CIO Management Dwell NZ with Steve James, Common Supervisor of Know-how, Woolworths NZ

Cathy O’Sullivan  00:07
Welcome to CIO management Dwell New Zealand. I am Cathy O’Sullivan, Editorial Director for Foundry’s Enterprise and Channel manufacturers in Australia and New Zealand. On at this time’s episode, I am delighted to be joined by Steve James who’s the Common Supervisor of Know-how at Woolworths New Zealand. Kia ora Steve, thanks for being with us at this time.
Steve James  00:28
It is an absolute pleasure to be right here.
Cathy O’Sullivan  00:30
 Glorious, wonderful. Look, you’re one in every of our CIO50 alumni, and we have caught up quite a lot of occasions. However for many who do not know you, are you able to inform us slightly bit about your profession so far how you bought your begin in IT. And I suppose what have been a few of your profession milestones?
Steve James  00:47
Yeah, completely. Properly, my first job was a forklift driver, as a result of I wished to go away faculty early. However I used to be fortunate to sort of fall into expertise, it was one thing I had been fascinated about, after electrocuting myself with a screwdriver at the back of a prototype pc once I was very younger. However it did, it did spark an curiosity for me in expertise, like my first expertise function was working for an ISP on helpdesk. However you recognize, transferring by way of various kinds of roles, mission administration, service supply sorts, issues, I actually fell in love with the technique and the individuals management, and extra notably just lately, I’ve an actual ardour for bringing individuals into the trade. And likewise simply seeing them gentle up and grow to be fired up concerning the careers and expertise and serving to them be who they’re at work, you recognize, and what genuinely now, milestones I’ve actually loved working. Among the key locations I cherished  – Les Mills Worldwide, I used to be there a few roles earlier than this, and, you recognize, working in a extremely fast-paced the health trade, world chief and health, and it was superior to be in a really quick paced, virtually startup like firm, and, you recognize, we, we did an enormous cloud migration, we, we managed to open up abroad places of work, and principally the time it took to face up an web connection, and it was we have been simply innovating, innovating, innovating. However you recognize, companion that was coming right here into Woolworths and you recognize, vastly advanced, and I suppose the milestone for me right here, and what I am actually happy with is the way in which we have been in a position to companion with our colleagues throughout at Woolworths Group and actually get very best outcomes for our prospects. And it has been a little bit of a journey to construct these relationships and actually flip a few of these roadblocks into alternatives for us as a staff.
Cathy O’Sullivan  02:44
And superior that you simply began out as a forklift driver due to course, I am positive that at a few of your your finish customers within the organisation, you take a look at them as nicely in the case of expertise. So look, Woolworths and extra just lately, the Countdown model are very well-known to Kiwis, however for many who aren’t conscious of Woolworths do, Steve, are you able to give us a little bit of an outline of the organisation? You already know, its function and what you and the staff take care of there?
Steve James  03:08
Completely. So, um, you recognize, at our coronary heart Woolworths is a grocer. So we’re placing meals on the desk for those who want it. We’re a big organisation, now we have barely over 22,000 workers. We’ve got round 190 shops proper from the highest of the North Island to the underside of the South. These are Woolworths and likewise Countdown shops in the mean time as we’re going by way of a rebrand. A really advanced provide chain system with distribution centres all through the nation as nicely. Meat manufacturing manufacturing facility; now we have a digital media enterprise, now we have a wholesale enterprise as nicely. We’ve got our On a regular basis Rewards programme, which is hopefully going to construct into New Zealand’s most cherished loyalty programme. My staff take care of the expertise that principally drives the shops. So your point-of-sale, the networks in retailer, we offer the expertise to the digital media firm which might be displaying their signage, the expertise that runs our forklift techniques, our selecting techniques, that form of factor. We provide the underlying platforms for the automated selecting amenities now we have, now we have a robotic system that is selecting out groceries that get delivered out to individuals. So we’re actually at that foundational facet of something you may consider that drives a really massive advanced grocery retailer or fast-paced shopper items; my staff is there someplace. Now the important thing for us with the ability to keep fairly lean in New Zealand however nonetheless service such a big advanced system as we utilise a number of expertise that’s truly housed in our Australian head workplace. And once more, like I mentioned that the magic for us is how we companion to get actually good outcomes for them. So, the expertise staff is fairly full service starting from helpdesk finish consumer compute by way of to entrance finish developer, architect that sort of stuff as nicely.
