The Download: John Zemonek, Founder, Aligned Technology Group

John Zemonek is the Founder and Managing Director of Aligned Technology Group (“Aligned”), a cloud advisory and services business focused on Amazon Web Services (“AWS”) with expertise in security. Prior to Aligned, John worked as a senior manager at Accenture in their cloud and infrastructure technology team supporting the adoption of cloud for healthcare and public sector clients nationally.

1. What is in your pockets?

Normally just my phone. It is my wallet—I use it to pay for everything—and I basically run the business off of it half the time.

2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?

Align Technology Group is a cloud advisory services company, and we have a focus on security and expertise in Amazon. We help organizations modernize their technology stack and also do it in a secure fashion. We are the only AWS services partner in North Carolina right now, so it’s created this unique opportunity for us with a lot of organizations looking for help as they migrate to cloud, adopt an analytics strategy, or make that IoT thing work better in their organization.

We started off as a re-seller, and really like a trusted advisor. It was a good way to get revenue in the door and it came easy, but it did not excite me. We wanted to be able to build something unique in the cloud transformation and cloud security domain, and Q3 of last year, we finally were able to get the confidence to say what we want it to be and get ultra-narrow. We focus on Amazon and say no to projects that are in other areas that are taking us away from the vision of helping organizations adopt cloud securely.

Fast-forward to now, and what’s exciting is that we now have assessments that we productized and created that are helping organizations. We’re continuing to get more and more customers both locally and abroad. We are in more control of our business so that we can hire the right people with the right skill sets and build the right capabilities and the right solution so that we truly have differentiated value for customers.

3. What is your favorite coffee spot?

The first thing that comes to mind is a cup of coffee on the back porch of a beach house in the Outer Banks. I don’t know that for me it can get any better than that. As an NC State alum, Cup of Joe always holds a very special place in my heart. There’s no question that the iced lattes over there helped me through a lot of classes.

4. What keeps you up at night?

What keeps me up at night is my three kids that always seem to bring home the germs from school.

Other than that, the way I started the company and the way I’ve always operated, even working in other organizations, is what I consider “second shift.” Meaning the time after the kids go down or once everyone is settled in, like 8 or 9 pm to midnight or 2 am shift.  I still do that regularly, probably way more than I should but it’s predicated off of the motor that’s running into my head where I feel like that’s good working hours for me to get a lot of stuff done. I’m definitely a night owl.

And more times than not, it’s just curiosity. There’s so much going on in the tech domain right now. Even within Amazon, there’s hundreds of services so many different unique things that are happening and I don’t have the hours in the day to be able to stay on top of all of it. I use that late-night time to get lost in learning and also catching up and being able to spend time on the things that I am curious about. If anything, it would be the fear of falling behind and not being able to stay ahead of the curve. But really, it’s just, it’s all curiosity and the interest in learning more.

5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?

We joke that like the company cafeteria is Cantina 18 in the Village District. If it’s lunchtime and I’ve got a window to sneak out somewhere, I’ll go grab a couple of tacos. Recently I’ve been on a on a Bella Monica lasagna kick.

6. What is next for you or your organization?

Right now, we’re definitely trying to pour as much fuel on the fire as we can. We are continuing to chase customers that are looking to do what we want to focus on, which is adopting cloud resources and securing them. So that is a major focus for us.

What’s next is building a core group of really smart people that are capable in a number of areas of AWS. For us, if we can get people to help automate, orchestrate, and develop more internal capability and IP, then that’s going to help us long term as we’re trying to support customers and bring something unique.

And so that’s where pretty much all the energy has been focused in the organization. It’s continuing to find the right customers. There’s not a lot of security partners for Amazon across the country and across the globe, and so we continue to hone in on the expertise to be able to remain differentiated and provide value to organizations.

About Brooks Malone 105 Articles
Brooks Malone is a NC CPA and Partner with Hughes Pittman & Gupton, LLP, and leads the Technology practice group. Brooks is also listed contributor to the National Fast Trac Tech Curriculum that was funded by the Kauffman Foundation. Brooks was named one of the 40 Under 40 in May 2005 by the TBJ, received the Outstanding service to Entrepreneurs Award in 2008 by CED, and named to the Leadership Raleigh Hall of Fame in October 2011. Brooks is a graduate of North Carolina State University and is active at American Underground and Raleigh Founded.