CIO to CEO: Career advice from Rob Fyfe

CIO to CEO: Career advice from Rob Fyfe

‘The CIO can be an incredibly powerful position’ – the relentless pressures of the job are also opportunities to forge a great career and help the organisation outrank the competition.

Read more: Movers and shakers: Julia Raue, Geoff Thorn and Hugh McKellar

The review led to a raft of programmes at Air New Zealand, including the retention of its core reservation system that initially required over $250 million to be replaced.

Today, the reservation system remains the “heart” of Air New Zealand’s competitive advantage, he says, and has made several innovations its competitors have struggled to match. These include grab a seat, and “revolutionary changes” in the check-in and boarding processes.

“All those innovations and many more we would not have been able to address if we hadn’t retained our capability in managing our own reservation system,” says Fyfe.

You are in a perfect position to get a really broad understanding and perspective of the business.

Rob Fyfe

“Now, typically 70 percent of development expenditure is spent on customer facing and operational systems rather than corporate systems. And by the time I left, I was hardly ever hearing any complaints from people about project priorities or dissatisfaction with IT’s performance.”

Fyfe stayed as CIO for less than a year before becoming general manager of airlines. When Sir Ralph Norris moved to Commonwealth Bank in Australia, Fyfe took on the top job.

Fyfe therefore knows the push and pull demands placed on the CIO, and he also knows how it can be a very good position to vault into other executive roles. For this, he looked no further than his former boss Sir Ralph Norris, who started as a computer programmer, progressed to CIO and then CEO at ASB Bank, before taking the top role at Air New Zealand and Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the parent company of ASB.

Related:What is the next challenge for Sir Ralph Norris? Sir Ralph Norris has been chief executive of three companies (ASB Bank, Air New Zealand and Commonwealth Bank of Australia) in two decades. His name is invariably linked to any references to CIO to CEO ascent in this part of the world.

Being a CIO can be an “uncomfortable position”, says Fyfe. “You have your foot on each side of the fence."

Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

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