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Coca-Cola Amatil CIO says views about IT careers are “too narrow”

Coca-Cola Amatil CIO says views about IT careers are “too narrow”

Barry Simpson

Barry Simpson

The industry still has a quite a long way to go in moving past its narrow-mined ‘programmer-only’ perception of IT careers, according to CIO of Coca-Cola Amatil, Barry Simpson.

Speaking to an audience of young IT professionals at an Australian Computer Society event in Sydney, Simpson said people get too focused on being programmers or software engineers and are not looking at broader career options.

“I think people may think [of IT] as programming, etc. There’s no part of the business that doesn’t use technology in any kind of way so IT is one of the few areas where you do get such a good perspective across a company because you see, from a systems side, every part of the operations," he said.

“It’s one of the few areas where you can see the opportunities to bring parts of the business closer together or implement change.”

Simpson said the industry needs to lift its game in helping young people widen their views about IT careers. This is a move that is similar to Westpac’s CIO, Clive Whincup, who in May called on the industry to work more closely with educational institutions to help change perceptions about IT careers.

“I don’t think we do a good enough job of explaining the opportunities of technology in our industry,” Simpson said. “As an industry, we need to play more of a role in IT people in commercial organisations spending time with the universities and with students explaining what the opportunities are. I don’t think we do near enough [of that].”

Simpson added that the ‘IT engineer’ focus that seems to be entrenched into the profession, while important, could limit the opportunities, skills and qualities needed to sustain a successful long-term IT career.

“I do worry that our engineering background, as essential as that it is for our profession, does somewhat restrict our thinking in terms of the jobs that are available and somehow restricts some of the ways we go about engaging with the business," he said.

“At the end of the day, it is about how you engage with the business, how you become that trusted advisor, how you can connect with people to show them the art of the possible with technology.”

Simpson said organisations need to broaden their views about technology professionals when hiring IT staff, as people from diverse industry backgrounds are the key to innovation.

“We want people with experience from different industries. If we can bring that diversified thought together it could bring more opportunities that we may not see in consumer products than if we just look at it by ourselves,” he said.

“I think it’s changing, but I think people still do tend to type cast you. So if you’ve come through the banking sector then you’re a ‘banking person’ or if you have come through the consumer products sector then you’re a ‘consumer products person’.

“I think for companies you are not going to be the innovator [because] you don’t have that diversified thought [and so] you are not going to come up with the next great idea. A lot of innovation is about adapting people’s ideas from other industries or putting together pieces of technology in ways that haven’t been done before. I think the way to accelerate that is to bring in thoughts from other industries.”

Bruce Carlos, an independent CIO and principal of Starmaster group, wrote for CIO Australia about the issue of organisations not tapping into a diversity of IT talent, which is mostly due to organisations having traditional mentalities to IT and out-dated attitudes to hiring technology professionals.

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