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The mountaineering IT leader

Jack Loo | Aug. 2, 2013
Marcelo De Santis of Mondelez is scaling Mount Everest in support of UNICEF.

I remember how important it was to continuously support each other; we knew it was going to be a long, tough day for each of us. When we were descending to Camp 1, my legs were so fatigued that they were not responding anymore. I said to the team "I stay here in Camp 1, I am too tired. I do not want to slow you down, you guys go ahead and I climb down tomorrow".

One of them looked at me in the eyes and said "We started this together, we will finish this together. I know you can do this, it is not right that we leave you here and it might be dangerous for you." He gave me his last "energy gel" to eat and I decided to continue with them.

We ended up descending safely to base camp at the end of the evening. How important were those words? During the morning next day, there was an avalanche at the Camp 1 area. It was probably the most important and timely set of advice I have heard in my life.

5) How does climbing influence you as an IT leader?

Climbing mountains is always a long journey and you need to not only set a clear goal, but also have the resilience and determination to negotiate with unexpected consequences. Things are no different in business. You need to focus on the things that you can control; choosing the right team, continuously developing you and your team's capabilities, plus creating an atmosphere of mutual trust where the team members help each other.

These are the essentials that you need to get right from the beginning in almost any business situation. It is not different from what you do in preparation for a large expedition to the mountains. The unexpected will always be at every corner, waiting to test your work in foundational areas but if they are solid your chances of succeeding are higher, and honestly - without challenges - there is no opportunity to learn and improve.

In my daily role of leading Information Systems in the Asia Pacific region, there are many times where the business challenges test the ability, resilience and dynamics of my team. We have developed and continue to refine those essentials. We certainly know that regardless of the eventual challenges, there is only one way to overcome them; working together, learning together and getting the right people to help us when needed.

6) Actually, did you apply any management experience onto your climbing expeditions?

The funny thing is that being in the Information Systems made me the "to-go-person" for all the technical difficulties at base camp. They range from smartphones not connecting to the satellite dish to the solar panels not charging the battery packs.


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