The CIO Questionnaire: Chris Airey, Lifestyle Services Group

Where were you born?
Bebington, Merseyside

What was your first job in IT?
I did a year industrial placement at British Coal just after the miner’s strike ended. It was a difficult time for the R&D staff I worked with as the mines closed.

It was a fascinating place to work, a blend of mine control systems and analytics. The people in the main had a sense of pride, made the effort to build friendships and importantly I discovered malt whiskey due to the Scots placement students there which has been life enhancing.

Who have been the most influential people in your career?
There have been many and I have been blessed by people who have made an effort. Some great managers at Ford and the old Littlewoods Group in particular.

For example, Steve Goodheart at Littlewoods who had a great attitude of calm when I was leading the .com era integration of ecommerce into the different brand supply chains.

Jim Riffe of RR Donnelly who was not IT but led the post acquisition integration of Astron and brought US military thinking to the process.

In IT terms the thought leader Chris Potts has helped me with understanding why the wrong decisions can get made, and Iain Baughan of Learning Curve has helped with personal development.

I would say the greatest influencer was Ken O'Brien global CIO of RR Donnelly who makes it all look a breeze.

What is your best tip for learning about the business?
I would say go do business projects and make sure the IT team is located with the key functions that drive the agenda.

One business project I was on involved six months of supply chain audits, store dawn visits for stock, fraud investigations — I learnt an immense amount about data and it's misuse.

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