Lying awake one night back in the early 1980s as the rain pounded the leaking corrugated iron roof of his cramped home in the S\u00e3o Paulo favelas (slums), a seven-year-old Jorge Silveira resolved he was going to take responsibility in striving for a better life for himself and his family. Mum was an underpaid school teacher, while Dad was an even worse-paid traveling salesman. The wolf was never far from the door, and Silveira recalls the day his family car was repossessed after his father was unable to pay the exorbitant repayments demanded by local loan sharks, or agiotas.\n\u201cI grew up where life was something you fought for; nothing was taken for granted,\u201d he tells CIO Australia. Crime\u2014especially drug-related\u2014was everywhere, beckoning young people with the temptation of an easy way out. \u201cI could see how drugs and crime and weapons were dominant around me where I was growing up and I didn\u2019t want to become a statistic.\u201d\n[ Learn from your peers: Check out our State of the CIO 2021 report on the challenges and concerns of CIOs today. | Find out the 7 skills of successful digital leaders and the secrets of highly innovative CIOs. | Get weekly insights by signing up for our CIO newsletter. ]\nSilveira soon discovered he had a talent for painting and began producing works in the fashion of Brazil\u2019s ipiranga market tradition, which involves paint and layering with plaster, giving the effect of bas reliefs. With his mother accompanying him to local markets, he managed to sell a lot of work to impressed locals and soon opened his first savings account.\nA few years later came the most important opportunity in Silveira\u2019s life: the chance to apply for a scholarship to one of the country\u2019s top schools, for which there was only one place for every 30,000 applicants. \u201cI was super excited to try for that and I studied my backside off.\u201d Suffice to say, he was accepted. But the hard work continued, including waitering in the school cafeteria serving his better-off classmates in between lessons to pay for his own lunch and his books and other materials.\nSilveira\u2019s move to tech\nWhile clearly an artistic young student, Silveira had also always harboured an interest in tech, which saw him graduate with a diploma in electronics.\nHis first job was with leading Brazilian technology giant, Itautec. Pretty soon he was moving up the ranks, progressing from junior electronics technician to taking on Level 2 roles, and then after only a year becoming the \u2018escalation point\u2019 for VIP customers, which included high-profile Brazilian executives, government departments, and famous celebrities needing help with their dialup internet and PCs.\nAfter two years, Silveira accepted a position with General Motors which\u2014looking back\u2014marked the point at which his CIO career really took off. Starting work on the corporate giant\u2019s electronic data interchange (EDI) systems, he soon joined the team that would be responsible for building GM\u2019s\u2014and the automotive industry\u2019s first\u2014global supply chain portal. Silveira was then promoted to GM\u2019s tech systems lead for Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, with responsibility for onboarding more than 2,000 suppliers, most of which were still using fax.\nEffectively now a regional executive with one of the world\u2019s biggest corporations, Silveira figured it was probably time to learn English, a task which the enthusiastic fast learner accomplished in just six months. An important ability for any ambitious global executive, learning English also opened up a new personal path for Silveira, who managed to apply his new linguistic skills in wooing an Australian woman living in S\u00e3o Paulo where he still spent much of his time. Not long after, the couple agreed they would move to Australia.\nDeveloping James Bond\u2019s hard drive\nLanding in Melbourne, he took on a role with Boston-based travel communications company Ekit, which he admits some might have viewed as a let down from the heights of GM. \u201cBut the role taught me a lot allowing me to get involved in technology projects, focussed on usability analysis and CX [customer experience], while getting me interested in programming and mobility\u201d.\nFour years later and the adventurous Silveira was introduced by his sister, Maria\u2014by now a successful defence sector executive in her own right\u2014to a contact in the United States. The contact was working on a world-first commercial product to implemented the US National Security Agency (NSA)-approved hard drive single-pass \u2018secure erase \u2019overwrite method, and was looking to recruit talented techs to stand up a solution that would allow the forensic erasure of hard drives.\nNot asking too many questions, Silveira agreed to a meeting where he was showed the early-stage foundations. \u201cWhat I saw was the equivalent to destroying information beyond forensic recovery. There was nothing else like it in the market at the time, and I thought, \u2018This is a game changer\u2019.