Cathy O’Sullivan  05:11
So then simply broadening out on that – and also you touched on a few of the issues that you simply and the staff take care of there – what have been a few of the key achievements and the way is that digitalization journey monitoring?
Steve James  05:22
Yeah. Look, I do know lots of people speak about this, however throughout COVID was one in every of my proudest moments with my staff. You already know, that was a really uncommon, unprecedented was the phrase all of us used on the time state of affairs there. And I do not know if individuals bear in mind, however, you recognize, we have been a important employee, so individuals nonetheless wanted to enter the grocery store, we nonetheless wanted a few of us to enter the workplace. However we’re additionally confronted with some actually distinctive challenges, and loopy unsure occasions. And a kind of issues is, was we had sure individuals who may completely not depart their houses as a result of they may have had poor well being, they possibly needed to keep remoted so that they did not catch COVID as a result of it could be life threatening. And we did not have a method of giving them the precedence to our supply slots with on-line purchasing. And the staff –  throughout from our infrastructure groups by way of to our digital staff – inside about two to a few weeks, we had stood up this digital buyer name centre on truly Zoom expertise, as a result of it is the one factor we may, have been ringing round everybody, reducing by way of all of the purple tape, it was you recognize, very, very fast. And we managed to get this name centre up staffed by volunteers, and in such a brief period of time, and it made such a giant distinction to these individuals that basically wanted it, and I used to be actually happy with the staff to simply go, we principally mentioned, ‘Look, we simply do not actually care the way you do that, you have to get it accomplished, go away and make it occur’. And you recognize, loopy whiteboard classes, individuals simply making selections, they’re entrance and centre. Very, very cool. I believe one of many different massive issues, you recognize, on a base degree, we have we have accomplished an enormous means of transferring issues up into the cloud, as everybody’s most individuals have. That is been actually profitable for us. Our response – the opposite massive one –  the response to Cyclone Gabrielle was I imply, it was a heartbreaking time, I used to be truly abroad within the UK working remotely whereas I used to be with household. And I could not be right here throughout, you recognize, what was most likely one of the crucial severe climate occasions, actually of my lifetime. And we had a number of communities that have been utterly minimize off. So no roads, our telephone, water. And we needed to get our shops up and working as rapidly as attainable. I imply that the meals in these shops was simply sitting there, we could not get the shops open, we could not promote that stuff. And we had individuals in that neighborhood to say ‘we have to get this meals on the market’. And the staff got here up with this actually artistic resolution and dealing with our companion Spark to get a satellite tv for pc in there, get the shop techniques speaking by way of the satellite tv for pc, with on, you recognize, mills producing that energy, and we managed to get these shops again up and working, getting the shops again up and working the instances and the magic, however we have been in a position to service communities and provides them what they wanted. After which lastly get that meals and the staff, you recognize, operated rapidly, with urgency. I used to be not current, I used to be form of attempting to coordinate issues from afar. And it was it was a extremely proud second. Our digitization journey as nicely. We’re fairly far by way of. So now we have a world-leading e-comm service for our groceries. Final week, the penetration was up close to 16%, which is world class. And we do have plans to replatform to one thing a bit extra fashionable, that can make it a bit extra environment friendly and permit us to utilise a few of the new applied sciences coming down the pipeline, as a result of a few of these techniques are slightly dated. However we actually have a view on how can we optimise optimise, optimise with expertise, make  the shopper expertise higher within the retailer and on-line. And I believe we’re fortunate to have once more, our colleagues at [Woolworths] Group typically ideating and placing in a number of funding there. And we will decide and select the issues gonna work for New Zealand prospects as nicely.
Cathy O’Sullivan  09:24
So simply on that, then, you recognize, how do you make sure that that tech technique aligns with the general mission and objectives of the organisation? What are you in the case of your IT initiatives and guaranteeing it strains up with what you are promoting technique?
