CIO

Roger Jones of Auckland Transport: Police officer to CIO

Roger Jones, general manager, business technology group, Auckland Transport, proves a diverse background is an optimum foundation for today’s business technology leaders.

Roger Jones, general manager, business technology group at Auckland Transport, has held various ICT leadership roles across sectors.

But it was his initial career as a police officer that opened the path for him to move into information technology, and provided him skills that allowed him to work in different industries, including health, dairy and airline..

Jones says he would have found it “a lot more difficult” to move industries during his ICT career without a law enforcement background.

“The police teaches you lots of things," he tells CIO New Zealand. "It teaches you leadership skills, to work in different environments, and to quickly understand the different environments and business models.”

Jones started using computers while working as a police officer in Waikato.

That sparked his interest, and he undertook two papers at the University of Waikato as an introduction to computing.

The police teaches you leadership skills, to work in different environments, and to quickly understand the different environments and business models.

Roger Jones, Auckland Transport

He then received a full Bachelor of Science degree, studying part-time while working as a police officer.

Jones was seconded to the IT department, and moved up from business analyst to strategy and planning advisor, as part of the six-member management team for the Police IT Group.

He switched sectors after working on various projects across the police “except INCIS”. His next two roles were technology and information manager at Health Benefits, and business services manager at the Capital and Coast District Health Board.

Jones then moved to the private sector, working for Air New Zealand and Fonterra. In 2006, he joined the government transport sector, moving to his current job nearly a year ago.

Jones sees the benefits of taking on different roles and across sectors.

Related: Lessons in transformation

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“If you progress on one career path, you can become blinkered,” he says. “Diversity in life experiences makes the difference.”

Jones keeps in touch with his former police colleagues and is aware of other officers who moved to IT, but as far as he knows he is the only one who moved to the rank of CIO.

If you progress on one career path, you can become blinkered

Roger Jones, Auckland Transport

There are two skills CIOs need to acquire, he says: Financial management, and program management certification.

“When I came through the ranks, you didn’t need that [program management certification], you just needed to have practical experience. Now companies look for certification to get past first base,” he says.

Jones recommends upskilling through executive courses, webcasts, reading articles and attending industry and vendor briefings. “You have to stay current,” he says. “There is still a learning component not only from a technology point of view but also from a people component.”

Jones says he and his team are working on 60 projects concurrently, with 30 more “in the pipeline”.

“As I finish more, the list will never go down.”

Having a good relationship with the business and key stakeholders is important in this type of environment, “so they buy into your prioritisation of those projects and align them where the company is going and wants to do”.

“The important thing in a management position is you have got to make a decision based on information you have at hand,” he says. “If you sit on things and wait for complete facts every time, you can slow the organisation down.”

Craig Soutar of the NZ Transport Agency on the three dimensions of the CIO role

Related: High-definition leadership

MetService's forecast: Innovation

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