"Your skills are about executing through people," says Rorie Devine the former chief technology officer (CTO) of Betfair. Devine left Betfair after a four year career in which he was credited, by the UK based organization, with transforming the organization.
With a ready smile and a slightly self-effacing nature, Devine is immediately putting everyone in the room at ease and despite being interviewed, he is communicating with everyone present. A relaxed state pervades the room and you feel the creative energy of everyone present notch up a degree or two. The odds of some success are looking good. This is the Rorie Devine method, it is not about him; it's about people and their creative energy.
"I was never a huge gambler," he says, but today as CTO of Betfair, Devine is passionate about the business and his 300 strong IT team makes up 25 per cent of the Betfair workforce. It's a role he describes as having equal parts pressure and pleasure. "There is ambition at Betfair and it's a genuine challenge, but I love every day, there is always a new thing to do," he says in his enthused manner. And the pressure, "I don't enjoy it all the time, but 97 per cent of the time, but real pressure is when you feel powerless to achieve." You get the feeling that Devine rarely, if ever has felt powerless to achieve. The achievements of his team and the Betfair organization certainly show no signs of powerlessness.
The pressure that Devine enjoys is the demand to change things and to challenge doctrines. "I always wanted to be at the heart of the action. I wanted to be with a company where IT is central," he says and a career in investment banking and now the gambling company that has turned the bookies' world on its head is exactly the battle line that Devine reveals in. Facing the Thames in a quiet back street of Hammersmith in west London, the Betfair office is akin to the chateaux where generals planned great assaults and changed the course of European wars. Its relaxed, with more than a hint of media company or dot-com to the brightly colored walls, but take a peek into the control room through the window of reception, or walk through the office past troops of casually dressed workers, and there is a hum of activity, the activity that leads to change.
Devine has been CTO for two years now and has been with the company for "five Cheltenham's," the standard measure of time based on the famed Cheltenham Gold Cup horse race.
Betfair is an online business, so Devine's team are its engine, and its people and team motivation that Devine clearly understands every bit as well as the technology infrastructure he is responsible for. "Being able to listen to people means they engage with you and will talk to you. That means you both get something out of it," he says. For a business like Betfair, Devine sees being CTO as in a large part flair management, "keeping that talent and finding out what makes them happy".
He describes himself as a natural communicator in the face-to-face scenario, but is honest to admit that doesn't mean he finds doing presentations at board level easy, "I've had to get comfortable with that. I've always been interested in people, what makes them happy and had a general interest in humanity," he says. It is these skills he brings to bear in the job. "My job is to bring the best talent onto the Betfair strategy and to be flexible and creative. People are judged on the results and it's about the team and what we deliver."
IT people are widely believed to be a group of people who are not natural communicators and this has sparked the current discussion that there is a divide between the business and IT. "IT people are precision people, they are analytical and reflective and that is the challenge for IT. It is very easy to promote the best technology people," Devine says, indicating that although he doesn't devalue technology knowledge, he does believe in people skills and values them highly. "It's a challenge for IT to evolve more. In your mid-career you are selected on the technology skills - be it Java or Oracle. But it should be based on broader skills," he says.
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