Steve James  09:41
All that, for us is an actual mindset shift. So technologists typically actually love expertise, that is why they’re within the sport. They love to speak about expertise, and so they find yourself speaking about issues that nobody understands. So what we have labored actually, actually laborious to do is that mindset that our expertise technique lives in service of our enterprise technique. So what which means for us is a few issues. Once we’re speaking concerning the work that we do, we have labored actually laborious for the staff to not speak about widgets: ‘I constructed the server’, ‘I created this community’, ‘I made this app’, however we discuss concerning the worth it is created for the enterprise. It is a it is a small language shift. However for a technologist, it makes us take into consideration, ‘okay, what’s the tangible final result for our customers, for our prospects, for our enterprise right here?’ which not solely then helps you tie into what the high-level enterprise technique is, it offers you an actual sense of connection to us being grocers, placing meals on the desk, serving to those that cannot get out of the home. So it actually builds a really shut connection to having that means at work. I imply, we will we do use instruments, like goals, key outcomes, okay, as we’re in quarterly planning cycles, we’re typically in dash cycles, even in a few of our infrastructure groups who work in dash cycles. And together with that, utilizing all that great things like retros, and issues like that, to guarantee that we’re we’re continuously pivoting again to be supporting that enterprise technique. And so we do create a tech technique, however we do not create it till now we have what the enterprise is eager to do. We preserve monitor of tech, now we have a expertise radar that is wanting on the totally different applied sciences on the perimeter that might be used quickly which might be getting used within the firm. So we’re positively matching it up with a expertise roadmap lens. However what’s extra vital to me, as a result of I’ll rent people who find themselves wildly artistic technologists. However what’s extra vital is that they study to grasp the broader enterprise context. So too typically I have been in firms, the place it is expertise and enterprise. And I, I search to interrupt that wherever attainable, as a result of we’re simply the enterprise, we’re Woolworths, whether or not we’re in Australia and New Zealand, wherever, we’re Woolworths, we’re grocers, we’re right here to place meals on the desk. Or as I am pure on an indication right here, make Kiwis lives slightly little bit of day by day. That is that is truly our function to not construct expertise. So as soon as the staff understands that when they really deeply perceive our, our market financial context, what the companies try to do, what prospects are wanting, or what they’re fighting, once we are requested to offer options or present supporting platforms, we will ship higher outcomes and which might be uniquely tailor-made to get the issues that prospects and the enterprise need fairly than ‘I construct this as a result of it is easy for me as a technologist’ or ‘I construct this as a result of it is fascinating to me as a technologist’. And it is like I mentioned, it has been a journey. However it permits us to storytel and permits us to not simply present up on a 50-page presentation that sends everybody to sleep, however truly inform the story of how we made a Kiwi’s life higher every day, how we delivered meals to somebody desk, how we bought a retailer again up and working throughout the worst climate occasion of dwelling reminiscence, you recognize, that that is the magic for me. And it means you are in a position to articulate your worth to what you are promoting stakeholders to your government, you are in a position to preserve your staff closely engaged, they need to come to work as a result of they know why they’re there. And but actually vital to me that we preserve that connection tightly between the tech and what the enterprise final result is.
Cathy O’Sullivan  13:27
So look, there’s a number of noise in the mean time round issues like AI. I imply, is there any? Properly it is not that new. However is there any sort of rising tech that you’re fairly enthusiastic about? And also you do see worth in in your organisation?
Steve James  13:41
Yeah, yeah, I do. I imply, I, I like individuals however I’m a technologist at coronary heart. I like enjoying round with totally different tech at house. And I believe when you discuss to my staff, I’ve bought slightly gaming handheld. There will be such as you spend extra time like loading totally different working techniques and enjoying with settings and also you do truly enjoying video games. I simply I like that form of stuff. So what am I getting enthusiastic about? Quite a bit and fairly than first concentrate on a selected expertise, something that makes our staff safer is a key factor for me artistic methods of constructing our staff safer in retailer. We’re dealing with these very, very excessive ranges of aggression, bodily violence, verbal abuse, and any artistic method that we will use pc imaginative and prescient or digital alarming techniques or one thing that isn’t intrusive to anybody’s privateness, however does give us the power to select up when behaviours getting out of hand someplace. I like all these kinds of issues. And we do have some issues within the works. I am unable to actually speak about them at this time, however you will notice a few of our staff in the mean time carrying physique cams. It is a quite simple expertise. It isn’t new, funky expertise, but it surely’s creating I believe an actual protected platform for them, if somebody kicks off at them in a retailer, and the sunshine activates on the video digital camera, typically that particular person winds again. So I like easy issues like that, which may be not new, however are actually making a tangible distinction to the staff. Something that reduces toil or that boring, pointless repetitive work. So that’s the place I believe, a few of the new massive language fashions or the massive motion fashions or yep, AI, I needed to throw AI in there. So if anybody’s doing bingo, they will cross that off the record. There’s actual alternative, like actual tangible alternatives for us in that area. Have we dived into it with each toes? No, not but. Are there experiments proper throughout our enterprise on seeing what influence it will probably have? Completely, all through the enterprise. It is one thing that I am utilizing day by day, simply on easy methods of serving to tightening up my writing, creating pictures and slide decks for work. Inside our enterprise,  we’re a Google store, so now we have the Gemini massive language mannequin connected to our electronic mail and paperwork. And also you’re discovering an increasing number of individuals utilizing it day by day, we’re seeing these makes use of numbers actually undergo the roof. Why do I believe that is thrilling? As a result of I believe it democratises entry to being an excellent particular person at work, to artistic writing that possibly somebody cannot do as a result of they’re both challenged with their writing abilities, or they’ve a situation which means they can not learn or write tha nicely, this democratises that. And as we get to a degree the place you may simply discuss naturally, such as you and I are speaking, and get a response that is helpful and invaluable to you. I believe we will see an increasing number of of that come to life.
