Driving Disruption: Nada Jiddou On The Innovative Approaches They Are Taking To Disrupt Their Industry

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Smart Technology Ecosystems. With smart sensors infiltrating every aspect of the transportation industry, it has become imperative to connect the data from all the different types of sensors, assets, people, and systems to allow for a comprehensive view of the fleet operation. At Clarience we aim to offer bumper-to-bumper solutions that are made possible by these smart technology ecosystems. Ultimately, these ecosystems will result in more powerful tools and insights that will proactively identify future trends and aid in avoiding incidents and costly repairs.

In an age where industries evolve at lightning speed, there exists a special breed of C-suite executives who are not just navigating the changes, but driving them. These are the pioneers who think outside the box, championing novel strategies that shatter the status quo and set new industry standards. Their approach fosters innovation, spurs growth, and leads to disruptive change that redefines their sectors. In this interview series, we are talking to disruptive C-suite executives to share their experiences, insights, and the secrets behind the innovative approaches they are taking to disrupt their industries. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nada Jiddou, Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer at Clarience Technologies.

Nada Jiddou is the Executive Vice President and Chief Digital Officer for Clarience Technologies. Jiddou joined the Company in 2021 bringing over 20 years of strategic management and technology leadership experience.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion about disruption, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

As I trace my career path, I can clearly see the influence of my father on how I think today. As a child, I remember my father always taking things apart and rebuilding them — he has the true mind of an engineer. While that rubbed off on all of us, as the eldest sibling it affected me most. I went to college to become an engineer because I understood the perspective that engineers bring to problem-solving. This shaped my career trajectory from a focused technical background in electrical engineering and electronics to diverse roles in business development, IT, and strategic leadership. I’ve always been driven by curiosity, a passion for learning, and a commitment to finding better solutions across industries.

After more than two decades of leading technology initiatives in the automotive and consumer goods industries, I had the opportunity to bring my technology experience to commercial transportation and logistics in 2021, an industry that was in the early stages of its technology-driven transformation. Once again, curiosity got the best of me.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

When people hear the word “technology” they immediately think of Silicon Valley, even when so many of today’s innovative technologies come from outside California. Clarience Technologies is based just outside of Detroit, Michigan, making us unique as our legacy isn’t technology, it’s transportation. Whether it was the first LED light for commercial trucks, the first school bus stop arm, the first truck backup alarm or more, our track record for success is built on our people investing themselves in understanding our customer’s business.

The transformation of our company over the past decade to what is now Clarience Technologies is nothing short of remarkable. We first built the capabilities and processes of a technology firm, starting with hiring people that held a technology-first mindset. We then established a culture that encouraged employees to develop solutions that were rather unique to what we had provided up to that point. We then set our people loose and encouraged them to ask questions. Road Ready, our commercial trailer location tracking and remote monitoring system,. customers, a basic solution from the onset that has since grown into a thriving business. When you can evolve and adapt in an ever-changing industry, you will lead.

This continues to hold true today, even as new technologies are pushing digital further than ever. Successfully leveraging technology still requires a tried-and-true customer-centric approach.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

My strengths include innate curiosity and a strong desire to learn.

I also value perseverance; understanding that failure is part of the process as long as I bounce back swiftly and persist. I believe in learning from setbacks.

Additionally, I prioritize humility and emotional intelligence, recognizing that collaboration with experienced professionals helps me evolve. Tribal knowledge holds a truth that unlocks future potential.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition so that all of us are on the same page. In the context of a business, what exactly is “Disruption”?

In business, disruption can manifest as a new approach, a fresh business line, or an untapped opportunity, all necessitating a change in strategy or operation.

How do you perceive the role of ‘disruption’ within your industry, and how have you personally embraced it? Is it a necessity, a strategy, or something else entirely in your view?

Disruption is now a necessity in our industry, whether internally driven or externally, as in the case of the transportation industry. The rise of autonomous tools demands a significant evolution and drastic change. Internally born disruption often yields better outcomes, as it allows for a deeper understanding of limitations and parameters, facilitating meaningful implementation.

Within Clarience, I’ve embraced disruption both externally, by innovating for our customers, and internally. As the Chief Digital Officer, I’m spearheading digital integration across our product lines and divisions. This shift encourages new business models, technological applications, and software components, enhancing efficiency and fostering new product and service capabilities.

As the industry evolves, internal disruption is crucial for maintaining momentum and effectively navigating industry shifts.

What lessons have you learned from challenging conventional wisdom, and how have those lessons shaped your leadership style?

