The most difficult part of my job is finding that critical and rare resource -- technologists that will make the call on when to innovate and when to re-use existing approaches. These individuals are humble, strong and secure and are willing to do hands-on work when required as well as mentoring and guiding others as appropriate.
In my experience, it is absolutely critical to find talented technologists who are flexible and can work on almost anything while solving the bigger picture. This person is curious about how technology really works and learns about new technologies effortlessly for the pure joy of it.
Occasionally this person also enjoys sharing experiences and informally becomes a mentor to others, even superiors and peers. The 'best of the best' technologists also have a good understanding of local markets and customs and are able to use this to take good ideas from around the world and make them into great local ideas.
Resumés rarely reveal the essence of the skill of creativity, nor will a job description perfectly identify it. I have found that creating communities across the globe and empowering each community works as a magnet for talent. This model keeps technologists engaged and interested so the siren songs of competitors are less interesting to the individual. Once word spreads that there is an exciting team working on important problems in ways that are creative, the team members themselves become a source of leads to talent -- because highly creative technologists want to work with their peers.
Ownership is an important component of attracting top talent. In my organisation, each team has responsibility for something locally as well as regionally or even globally. It fosters a discipline of each community being the world class experts at something of interest to that community, while also being the owners/experts to the rest of the world. This takes away the feeling that one has to work in headquarters to work on interesting projects. In this model, establishing critical mass and encouraging each team to become global experts creates pride and success inside each team.
Time zones and distance will always be the enemy of collaboration. For a few years now I have used videoconferencing, and more recently high-definition video calling, to encourage collaboration. But to really get teamwork going, I organise an annual summit for all technologists in which people are encouraged to discuss their ideas and present a project or something that is a 'work in progress' for feedback by the wider group. Each team presenting also has to identify a challenge which they would like the broader organisation to help solve.
In conclusion, I believe that technologists are the most critical asset in IT. The success of a CIO/ CTO is defined by an ability to find, develop and retain the best talent. Building programmes that guide and retain the talent is an essential skill for a modern CIO/CTO. Establishing career paths, recognition and teamwork combined with programmes that reward collaboration and creativity are what I truly believe creates better outcomes.
Par Botes is a corporate vice president and chief technology officer for EMC Asia Pacific and Japan. He was recently appointed vice chairman of the Asia Cloud Computing Association and sits on several government advisory boards in the region. He has a degree in telecommunications from his home town of Stockholm, Sweden.
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