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CIO Executive Council member profile: Geoff Quattromani, Asia Pacific business analyst, data and analytics, Johnson & Johnson

CIO Executive Council member profile: Geoff Quattromani, Asia Pacific business analyst, data and analytics, Johnson & Johnson

Johnson & Johnson's Geoff Quattromani struggled in high school but he has managed to carve out a successful career in IT.

1. Discuss your career in IT. How did you get to where you are today?

I wasn’t a very successful student throughout high school; I struggled with the education system method of teaching in silos and focused on growing my knowledge in the IT industry. On my 14th birthday I went for my first job interview working after school and on weekends as I was hungry to start working.

Once the career advisor at school allowed us to start work experience, I would spend my school holidays doing work experience. I worked for companies like Retravision for consumer electronics sales experience, computer repair shops for hands on technical experience and charity organisations to fulfill a desire to help the community.

I graduated year 12 and two weeks later I began working for the Catholic Education Office, working in schools. It was a traineeship which would see me attend TAFE in the school holidays and work as an IT technician. In that same year, I also completed a Diploma in IT in the evenings.

My HSC results were not good enough to see me attend university; this came later when I worked as the national IT coordinator for Bushman Tanks. During my time there, I was assisted in attending university to complete my Bachelor of Business with a major in IT.

This course enabled me to connect everything I knew about IT with a business focus. I knew IT in Australia was not going to be a lone department – it needed to be a true business partner. So, I learned how to speak “business”. It was a huge benefit to learn this new language and build better partnerships in the business as IT projects followed the business strategy and demands of tomorrow.

Bushmans sadly fell into receivership as the drought ended and I joined a medical device company, Synthes. I became their ANZ IT coordinator managing a support desk and working on national IT rollouts of video conferencing, IP telephony and e-commerce solutions. This was where I first had the chance to manage a team, work closely with customers and build IT as a strong asset to the business.

Synthes was sold to Johnson & Johnson and this flipped my career upside down. I went from being at the top of the IT food chain managing all aspects of IT to a role which saw me in a larger team that had very focused roles.

The integration of Synthes into Johnson & Johnson was my first project, leading the introduction of 400 staff into a new business while maintaining adequate IT support and zero downtime was a fantastic challenge and gave me the exposure to prove I had value to add at J&J.

My career with Johnson & Johnson has been diverse and continually challenging. Through the years, I have had the opportunity to grow into roles that expand across the Asia Pacific and into different focus areas of IT. My current role is focus on data and analytics across the ASPAC region and working closer to the business than ever before.

The years prior when I shifted focus towards the business certainly paid off. Understanding business needs and tying that to an IT solution is everything. Regardless of the division I work in, if I am not serving a business need, focused on the business strategy, then I am not moving in the right direction. IT has moved from behind the scenes to being side by side with the business, standing together to meet the customer needs.

While all of the above is very focused on the ‘9 to 5’, our lives in IT cannot be limited there. Early in my career after being the IT person who gives consumer electronics advice (for example, what laptop should I buy my son, what phone should I buy?), I decided to start a blog and YouTube channel. I would review all forms of tech in written or video form. I amassed a large audience and grew into millions of views. It led to many new relationships with consumer electronics companies and trips across the world to witness and cover product launches and interview CEOs.

It then led to joining a community radio station once a week to talk technology; this was a fantastic way to engage an audience through audio and learn a lot about producing a show and operating a radio panel. I later merged my website with another industry expert and we expanded into cars and lifestyle categories which went on to win Best Independent Journalism at a consumer tech awards night.

I later left the community radio station to join 2UE doing talkback radio on a Saturday morning, TV spots across Channel 9, Channel 7, and Channel News Asia in Singapore. I am now working with 2GB every week to talk tech and take calls on the weekend.

This part of my life is getting busier and I’m well supported by my workplace to engage on this level. It has led to speaking opportunities and a whole different level of exposure. Being connected to technology at the forefront, where brands announce new products, where new technology is introduced, is exactly where I need to be to ensure that the workplace is ready when this comes, because it always enters the workplace eventually.

2. What are the biggest lessons you have learned throughout your career?

Never commit your career to software or a manufacturer. The IT guy who held the company onto BlackBerry is no longer employed. The developer who didn’t shift focus to iOS or Android is no longer in demand.

Plans change. You aren’t always in charge of your career plan, you aren’t in control of the market or the company you work for, be ready for your (morning, month, year) plans to change.

Relationships matter. Whether you report to them, they report to you or they’re just colleagues and acquaintances, every relationship matters. You don’t know who you’ll be working for tomorrow.

3. Describe some of the biggest technology and business projects you are working on at the moment and what are you trying to achieve with them?

The biggest focus for me internally to the business is moving the Asia Pacific region onto our new reporting platform Tableau with our new data lake infrastructure. The introduction of interactive and dynamic reporting has been a huge transformation for Johnson & Johnson and the learning curve for analysts is steep. We are heavily engaged in ensuring that adoption grows, new insights are discovered and that our business can understand their reporting needs faster, on any device and anywhere.

Externally facing, I am partnering with the business on a customer engagement. An IT partnership project that reaches out to our customers, in the operating theatres and creates deep integration between the two entities. Our relationships with the customers are no longer just sales transactions and invoices, we are going deeper than that to provide more value, more opportunity for efficiency and building better relationships.

4. Which technologies will drive the industry and your particular market sector this year?

Given my area of work it would have to be data and the tools around it. A business can no longer make a decision on a gut feeling or instinct. We are surrounded by various sets of data and we can collect data from many locations, systems and “things”. We must use the data within the business, data which surrounds our customers and data which impacts environmental factors to ensure we are making correct decisions and discovering insights we have never seen before.

The next phase is consumption, how is that data being consumed in the business? Is your sales manager able to ask Alexa for the answer to a question using your own data? Why not? The days of reading a regular report to find your own insight is behind us, we need to probe our systems for insights and systems like chatbots, Amazon Alexa, Google Home or even Siri can help us search for the answers we seek. Moving further beyond the spreadsheet or email delivered reports – what about that smart watch on your wrist?

Wouldn’t it be handy to glance at how you are tracking for the month in the same way we track our daily steps? Thinking outside the box on data and analytics is key for any business and blending it into our normal ways of living is even more important.

5. What are the biggest threats to the CIO role today in your opinion? Therise of the CDO and digital teams potentially relegating the CIO to managing traditional IT?

Given I am not in a CIO role (as at April 10, 2018) it would be the lack of focus on exactly what the business is doing. The IT department is no longer hidden underground, they should be sitting with and embedded throughout the company.

If you are not able to see how people work, ask questions why and how to generate insights to continually improve their situation, then what value is your department adding? It is not enough to IT to simply keep the lights on, we need to innovate through insights.

We cannot rely on Apple to tell us what is innovative, we need to work with our colleagues, our customers and our vendors to bring real innovation to life. If we don’t, someone else will, it could be a competitor or it could be another department in the business.

6. What advice do you have for senior technology staff looking to become IT chiefs? What skills do they need to succeed in the role?

Again, given I am not really in a position to be able to provide advice in this area. However the advice I provided above is potentially applicable across the board. People in these leadership positions needs to be ready to shift, pivot and flex in a moment, they need to be adaptive to the changes around them, pay attention to the trends in the industry and they need to take consumer technology seriously as tools that will enter the workplace.

The future CIO needs to be externally focused perhaps more so than internally at times, competitors/customers/trends should be examined as much as possible and not be afraid to shift directions. A five year plan is almost complete madness in an ever changing technology landscape.

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