Disruptive ideas typically face resistance because change is inherently uncomfortable. When we question established norms, there’s a natural inclination to pause and say, “This is unfamiliar; it’s not how we operate or what we’re used to.” This has led me to become more observant of change drivers and leveraging education as a technique to overcome the unfamiliar. People are usually resistant to change when they don’t understand it.

Could you describe a time when you faced significant pushback for a disruptive idea? How did you navigate the opposition, and what advice would you give to others in a similar situation?

Change has compelled me as a leader to embrace rejection and potential opposition to ideas without taking it personally. This necessitates diverse approaches for different individuals, leveraging their knowledge and ability to relate business understanding to new innovations. The next crucial step involves giving them sufficient time to acclimate to the change and encouraging them to consider its benefits for themselves and their organization.

What are your “Four Innovative Approaches We Are Using To Disrupt Our Industry”?

#1: Smart Trailers. As the landscape of the transportation industry evolves and the demand for advanced telematics solutions grows, we set out to create a cutting-edge smart trailer solution that would revolutionize the industry and be realized through our Road Ready and TireViewLive products. There was a clear value proposition of the smart trailer solution — to deliver operational efficiency, improve safety, and drive profitability for fleet customers. After assembling a cross-functional team with expertise in telematics, IoT technology, and data analytics, we were able to deliver a comprehensive product that positioned Road Ready as a pioneer in the smart trailer segment.

#2: New Partnerships.

We believe that no one company has all the answers. As such a coalition of Customers, providers, and OEMs is required to create and advance technology integrations into the ecosystem. At Clarience we work with Universities, and different partners to gather information and participate in industry forums such as TMC, ATA and ACT to continue to be at the forefront of the challenges and changes that our customers are facing. This has driven us to create open architecture systems that are easy to adapt and integrate which allows us to provide bespoke solutions for our customers while allowing us to partner with an unlimited number of providers and integrate across a variety of OEMs.

#3: Smart Technology Ecosystems. With smart sensors infiltrating every aspect of the transportation industry, it has become imperative to connect the data from all the different types of sensors, assets, people, and systems to allow for a comprehensive view of the fleet operation. At Clarience we aim to offer bumper-to-bumper solutions that are made possible by these smart technology ecosystems. Ultimately, these ecosystems will result in more powerful tools and insights that will proactively identify future trends and aid in avoiding incidents and costly repairs.

#4: Digital First. By prioritizing digital and connectivity initiatives at Clarience Technologies, we are doing our part to foster a culture of innovation within the company. We worked tirelessly over the past year to create a ground up platform that is at the forefront of our digital transformation. The power of our IoT platform and our Video platforms are aimed to provide best-in-class capabilities to propel our vision for a safer tomorrow. We are also using this as an opportunity to accelerate how we operate. Technology means change happens quickly, and for us to win we have to keep pace. Digital thinking allows us to challenge how we’ve always done things. Additionally, digital enhancements including data analytics and AI/ML lead to enhanced customer experiences across our brands, which helps Clarience improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention, ultimately driving long-term business success.

Looking back at your career, in what ways has being disruptive defined or redefined your path? What surprises have you encountered along the way?

I began as an engineer and later earned a business degree to pursue leadership in business. I however found myself repeatedly falling into transformational leadership roles, fostering growth as an individual and leader. I believe I am in those roles naturally and in part due to my ever-curious thinking and ability to clearly see use cases that can aid the industry in overcoming challenges. Leveraging my technical expertise, customer insight, and business acumen, I’ve driven meaningful changes in our products, organizational models, and processes.

Beyond professional accomplishments, how has embracing disruption affected you on a personal level?

Facing challenges has made me more innovative in addressing life issues and engaging with my children. Life’s unpredictability necessitates adaptability and openness to change, qualities that have greatly benefited me personally. Embracing life’s constant evolution is fundamental to truly living.

In your role as a C-suite leader, driving innovation and embracing disruption, what thoughts or concerns keep you awake at night? How do these reflections guide your decisions and leadership?

What keeps me awake at night is very little, honestly. Yet, what propels me in this role is the drive to anticipate what lies ahead. The gravest error in innovation and disruption is overlooking an opportunity and lacking readiness for industry shifts. To counter this, I stay deeply involved with trade organizations and media, constantly reading, and educating myself. I maintain close ties with academia as many new ideas are researched extensively before reaching fruition. This approach allows me to stay abreast of unfolding developments.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Education is key. My focus is on integrating advanced technology into elementary schools, teaching not only how to use it but also how to wield it ethically and productively. I’m driven by the potential of technology to enhance humanity, not diminish it — a cause close to my heart.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Clarience Technologies can be found here on LinkedIn.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.