Cathy O’Sullivan  13:57
Yeah, it is it is fascinating, is not it? All this rising tech that now we have. However in fact, you recognize, you talked about that you’ve a lean staff. And naturally, you I am positive have a number of legacy tech that you simply and the staff additionally should take care of. So how do you steadiness that then, that want for innovative expertise with, you recognize, sustaining present IT infrastructure and techniques?
Steve James  17:11
Yep. So, you recognize, we’re a posh grocer. So there was a number of actual core 101  base tech. We’re very fortunate that over the past 5 years, our group has centered actually laborious on transferring to modernising our platforms. Inside our New Zealand enterprise, now we have solely a small handful of providers that both aren’t up within the cloud and closely resilient. However we have you learnt, now we have 180 shops, 190 shops all through the nation, DCS with, you recognize, 1000s of entry factors, 1000s of switches, you recognize, there’s there is a massive quantity. We’re fortunate that we we make investments a considerable amount of my capital spend yearly, there’s an life biking outdated gear, now we have a really, very inflexible coverage, as soon as it hits finish of life, we cycle it as quickly as we will, the next yr, we hit tight metrics, monitoring the danger related to leaving sure tech in. And we will reveal tangible worth to the enterprise by having that giant funding. So I believe ‘how will we deal with that?’ We present the worth of investing to modernise these platforms. For instance, you recognize, we’re investing massive sums of cash to switch that outdated gear yearly that’s there as a part of our capital spend for the final three years. And we will present that ‘Cease Commerce Occasions’, we name them, so anytime a distribution centre or retailer can’t function prospects, the clock begins ticking. So 5 years in the past, that was 600 hours a yr, so virtually two hours a day, you’d have a retailer that could not commerce. Now, this yr, it is 40 hours a yr. So there’s virtually by no means a ‘cease commerce’ incident. And that’s, we will immediately correlate that with the time we began changing outdated techniques to now. And that, you recognize, with the ability to inform that story is basically vital. In order that’s that is how we articulate once more, we use storytelling fairly than ‘you will need to improve your techniques’, we present the tangible worth. After which I believe the opposite factor that we’re beginning to transfer to as as expertise adjustments, is we’re introducing platforms which might be simple to keep up. So for instance, if we’re going to introduce new networking techniques, is there a cloud dashboard that we will handle every part from one place with, say software program outlined networking? And which means we do not want massive exponentially massive techniques as we scale or individuals groups as we scale. And you may simply have a core set of people that can preserve eyes on glass and take a look at these issues, you recognize, from an workplace or from wherever hybrid groups throughout the Tasman Yeah, that is most likely that.
Cathy O’Sullivan  20:03
So one other basic a part of conserving you up and working is, in fact, guaranteeing that your techniques are safe. So inform us a bit about your method to cybersecurity, and the way do you make sure the safety and privateness of all that knowledge that you’ve in your, in your techniques there at Woolworths?
