CIO Leadership Live Australia with Angela Coble, CIO50 Hall of Fame 2023 Inductee


CIO50 Australia Hall of Famer Angela Coble reflects on her career in IT and what she learned as a CIO, her doctoral research on women in leadership, how to influence the exec and the board, and the leadership traits CIOs of the future will need.

The following is an edited transcript of the conversation between Cathy O’Sullivan and Angela Coble

Cathy O'Sullivan:  Hello and welcome to CIO Leadership Live Australia. I'm Cathy O'Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief for CIO in APAC. I'm delighted to introduce my guest today, Angela Coble, who is the 2023 CIO50 Australia Hall of Fame inductee. Angela is the Managing Director of Transformational Leadership at Accenture. Previously, she served as a CIO and Executive Director of Business Transformation at Johnson & Johnson MedTech, Australia, and New Zealand. She's also been featured numerous times in the CIO50 list. Earlier this year, Angela was honoured with the Medal of the Order of Australia for her efforts to improve the Australian business community through actions aimed at increasing the participation and retention of women in leadership. Welcome, Angela.

Angela Coble: Thank you, Cathy. It's such a delight to be here today. I feel like I'm talking to a long-lost friend. It's going to be a wonderful conversation today about topics that are incredibly important to me. So I'm looking forward to it.

Cathy O'Sullivan:  Delighted to have you here. The last time we caught up was at the CIO50 Awards, where you were inducted into the CIO50 Hall of Fame. You were the second inductee into the Hall of Fame after Dr. Steve Hodgkinson received the inaugural award last year. How does it feel to be part of the CIO50 Hall of Fame?

Angela Coble:  It's quite surreal, to be honest. There are moments when I'll walk out into my lounge room and see the award sitting there, and I think, "Did that actually happen?" And then there are moments where I realize that we do what we do because we're passionate about it. We find energy and purpose in our contributions. So the feelings of being included ebb and flow. The physical award itself is a reminder that it did happen. It's been a great honor to be inducted alongside Steve. Just amazing.

Cathy O'Sullivan: Tell us a bit about your career journey. I know you didn't follow the traditional IT path. How did you end up in IT?

Angela Coble:  My journey is quite eclectic, a mix of curiosity and courage. It began with my first step out of high school. I had planned to become a lawyer, but ended up working for a small agricultural business. I spent five or six years there, leading their IT systems despite having no formal education in that area. I then moved into finance and banking, working my way up from a teller to a senior operating officer. This role exposed me to technology advancements, and I gained experience in decision-making and tech implementation. I transitioned through various industries, moving from agriculture to banking, energy, healthcare, and now professional services. I've always followed my curiosity, and a pivotal moment was when I joined Johnson & Johnson. A meeting with the VP of cybersecurity in Singapore led to my entry into the tech space. From that point, I fell in love with technology and embraced various roles in the field.

Cathy O'Sullivan: Reflecting on your roles, how have you managed the alignment of business and IT and overcome challenges in getting initiatives adopted?

Angela Coble:  Every leader faces roadblocks and barriers, and the key is how you approach them. I'm an optimist at heart and I always approach challenges with a "Yes, and" mindset. It's essential to prioritize and make decisions aligned with what's important to both individuals and the business. A pivotal example was my initiative to untether a team of 450 people at Johnson & Johnson, enabling them to work fully in the cloud. This revealed gaps in digital literacy, which I had to address. Overcoming barriers requires a deep understanding of the audience, effective storytelling, and the ability to decode complex tech issues into impactful messages. Building psychological safety and considering how your message will be received are essential when presenting to executives and boards.

Cathy O'Sullivan: You're passionate about diversity and increasing the participation of women in leadership roles. What practical steps can be taken to promote diversity and encourage women in IT leadership?

Angela Coble: Reframing tech roles as problem-solving opportunities and promoting an environment of continuous learning is crucial. We need to bring people from diverse backgrounds into tech roles, emphasizing practical skills over immediate technical expertise. Additionally, fostering a Girls Club that supports women throughout their entire careers, rather than just at specific moments, can drive positive change. Addressing the unintended consequences of consciousness raising and focusing on sustained diversity of thought will lead to more women entering and thriving in tech leadership. Creating a supportive environment and challenging traditional stereotypes are key.

Cathy O'Sullivan:  What advice do you have for aspiring IT leaders who want to achieve recognition like being inducted into the CIO50 Hall of Fame?

Angela Coble: Focus on making a difference rather than accumulating accolades. Let curiosity and purpose drive your actions. Don't be afraid to step sideways in your career to gain new experiences and perspectives. Zigzag through different roles and disciplines to build a portfolio of knowledge and skills. Align your personal purpose with the impact you want to create, and the recognition will follow naturally.

Cathy O'Sullivan: Lastly, what's important to you in the coming months?

Angela Coble: Personally, I'm aiming to complete my doctorate, which has been an exercise in stretching my mind and learning. Professionally, I want to share the insights from my research to make a positive impact on the tech industry. I'm also excited to accelerate my involvement in shaping the technology landscape and supporting the growth of diversity and leadership within it.

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