I began my career 33 years ago; at that point I started working with the second generation computers, the IBM 1410 series. It was my first brush with live computers and their power to solve real business problems like processing payrolls, and help with financial accounting or statistical reports.
When I look back and compare the past to the realities I face as a CIO today, two observations come to mind.
The first revolves around the approach today’s generation has with technology. But let’s rewind a bit. I started working with the Burmah Shell Company, which was later renamed Bharat Petroleum. The first computer at BPCL came in 1966. By 1983-84, we wanted something that could help us with centralized computing and BPCL got its first IBM Mainframe1410.
At that time, computers were completely new to us. Although most of the people on my team were extremely sound in the basic concepts of mathematics and computer sciences, platforms like Unix were something we hadn’t worked with before. But the people I worked with in those days had a huge appetite for knowledge. We had no managed services or 24/7 after-sales support, which meant that when something went wrong it was up to us to figure a way out. I know it’s just the natural evolution of things, but this is one thing I feel the current generation misses.
The millennial generation was born with so much access to technical advancement that sometimes they take technology for granted. The current generation of young people who work with technology have so much so easily available (from support to solutions) that they have stopped trying to learn things inside out. And, in the long run, that could be dangerous.
Another thing that haunts me are these conversations I often come across around whether CIOs–who are techies at heart–can develop good business-IT alignment. I started my career as a hands-on technology specialist. But over the years, as I have moved up the hierarchy and graduated to the role of a CIO. I have always found it easy to understand that business and IT are both my partners and that it would be unhealthy for any one of the two to dominate.
In my long career, I have learned that technology is fascinating, but it is upon the CIO to use it in a level-headed manner and for the benefit of the business.