\u201d\nAt the time, Silveira was toiling away at night school finishing off a bachelor\u2019s degree in business information systems at Melbourne\u2019s RMIT, which saw him working from 7 a.m. to midnight every day with his day job. \u201cI ended up agreeing to join them\u201d.\nThe product was successfully commercialised, with Silveira securing contracts with law enforcement and security agencies in Australia, New Zealand, Italy, and Brazil, later receiving an industry award which was subsequently reported under the headline \u2018How James Bond would wipe his hard drive\u2019.\nFollowing this, Silveira had a brief stint working with an auditing firm contracted by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Australia to help with monitoring, compliance, and verifying aviation credentials.\nPower and responsibility\nFor someone who had spent years leading a major digital transformation in the data-intensive yet technically challenged automotive industry, then working in travel and mobility, followed by high-end data security and then aviation, Silveira was far from lacking lucrative options in the big cities.\nYet even though his new home of Melbourne was a sleepy hollow compared to the favelas of S\u00e3o Paulo, he and his partner set their sights on a quieter life in regional Victoria. Settling with her in Wangaratta, Silveira quickly became interested in rural health\u2014or, more to the point, the absence of it beyond the main metropolis of Melbourne.\nIt was now 2004 and the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health was looking for people to help it build a state-first telemedicine network supporting stroke victims in rural and regional Victoria. Stroke is one of the biggest killers outside of Australia\u2019s major cities, for a range of reasons including poor awareness, poor access to testing equipment, and limited ambulance fleets stretched over vast territories.\nRolling up his sleeves yet again, Silveira got to work with a small team of like-minded professionals trying to make a difference and supported the deployment of a state-wide telemedicine network linking 16 regional hospitals. A few years later, Silveira could call himself a genuine health technology leader after being appointed CIO at Goulburn Valley Health and Northeast Health, where he immersed himself in more detailed \u201cstrategic and operational plans\u201d.\nBut his real passion remained harnessing technology to help people during their times of greatest need. In that, Silveira distinguished himself, leading the development of a digital electrocardiogram (ECG) system in northeast Victoria that has been credited with saving countless lives and optimising scarce resources, and which earned him a place in the 2020 CIO50 Australia awards. \u201cWhat fascinated me was the power I had in my hands to solve big problems, especially the fact that people in the regions weren\u2019t getting the care they could potentially get,\u201d he reflects.\nNow 12 months in as the global CIO of a Top 5 global provider of assisted reproductive services, Virtus Health, Silveira is contemplating today\u2019s latest digital technologies as having the ultimate power\u2014to create life\u2014as he and his team beat a path to becoming world leaders in applying artificial intelligence, machine learning, and others smarts to help couples who wouldn\u2019t otherwise be able to have families.\n\u201cWe have built a digital interoperability fusing best-of-breed healthcare models with a consolidated approach to presenting data and information for the patient and their treatment life cycle,\u201d he says.\nSpecifically, the Virtus Health process involves embedding AI use cases in the clinical workflows, playing a critical role in augmenting human clinical decisions to find the best pathway for each individual, and bringing together data that were previously only loosely integrated. \u201cWe\u2019re throwing every bit of technology at it to make it work,\u201d Silveira says, \u201cleveraging the capabilities of the best people in particular fertility domains and presenting all of their information within the one system and within the context of fertility treatments.\u201d\nLargely thanks to the digital model he and his team have built, Virtus Health can claim to be one of the most successful fertility companies in the world. On 23 August 2021, Virtus took another important step buying one of its main competitors, Adora Fertility, in a $45 million deal.\nAppreciating the long journey\nFor Silveira, there\u2019s a romantic sense he has working in this latest role, reflecting on the long journey he\u2019s taken from the S\u00e3o Paulo favelas where life is often cheap and fleeting.\nBut more practically, he\u2019s grateful having had the good fortune to work in a variety of industries where technologies for better managing complex information have been so transformational, from automotive to cybersecurity and national security, travel, aviation, healthcare, and now fertility.\nAnd if he gets to help create\u2014or save\u2014a life along the way, well that\u2019s certainly a special added bonus for any professional, let alone a CIO.