Steve James  20:20
Yeah, we’re fortunate to have a extremely mature cyber follow throughout that group. In order that’s housed with our CISO, throughout Australia. However now we have a extremely, actually good, proactive, wealthy dialogue with him on the way to method these items, now we have nice methods of monitoring the standing of the place we’re at with our threat, we commonly speak about threat, we’re clear, the place there are dangers. So we do not have a tradition of preserve it hidden. As a result of you do not need anybody to know, we truly lean proper into going truly, it is higher you say how unhealthy it’s, as a result of then we will focus the funding on the vital stuff. We have just lately been by way of a programme the place we have had gone by way of all our techniques once more, audited them and says, ‘The place are they on these sure metrics’, in order that we all know and everybody’s fessed up and mentioned, ‘Yep, this one’s not nice’. ‘This one was nice’, ‘this one’s not nice’. And now we all know the place to funnel that cash fairly than conserving it hidden. In order that’s one of many strategies we use, now we have some nice tooling that automate a few of the issues. So common pen exams are taking place with some tooling now we have, code is scanned because it’s dedicated, our API’s are scanned with a particular layer that form of be sure we’re not releasing any private knowledge that should not be launched. And finally, I believe we would like to maneuver to that zero belief atmosphere the place any laptop computer can join with a layer in between, as a result of after that layer, it is protected fairly than having to ensure you’ve bought only one sort of laptop computer, one sort of firewall, you recognize, we need to make it simple for for our staff. And so, add in that zero belief layer. Yeah, and look, now we have some some good processes. So we’re, like I mentioned, we commonly speaking about it, now we have a number of visibility of issues which might be taking place actual time, I believe that is actually vital. In order that we will perceive the traits of what is taking place. So sure threats will evolve. And as they evolve, we discover new issues that we hadn’t realised can be vulnerabilities in our techniques. And so we will focus funds in there. However that, that actual time, if view of issues with issues like ExtraHop and CrowdStrike, that can provide us that ‘oh, look, we will see individuals nibbling away on the fringe of the community with this kind of new factor we have not seen earlier than’, this kind of behaviour that may not be registered within the system as a cybersecurity menace, but it surely’s very suspect behaviour. After which we will go and examine that isolate these machines. So look, I really feel we’re in an excellent place. Nothing’s excellent, contact wooden in every single place. However once more, I actually assume the important thing factor is that you simply speak about it, that you’re sincere and clear. As a result of I’ve labored at locations the place the tradition is ‘Do not, Do not discuss, do not inform no matter it’s, you recognize, let’s preserve it a secret. And we’ll try to repair it on the aspect.’ However both you get caught brief when an occasion occurs and somebody will say, ‘Why did you not make us conscious of this threat.’ Or you may’t safe the funding that it’s good to safe your perimeter or to safe your code. For us, it has been very profitable. And once more, now we have that tradition of a number of help from our senior administration. So when you do come and discuss to them, they are saying, ‘How’s this wanting?’ You go ‘Not nice.’ Oh, okay. That makes me uncomfortable. Do you’ve gotten a plan?’ ‘Sure, now we have a plan.’ ‘Do you want assist with it?’ ‘Sure, I need assistance with it’. ‘Okay. We’ll come again to you with how that is going.’ So yeah, it is a good cultural factor for us as nicely.
Cathy O’Sullivan  20:20
Yeah, basic to have that safety tradition throughout the organisation, as he mentioned. And so in the case of expertise companions, then what do you search for Steve, while you’re going out to market? What what does an excellent partnership seem like out of your perspective?
Steve James  24:06
Yeah, we’re large and typically is usually a little bit laborious to work with. Not everybody loves us. Let’s get that out of the way in which. Some, some companions love working with us some do not. However look, we what I need is an actual companion. I need somebody who’s going to come back into my organisation and be my organisation. They convey their experience, however once more, virtually like I used to be saying about my staff that they perceive deeply our enterprise technique. We do not disguise that from them. They’re concerned within the quarterly planning, they’re concerned within the dash cycle, that sort of stuff. They are not simply coming in and exiting the enterprise, as a result of with that context, they will present a a lot richer service to us. We’ve got a extremely, actually tight governance course of on companions, which sounds actually boring, but it surely’s extremely profitable. So and look, when you discuss to Spark – and I can say that as a result of I believe they’re gonna say the identical factor – they one in every of our key companions in New Zealand, and they’re on this course of. And what it permits us to do is now we have an settlement with them, a grasp providers settlement. We’ve got a staff of people that undergo that, and you recognize, we legally agree. After which now we have a gaggle of people who go ‘Cool. So what does that imply for the enterprise?’ And the way will that companion show to us they’re assembly their commitments in that settlement. We meet month-to-month, we speak about these issues, every part’s on the desk, each six months, they get an opportunity to fulfill with our government staff, discuss to the manager about how they are going, however what further they might carry into the enterprise. And since it is on this repetitive cycle, every part is on the desk. So there’s none of this passive aggressive, the passive aggressive BS, I’d say, that may typically come into our vendor relationships or companion relationships the place individuals do not feel they are often upfront, or they only need to be aggressive and thump the desk. Companions that need to work with us in that method, are extremely profitable right here and have an excellent tenure. And I’ve discovered that that being very clear, and being very sincere, and truly utilizing your issues like your grasp providers settlement to your benefit, fairly than only a doc that goes right into a drawer is extremely useful for each events. Since you each know the place you stand. I do love you recognize, a few of the different companions who’ve ideating with us. And due to our scale, they’re keen to take dangers on us give some new tech that possibly they possibly have not launched. And we love working with companions who can, once more, perceive their enterprise and go, ‘Look, we have got this concept for you. How about your do this factor out?’ Yeah. So anybody that understands that context goes to be actually profitable with us.
