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Post-modern CTO

Divina Paredes | Feb. 18, 2013
Vodafone NZ's Sandra Pickering employs 'ruthless prioritisation' to tackle redoubtable tasks.

"When I am hiring, I always think of not what they can do today. What is their potential? Everyone I hired in my direct team has the potential to do my job or be better than me."

So says Sandra Pickering, chief technology officer at Vodafone New Zealand, who always takes the long view -- whether it is around building a deeper leadership bench, deciding on technology investments, or assessing trends that will impact the business.

Her team consists of around 420 permanent staff. "I probably deal with in excess of 50 vendors and hundreds and hundreds of contractors," she says.

She explains there are two distinct parts of Vodafone's technology group. One is IT run by CIO David Moss (see sidebar "Ahead of the game" at the end of this story). The other part is run by chief networks officer Tony Baird.

She says her role, as the CTO, is across these two areas. "We need to bring all of that together from an investment strategy perspective," she says. The CTO sits on the executive team, and this is a model that Vodafone uses globally.

The acquisition of TelstraClear in 2012, and the merger of these two companies are top of mind for her and her team. "It is early days at the moment. The two companies are running as separate business units."

But this will change over the next 12 to 18 months. She says because Vodafone and TelstraClear are "complementary businesses", they did not find a lot of overlap. 

"There are a lot of things we can collaborate on and share, we are starting to work on opportunities with customers together. Overnight, we became a much more national company as opposed to being solely based in Auckland," she says.

The merger also has another upside for Pickering, who used to commute to Auckland every week but has now relocated to Wellington. 

External customers

Pickering gets involved with Vodafone's sales and marketing teams working on "external customer engagement".

"As a technology department we make ourselves available to sales and marketing teams because we are a technology company," she says. 

She says this customer facing responsibility is probably more relevant to CIOs and CTOs of technology companies.

"That is probably the most enjoyable part of my job," she says. "When our customers are investing a lot of money in mobile tech solutions, they want to talk to people that use them and develop them and maintain them and support them. So that is why we get involved."

"The mobility path is going to be more and more relevant," she says, and this includes the public sector. Governments are advocating mobility online as they move more services into tablets and smartphones, she says, and enterprises want to know how this is going to impact the business.


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