Wilson Ho – Turo
In recent years, many people have opted for peer-to-peer lodging rentals while traveling or on vacation.
Increasingly , they’re doing the same with car rentals, particularly with a shortage of rental cars during the COVID-19 pandemic. Enter Turo, a San Francisco-based business which started in 2009 and now has a presence in over 7,500 cities around the world.
“The pandemic made people realize that there are other options that are more convenient, accessible and economical when it comes to renting cars,” says Wilson Ho, the company’s senior director of enterprise IT and security.
Turo is used by people to book cars or list cars for rent . Users can search for cars online by location and vehicle type, as well as how long they’ll need them. They can have the car waiting for them somewhere, say at an airport or hotel, or they can pick it up.
Ho says some car owners list their car to offset the costs of car ownership while others have turned Turo into a business with multiple cars. One host has a fleet of over 50 cars and a team managing pick-ups, drop-offs, cleaning, customer service and more.
The company has a presence in the U.S., the U.K. and Canada with a mission to “put the world’s 1.5 billion cars to better use.” While a team of engineers work on the app and grow the user base, Ho and his team manage enterprise IT and security operations, which he says enables more growth.
“When I was first hired, there were a lot of growing pains that most startups experience,” he says. “I had the opportunity to build an end-to-end IT strategy from the ground up, which was incredibly rewarding.”
Building a foundation
Prior to hiring Ho as Turo’s first IT leader in 2018, the company had outsourced IT, mostly for tech support, which he says created a lack of continuity. Ho led a small team to create an IT strategy and centralize IT governance of over 50 systems, which made it easier to see how software was being used and helped the company to be compliant.
“I understand people have different preferences, but having too many tools is not always helpful when scaling a company,” Ho says.
He also developed a help desk and boosted cybersecurity, with new programs and policies, such as enterprise security risk management. In 2021, he chartered an information security team.
Increasingly, his team partners with the engineering and operations teams to ensure security best practices are woven into standard operating procedures and also are part of the software development process.
“I enjoy working cross-functionally,” Ho says. “IT needs to understand all areas of the business and build strong relationships as a trusted business partner to help optimize the company.”
Understanding the business also helps Ho with risk management.
“As the company grows, I need to have a good understanding of our business risk profile and then equip Turo’s leadership with data points for better risk management,” he says. “Having metrics helps guide those decisions.”
Using identity and software-as-a-service management tools, like Okta and BetterCloud, Ho and his team have created workflows and permissions. Now, when employees are being onboarded, the IT department can easily set them up with the tools and access they need.
When someone is promoted or switches departments, this automation ensures they’ll have immediate access to what they need and that proper security is already in place, he adds. And when an employee leaves, they’ll be automatically removed from the programs and tools.
“Streamlining these processes creates more efficiency and adds in an extra layer of protection for the company,” Ho says.
Prior to Turo, Ho worked at other startups in San Francisco, including Roostify, a digital home lending platform. He spent more than a year there as head of IT operations.
Before that, he spent almost five years at Stanford Hotels, starting as a senior systems administrator and then being promoted to IT systems manager. When Ho came to Turo, he was looking for a supportive work environment with a community feel.
“It was important to me to find a company with a strong culture of putting people first,” he says.
While interviewing and getting to know the company, he says he felt connected not only to the people, but to the brand and its innovation. He felt that it would afford him the opportunity to be part of something that would continually grow.
One of his favorite things has been building his team, which now has eight people, including him. In 2020, Ho won the CIO Award from the Info-Tech Research Group, which he says wouldn’t have been possible on his own.
“Building a strong team that works well together has been my top priority, especially as we continue to scale,” he says. “The culture here is hands down the best of anywhere I’ve worked.”
View this feature in the Spring I 2022 Edition here.
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