Cathy O’Sullivan  26:48
So switching gears slightly bit. What’s your method, then in the case of getting one of the best out of your individual staff? How are you creating that atmosphere that basically helps individuals thrive?
Steve James  27:00
Yeah. I truly spoke about this slightly bit final week. And I used to be attempting to resolve what issues I wished to speak about. And I believe what I mentioned final week might be the place my head’s in the mean time. So there’s, there’s a number of key issues. As a frontrunner, and my leaders who’re with me, and my staff, is studying to hear and never discuss a lot. I’m a talker, as you are most likely understanding from at this time. I like speaking. I like wealthy dialog. However I’ve needed to study to dial that again. So possibly my want to speak is a ten. And what occurs if I dial it again to a six and truly spend time listening, eyeballing individuals, looking for the quiet particular person within the room, looking for that various opinion that I do not like, you recognize, and attempting to listen to gold in that and I believe that is actually vital to carry one of the best out in your staff. It helps them really feel protected to talk. It does enrich your choice making course of. Since you get to listen to the ideas that are not simply yours. You do not simply have sycophants who’re saying ‘sure, sure, sure, Steve’. The opposite factor that is actually vital for my staff is ensuring that my leaders can truly lead. Once more, as technologists we’re loads responsible of placing in a extremely nice technologist right into a management place, after which going, ‘Why are you not main correctly? Why is your staff engagement actually low?’ As a result of we purpose to show individuals to steer and it is a talent, that is an actual talent. And individuals who lead nicely get exponentially higher outcomes than individuals who simply sort of fumble alongside. So instructing your individuals to steer, having correct management programmes, after which additionally serving to your staff perceive the way to observe, the way to observe an excellent chief, the way to assist them make good selections, the way to work collaboratively collectively, fairly than simply the nice mighty chief who sits on the high making all the selections. You already know, truly, the individuals within the staff feeling empowered to say ‘I’ve a component on this, the success of this staff’. My different massive one is conserving away from that sufferer mentality. So seeing obstacles as alternatives. And I believe we have all been there, you recognize, you are in a troublesome place. And you are going ‘We will not do that due to that. We will not do it. Oh, no, that is by no means going to work.’ And I’ve an excellent staff of people that help me to form of flip that round and say that roadblock is definitely a chance. So yeah, look, I am conserving away from that sufferer mentality is a key one for me. So typically, we will see obstacles and simply go, ‘we may by no means gonna do that, we’re by no means going to succeed’. And in your head too turning these into alternative discussions and go ‘what would should be true for us to achieve success right here?’ It is actually vital. And when you can train your staff to do this with you, once they’re feeling like they’re caught, you may assist them however while you’re feeling like caught, you are getting one of the best out of your staff as nicely. And look the large one for me. And I believe it is actually, actually vital is that you simply communicate with honesty, readability and authenticity. Now, if you have not learn Radical Candor, you must. I like that mentality. It is one thing that I discovered the laborious method on my management journey. And one of many key issues I talked about in that e-book is that this factor referred to as ruinous empathy, the place you try to be so good to individuals and also you assume you are serving to them, however you are simply not being sincere with them. And also you’re not likely saying, ‘truly, there’s one thing right here we have to speak about, this could be uncomfortable, however let’s take care of that’. And, for me, being sincere, being genuine, and simply being actually clear with what you are saying, your staff makes their life a lot simpler. And it is truly what they need, even when that message is difficult.
Cathy O’Sullivan  30:34
So one other issue in the case of serving to your staff thrive is having a various staff, in fact, so And the way did you assume we will entice extra individuals from totally different backgrounds to think about IT as a profession? Are there any sort of sensible issues that you have accomplished or checked out to verify now we have these minds of every kind and expertise?
