of something more significant and lasting is essential.

Kader has observed a shift towards social responsibility in areas such as the conservation of resources, environmental aspects of energy production, cybersecurity, and privacy protections for employees and clients. He believes that success is not just about the latest and greatest technology but also human leadership, behavior, and responsible change. Kader is excited about new emerging frameworks that help create ethics governance committees based on principles of algorithmic transparency and explainability, respect for privacy, and removal of bias.

Kader recognizes that in today’s rapidly changing technological landscape, fostering a culture of innovation is essential for organizations to succeed. He believes that building teams that embrace innovation, participate in new creative solutions, and experiment with new technologies can drive the organization toward its goals. Kader emphasizes the importance of creating a culture where employees are encouraged to take risks and rewarded for their initiative, even if the outcomes are unsuccessful. He notes that this principle applies across all industries, and companies of all sizes must commit to data-driven decision-making. Kader also recognizes that providing continuous training and education is vital for employees to stay up-to-date with the latest tools and processes. He believes that this benefits the employees and can generate new ideas and fuel further innovation within the organization.

Tech Forward

RNL strategically decided to streamline processes and democratize advanced AI throughout the organization. Kader and his team brought data integrations, engineering, and analytics up to the highest standards of scalability and flexibility. To make the technology accessible to everyone in the organization, they exposed analytics to all team members through low-code and no-code user interfaces. They also democratized modeling and other AI tools by providing a data governance framework that includes data lineage, rich semantics, and enrichment integrations. With a growing machine learning model repository, they can combine AI algorithms based on time criteria, geographical constraints, or customer preferences to create an AI ecosystem ready for current and future challenges. The models have built-in safeguards for performance monitoring. The customer-facing applications allow for customization ranging from essential statistical explorations to advanced modeling. Looking to the future, Kader anticipates more advancement in integrating heterogeneous data sources, converting legacy data into a high-availability resource for modeling, and tighter integration with customer data sources. He believes that ontology-driven pipelines must be devised to visualize the value chain and help orchestrate data flows with no-code tools. In many cases, AI must take over data engineering from deterministic algorithms. Synthetic data sets combined with model repositories must be better integrated with semantically rich structures.

Prepared Ahead

In addition, job roles and skills requirements will also change, with a growing demand for expertise in AI, data science, and machine learning. As more organizations adopt AI and data-driven decision-making, there will be a greater need for professionals who can effectively manage, analyze, and interpret data.

Collaboration skills, creativity, and adaptability will also be highly valued as organizations strive to build innovative and agile teams. Furthermore, as remote work becomes more commonplace, the ability to work effectively in virtual environments and utilize collaboration tools will be increasingly important. Overall, individuals with technical skills, creativity, and adaptability will be well-positioned to succeed in the rapidly changing job market.

An Inspirational Odyssey

Kader was a young software developer who had been keeping up with the latest trends in the tech industry. He knew that the market trends defined the opportunities and that exciting new area were emerging that he wanted to be a part of. Kader saw the direction set by enterprise system architectures and the toolsets that continued on the path of scalability, seamless connectivity, optimization, and technology democratization.

He recognized the importance of leveraging complex analytics to integrate data across disciplines and positioning himself in areas where multimodal data integration happens. Kader also knew that mastering AI-assisted development tools would boost productivity and that compliance and regulations were becoming increasingly important.

He believed that explainability, transparency, and responsibility were essential for building trust in the marketplace. The days of taking an easy route to simple labeling and promoting advanced technologies were over. Kari Kovar joined the team as the Chief Operating Officer in January 2021, having spent the past two decades improving the world of higher education.

Together with their teams, Sakkaria and Kovar created operational alignment and streamlined the technology ecosystem to drive effectiveness, efficiency, outcomes, performance, and collaboration.