IT leadership lessons from Singapore’s first CIO, Alex Siow

The ‘accidental CIO’ shares his decades of career lessons to help today’s CIOs succeed intentionally.

alex siow
Foto-U Studio

Alex Siow calls himself “an accidental CIO” in his recently released book, Leading with IT: Lessons from Singapore’s First CIO, and yet he is credited as the first CIO of Singapore. “I was the first person with the CIO title in Singapore. I can’t claim to be the first CIO in Singapore,” Siow said in an exclusive interview with CIO ASEAN. “I suppose the difference that I made in the community of IT was to bring IT to the foreground,” he says.

Widely respected in his field in Singapore and across Southeast Asia, Siow is currently a professor (practice) in the School of Computing at the National University of Singapore and concurrently director of the university’s Advanced Computing for Executives programme. Previously, he was the managing director for Health & Public Service at Accenture.

Siow started his career as a structural engineer in Singapore’s Housing & Development Board (HDB) in 1981 and rose through the ranks to become the CIO in 1989. In 2003, Siow joined the private sector and in due course became the senior vice president at StarHub, one of Singapore’s top telecom companies, from 2011 to 2012.

When he was made the head of IT for computer services at HDB, the statutory board of the Ministry of National Development responsible for public housing in Singapore, one of the conditions he put forth to the CEO was that he wanted to directly report to him. The CEO asked him what he wanted to be called? Siow replied that he wanted to be called the chief information officer, and that’s how Siow became the first IT head in Singapore to receive the CIO title.

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