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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: Switched on CIO: Simon Clarke of Trustpower

Related: In pictures: CIO Leaders' Luncheon featuring Rob Fyfe: Insights from a CEO-plus on customer engagement

Related: Rob Fyfe talks about the value of unfiltered feedback In his nearly seven years as CEO of Air New Zealand, Rob Fyfe made sure he answered each email personally, even the most difficult customer complaints.

As well, he says, “It can be an incredibly powerful position if you can act as that connection point that ties the opportunity together with the need.

“Use that opportunity to engage with and learn about the challenges, the dynamics going on and all those other functions in the business,” he states. “You are in a perfect position to get a really broad understanding and perspective of the business and that is a great way to position yourself from moving potentially into one of those roles or moving across the organisation rather than staying within the IT and communications space.”

At a recent CIO Leaders’ Luncheon in Auckland sponsored by Fronde, Fyfe shares his experience as one of a handful of CIOs who have made the leap to the top role.

Fyfe was CEO of Air New Zealand from 2005 to 2012, and at the time of the interview, was on sabbatical from a full-time role. He is also executive chairperson at Icebreaker, and is on the board of jewellery chain Michael Hill and Antarctica New Zealand.

Rapid prototyping

Fyfe says the airline industry is very conservative and risk averse, but at Air New Zealand, the mantra for taking on new projects is this: “If they are not actually potentially fatal to the business, if they don’t risk flight safety, let us be prepared to take some risks, try some things and prototype and adapt quickly if we find those things don’t work.”

“If we are prepared to rapidly prototype and use trial and error, we can make material progress far faster than our competitors."

“It is about rapid prototyping,” he says. “Being prepared to make mistakes and learn [from these] is absolutely critical.”

Related: CEO-plus For Rob Fyfe, innovation and risk management go hand in hand, and he shares how this was demonstrated during his term as CIO and then chief executive at Air New Zealand.

One of Air New Zealand’s most successful products, grab a seat, started, for instance, as a pilot.

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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