Steve James  30:56
Yeah, we’re doing a little issues. However earlier than I reply that half, I believe the important thing factor is, it’s important to flip this into one thing you’ll truly do fairly than simply speak about doing. As a result of I’ve many individuals within the trade round me –  superior individuals –  and so they go, ‘we actually must create a various staff’. After they begin attempting to create a various staff, they realise it is fairly laborious in some areas the place that is actually underrepresented. After which it stops. And there must be this dedication to truly push by way of and truly make a distinction since you imagine it is the precise factor, not simply because it’s important to tick a field by way of DEI matrix or no matter it may be. So for me, having a wealthy staff with various pondering, not simply gender, ethnicity, no matter it may be, and with various pondering makes me a greater chief. And we get higher outcomes. As a result of I do not need carbon copies of me. We do have an actual problem in our tech trade, Pasifika and Māori are closely below represented. We’ve got an excellent various staff right here within the tech area, however Pasifika and Māori are closely underrepresented. So what we’re doing virtually is attempting to go after that in my staff. So we’re working with companions. And I believe that is one of the best ways is working with floor roots organisations who’re already working these areas and forming shut partnerships with them. So you recognize, I met this superb man Lee Timutimu, who, who spoke with me at a panel just lately, and a few of the stuff that he is concerned with simply sort of blew my thoughts. And I used to be a few of his issues on-line. And there is individuals on the market doing superb issues. So connecting with them by way of LinkedIn, by way of electronic mail by way of conferences, very, crucial. We’re additionally we have accomplished some issues with Mission Prepared, TupuToa, Take2 – one other organisation, you recognize nicely.  We’re attempting to get our first intern by way of from there and fingers crossed, that is going to occur shortly. So being actually artistic and going, remembering that when upon a time it was you knocking on the door and by no means forgetting that, you recognize, now that I am a senior chief, and I’ve a good quantity of trade and organisational energy, not forgetting the truth that I used to knock on the door too, and go, ‘How do I get into this trade?’ And it is truly fairly laborious to come back in as a junior or somebody new to this trade. Most likely the ultimate factor I would say is, it’s important to make your areas protected. So do not herald individuals after which they really feel extremely awkward and unsafe in your atmosphere. You need to work actually laborious to unpack to grasp what it’s that makes the various neighborhood you are welcoming in protected in your atmosphere. Are there biases, is there coaching that should occur? Do it’s good to unlearn, relearn some issues? And that could be fairly difficult as nicely. All of these issues collectively. I believe it sounds tough. However when you can actually make a dedication to it, I believe that is the vital factor.
Cathy O’Sullivan  33:46
Yeah, and I like that time that remembering while you have been the one knocking on the door. In order that leads me properly to ask you that, I suppose what’s your recommendation for somebody who’s aspiring to be a CIO or in a senior IT management place?
Steve James  34:01
Yeah. You already know, once I do typically neglect what it was like coming into the trade. And infrequently once I’m assembly aspiring leaders or youthful people who find themselves coming in, I keep in mind that I used to assume there was a trick to turning into a tech chief or these individuals who bought to the highest, they should have discovered the magic of getting there. And that is not true. There are issues, there are sensible issues you are able to do to study – podcasts, audio books, actual books, random actual books. There’s a number of on-line communities you may go alongside to. I believe these are the actually vital issues that the occasions I’ve grown most as a technologist or a frontrunner, it is it is entering into the rhythm of listening to trade, issues which might be taking place of going alongside to a few of these networking occasions as a lot as some individuals may cringe at that, I get a lot out of them. And I believe as somebody who’s attempting to emerge right into a management place, it is actually vital to see who’s round them. And the magic a part of doing that’s you realise they’re identical to you, they don’t seem to be truly totally different from you, they’re simply possibly have slightly bit extra expertise or they’re expert in one thing totally different that you simply’re not expert in, and like your talent that they don’t seem to be expert in. And I believe for me, there have been some time there was this thought that I used to be an imposter. And you recognize, these individuals on the market, they’re so superb, everybody’s simply human. And so by making human connections within the trade, you begin to study that. I believe LinkedIn is a extremely highly effective software. In case you’re, if you wish to make connections, or if you wish to perceive what it is wish to be a CIO, or you recognize, a senior tech chief, someplace, a CTO, discover somebody on LinkedIn and message them. And I reckon 70 to 80% of time, you are going to get a reply from somebody that claims, ‘oh, yeah, come and have a espresso with me, I will discuss you thru it, no issues’. Many people actually need to do this. And also you should not be afraid to do this. As a result of now we have these superb instruments obtainable to us now to rapidly community of individuals. And look, my different massive one is, take a look at your self, when you’re eager to get right into a senior chief place is it most likely require a bit of private transformation, as a result of it is it’s tough to steer a gaggle of people that need to you to assist information them by way of possibly powerful occasions, and have the ability to perceive your private values is basically vital. Being with the ability to act from these values, fairly than simply ‘I need my boss to assume I am superb’, is a extremely key change that and if you can also make that change, you actually carve your individual private area of interest of the trade as nicely.
