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Treading the CIO to CEO path

Treading the CIO to CEO path

Jonathan Ladd was a customer of Datacom before becoming its group chief executive. On the way to moving from CIO to the vendor side, he worked briefly as an analyst.

Jonathan Ladd had first encountered Datacom, the IT services company of which he is now group CEO, as a customer.

Ladd was then global chief information officer at P&O, and having this perspective as customer and CIO had helped him when he became CEO.

Understanding what and how CIOs buy, how they think and the pressures they face was important for the role, says Ladd. CIOs, he adds, “have to convince CFOs, CEOs and other people in the executive table.”

“There is always a temptation to get down and dirty and do the technical stuff, but you have to take a much more strategic view of things... a broader, higher end view.”

A brief stint with the executive programme of analyst firm Gartner provided additional insights when he took the top role at Datacom.

“My role was to interpret their requirements for research and also to provide advice and mentoring to CIOs of organisations in Australia and New Zealand,” says Ladd.

Ladd joined the Datacom board in 2006 and stepped up to the top role when group CEO Michael Browne died of a heart attack in 2010.

He says while having the technology background was useful, he had to leave the technology behind when taking on the CEO mindset. “There is always a temptation to get down and dirty and do the technical stuff, but you have to take a much more strategic view of things... a broader, higher end view.”

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As global CIO, Ladd had also spent time on the “strategy side of things - which businesses we want to be in, what do we want to divest, what do we want to acquire.”

These activities “outside the IT landscape have given me a common view across the whole of the business from a strategic side which you do not get as a CIO”.

Ladd’s university degree was in psychology. “In those days, you had to specialise - it was arts or science,” he explains. He chose the latter, taking up maths and chemistry.

He went away for a year travelling around Europe and on return opted to continue a degree in psychology. “I enjoyed, I suppose, the logic side of it.”

He also did the hard yards in computer programming. “In those days, it was quite a hierarchical route - programming, then analyst, then project management. It was very good training.”

“Having got my head around that, I now use the forces of psychology,” he says. “At the end it is always about people. There is a people side of everything, why they do it, what are the benefits of it?”

“Interestingly, just as the advances in technology brought [benefits] for governments and corporates, they are also important for providing a quality of life or choice for people who otherwise will not have that choice.”

Ladd says he had to give up some commitments to other organisations when he became group CEO at Datacom.

He chose, however, to retain being chair of the Independent Living Centre NSW. The organisation provides information and practical assistance for people with disabilities who need assistive technology.

He explains it was a choice borne of a personal experience. His mother had contracted polio at the age of two. “She always had a mobility issue in terms of being able to get around,” says Ladd.

“It is obviously a way of giving something back,” he says. “That is enormously important to me.

“Interestingly, just as the advances in technology brought [benefits] for governments and corporates, they are also important for providing a quality of life or choice for people who otherwise will not have that choice.”

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