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The CIO as firefighter

The CIO as firefighter

Why Mike Clarke of SkyCity willingly went into firefighting mode.

When a CIO is said to be embroiled in firefighting, that means his or her time is spent dealing with one crisis after another – systems, technology or people-related. It leaves little time for doing more strategic things for the business, so is not an ideal place to be in. Last weekend, Mike Clarke, the CIO of SkyCity, willingly placed himself in such a situation. It was, however, not in the context of ICT management.

Clarke wore a fire fighter’s gear and breathing apparatus weighing 25 kilos and raced up 51 flights of stairs, or 1103 steps, of the SkyTower. He was a member of Squad 7, a group of non-firefighters who completed the annual Firefighters Sky Tower Challenge. The other members of his team included broadcaster Hillary Barry and Pru Etcheverry, director of the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation.

The challenge was far removed from Clarke’s role at SkyCity where he leads an 85-member team. “There is nothing that can really prepare anyone for that number of stairs, and the weight of the tank, helmet and suit were certainly more challenging than I thought they would be,” he says. “The tower has very little airflow so it gets hot when climbing, and the suit and helmet really added to that.”

Clarke says he has a “basic level of fitness” but stepped up his training in boxing and cycling to prepare for the event. But he admits, “I probably underestimated the challenge when I agreed to participate!”

The event is now on its seventh year and Clarke says it was an easy decision to join, because “it was such a great cause”.

“I thought it would be an opportunity to put something back into society, which it turned out to be.” The event has raised more than $190,000 so far for the Leukaemia and Blood Foundation.

Clarke says he entered the event with an enormous respect for firefighters. He is from Melbourne where he says the firefighter’s fantastic efforts are well documented. “Now I have an ever higher regard for what they do, having had a tiny experience of the efforts they put in.”

Clarke represented the SkyCity executive team in the event and says he will encourage other CIOs to take advantage of similar opportunities “to lead from the front”.

As well, his participation helped raise what is already a positive profile of IT in the organisation. In the two to three weeks leading to the event, Clarke says staff from across SkyCity greeted him to wish him good luck. “That is really positive endorsement from people,” he says. “From a personal perspective, I got a huge buzz from completing the challenge, so there was a big personal reward in helping others."

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Tags leadershipmike clarkeCIO roleskycity

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