by Rebecca Merrett

Commonwealth Bank CIO talks future of IT careers

Oct 08, 20123 mins

Commonwealth Bank’s CIO, Michael Harte, spoke to young IT professionals at an Australian Computer Society event about the kind of qualities they need to attain now to succeed and help overcome a skills shortage that threatens Australia’s digital economy.

Be creative

A career in IT doesn’t have to be so monotonous, Harte said. No longer are the days where IT is only limited to the “drudgery” of running the day-to-day technology functions or mundane maintenance activities. With technology being applicable to so many industries, he said there is more opportunity for people in IT to have a career where their creative ideas can contribute to the business and add value.

“We can be quite creative. Some people regard the science community, or the mathematics community, or the engineering community to be rather dull. But in fact, most of what we do, [what] most of us endeavour to do is create new ways to apply that area of logic to improve the lives of others and to create value,” he said.

Be more than just technical

Being a technical ‘know it all’ probably won’t get you very far in a long-term IT career, Harte said. It’s all about having a drive to innovate and to help deliver business outcomes. This is what Harte said he looks for when hiring IT staff.

“Some people may [look for] really deep technical skills. That’s helpful, but it’s not necessary. What is necessary is an energy to be creative, to be inquisitive, to continue to be dissatisfied with the status quo, a willingness to get stuck in, and to deliver value. Ideas are worth nothing unless there is a plan to execute and deliver value,” he said.

“I found that business analytical skills were not sufficient to allow me to have a conversation with [business executives and stakeholders]. People that were technically inclined – people in research and development, people who are involved in logic and data, business rules and presentation – who had lots of technical depth were unable in many cases to explain [their ideas] in terms of the value proposition.”

Be a business leader

Harte said skills in management, communication, leadership and commercial understanding will become more prevalent in the future, as more businesses require technology to play an active role in the development and creation of competitive advantage.

“In IT, the best performing groups are those who make high quality decisions more faster and on a more consistent basis,” he said.

“What they do is they convert $1 of investment into $20 of return, and $30 if they are really good at it and $4 if they are only very average at it. But it is the investment in the platform, apps and content that you own or control that differentiates [you] from the competition on a sustained basis that creates competitive advantage.”

Remember: IT careers are diverse

The diversity of IT careers is still not being fully understood in education institutions, Harte said. Universities and other institutions don’t market IT as well as they could, sometimes limiting IT career opportunities to roles such as “database administrator” and “assistant engineer”, he said.

“They don’t talk about this career opportunity in IT: To be in the forefront of any industry creating value through data and logic. So whether it is the music industry, entertainment, gaming, social media, all of those are based on IT – not only traditional lucrative industries like healthcare and pharmaceuticals, advertising and finance.”