Cathy O’Sullivan  36:49
And talking of challenges, what what do you assume are a few of the major challenges dealing with CIOs in right here in Aotearoa/New Zealand in 2024?
Steve James  36:58
Yeah, we’re in. I believe we’re in that belt tightening period because the cost-of-living crunch hits. You already know, you are seeing us that giant retailers are closing, earnings are taking place in some areas. So I believe that tightening of the belt goes to be an actual problem for tech leaders. After which how will we steadiness that we want to verify we preserve our value of doing enterprise flat or lowering, whereas we nonetheless put money into the revolutionary issues which might be going to offer you that aggressive benefit as a enterprise and actually differentiate you from the opposite individuals in market. I believe the cloud has been a blessing, but it surely’s additionally very simple to sprawl in and I believe individuals are realising the prices, the continued prices of utilizing stuff within the cloud. It wants self-discipline, as we had self-discipline when issues have been on premise as nicely. So utilizing instruments to manage these prices and offer you visibility, I believe, is an actual problem. I believe the AI stuff is is an actual problem, as a result of individuals who do not – private opinion – individuals who do not get on board with a few of the new stuff coming down the pipe might be left behind as to and that features people who find themselves the incumbents, if we do not speed up into issues which might be going to make our enterprise higher and simpler, we’ll get left behind. As a result of, you recognize, my dream is that a few of these new applied sciences democratise entry to a few of the cool pondering that now we have entry to with our experience and our enterprise. The opposite massive factor we began speaking about just lately is the round economic system. So we’re a trans-Tasman enterprise. And we type these massive agreements with firms. And I wish to see how we utilise our massive companies to place cash into the New Zealand economic system. Are we investing in indigenous firms, for instance, that is one thing new that hadn’t occurred to me and somebody requested me the opposite day, why would we not put money into indigenous companies that may put a reimbursement right here? What do you do along with your e-waste as we generate these large programmes of labor to lifecycle issues out? Massive firms should be actually accountable with what they do with their gear. I believe that that is a difficult factor to consider. And I believe as a few of the massive US firms are available with the nice options is ensuring that they’ve a real funding in New Zealand as a result of it is it’s totally simple to simply give your cash to somebody who’s going to take their cash abroad. However it’s even higher, possibly more durable to make a troublesome choice and provides it to a New Zealand firm that is going to put money into the way forward for Aotearoa fairly than the US economic system.
Cathy O’Sullivan  39:38
Yeah, for positive. And I do know it is one thing that a number of CIOs right here in New Zealand are eager about that New Zealand Inc piece and ensuring that we’re benefiting New Zealand general. So look, lastly then, Steve, what’s vital to you within the months forward, laborious to imagine we solely have half of the yr left in 2024. Any thrilling initiatives within the pipeline?
Steve James  39:58
Yeah, modernising a few of our digital platforms with out giving the sport away is extremely thrilling for us. I am fairly positive you may inform I like it. Among the new composable structure platforms on the market, simply, you recognize, the dream is it is like Lego blocks with totally different techniques and providers it’s good to present. So I am very enthusiastic about that. I believe pc imaginative and prescient is taking off for us as nicely, with the ability to assess sure behaviours that we do not need in our shops. But additionally figuring out when inventory’s working out on the shelf and alerting somebody; actually thrilling. And you are able to do it fairly simply. It’s fairly difficult to do at scale. However yeah a lot of individuals can innovate and give you cool concepts there. And our comfort choices, so any expertise permits us to offer meals to you in a method that’s extra handy, whether or not it is dropping it within the boot of your automotive, whether or not it is being delivered in sub half-hour, no matter it may be. That stuff’s extremely thrilling. And individuals are exhibiting that they are actually fascinated about simplifying their lives by making use of these as nicely.
Cathy O’Sullivan  41:08
Great. Properly, we want you all one of the best with these initiatives. Steve James, Common Supervisor of Know-how at Woolworths New Zealand, thanks a lot in your time at this time.
Steve James  41:17
Thanks for having me, Cathy. It has been nice.

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