Doing business with Rhoda Holmes

Doing business with Rhoda Holmes

The CEO of Optimation started her ICT career when she joined British Telecom 21 years ago.

Rhoda Holmes Company: Optimation

Position: CEO

Age: 44

Where do you live? Kohimarama, Auckland.

Are you married? Kids? Yes, to Rob, love of my life and my best friend. We have two sons, Josh, 16, and Oli, 26.

Where did you go to school? Hazlehead Academy in Aberdeen, Scotland, left at 15… then did my MSC in Telecommunications Engineering and Business 18 years later at the University of London.

How long have you been working in ICT? I joined British Telecom in 1988, so nearly 21 years. I worked for seven years before that in the Scottish Health Service, initially as a psychiatric nurse cadet. I’ve worked in ICT in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and have had roles with BT, Clear, Telstra Saturn, AAPT, and Telecom New Zealand/Gen-i before Optimation.

What are your interests outside work and ICT? I am a keen long-distance runner and triathlete. I’ve just completed NZ Ironman and ran the Great Wall of China marathon. That was my twentieth marathon. I love laughing so any type of comedy film or TV (preferably British!) I play trombone and piano and love all types of music. My oldest son plays bass guitar in a band (Needles and Bees) so I like going to their gigs. My youngest son plays football so I watch a lot of that. I am currently learning to speak Mandarin. But my favourite pastime is watching my beloved Warriors play at Mount Smart Stadium with my husband — I am a rugby league girl through and through!

What’s the best thing about working with IT executives? There are so many innovative and talented people in IT — it is great to swap ideas and try new practices. Technology is constantly changing and you are always learning from each other. And irrespective of the technology, the challenges and differences of implementing technology in different businesses and working with CIOs to achieve this is very rewarding.

What is the worst? I don’t think I’ve found that yet — it has been 21 years and I still love it. If I was pushed I would have to say I hate the TLAs (three letter acronyms) and the jargon! What we do is really simple and we scare people off by speaking this mysterious language.

For customers, are you the technical authority on products or an approachable ‘big picture’ person? Definitely the latter, although I am a qualified engineer and my team will tell you I am very comfortable in the detail, especially to ensure that we deliver.

If you could invent any IT product for clients, what would it be? A simple tool to help them model their business and IT needs four to five years out, to help take some of the guesswork out of architecture roadmaps and enable speedier decision making.

What is the stupidest question CIOs ask you? Do CIOs ask stupid questions? I’ve been asked some very unusual ones. Probably the nicest one was being asked to conclude a meeting in the company bar – the Lion Nathan CIO was always a favourite visit of mine.

What is your favourite networking situation? Anywhere where I can chat to groups of customers, supplier partners or people working in the industry — you learn such a lot from these informal interactions. I quite enjoy meeting fellow ICT professionals out when I’m biking too — there are a lot of keen cyclists in our industry.

Do you prefer to work with people you know or relish the challenge of the new? A bit of both — over the years I have built a team of people that I know I can always trust to help deliver great outcomes. I also love working with new people who challenge the way I think.

What are you passionate about? The Warriors, my family and raising money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis, (although not necessarily in that order!)

What are you afraid of? Spiders.

I’d like to offer you a bribe... what couldn’t you resist? A bottle of Te Anau Pinot Noir!

What will you do when you retire? Spend loads of time with Rob. Complete my goal of running a marathon on every continent (I’m leaving Antartica until then). And work in the not-for-profit sector in Asia Pacific. And spend as much time as I can in the Coromandel — I think it is a little slice of heaven.

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