After the due diligence for that merger was completed, the regional CEO of GE Money asked Sleiman to take the firms regional CIO role. He took the job without a moments hesitation, excited at the prospect of building an entire IT infrastructure from scratch.
It was a greenfield programme, so there was nothing here. We had four employees when I started. By the time we finished, at the optimum level of the business, we had something like 440 people, Sleiman says.
However, that business wasnt to last because of the 2008 financial crisis, GE Money handed its portion of the joint venture back over to Al Futtaim. It was the right thing to do, Sleiman says even though around 230 got handed back, the business, now called Al Futtaim Financial Services, ended up thriving. Sleiman, meanwhile, continued as regional CIO of GE Money.
Having launched a number of implementations, and built a strong IT infrastructure from scratch, it wasnt long before Sleiman started to attract some attention. By 2010, having been impressed with Sleimans work, GEs regional corporate CEO, Nabil Hubayeb, asked him to take on the role of corporate CIO, overseeing all the various business units under the GE umbrella. This ended up being the challenge of a lifetime for Sleiman, but it was one that he was quick to embrace.
Because were an emerging market, were still growing very quickly and we dont have, I would say, the dedicated CIOs for businesses. Some businesses have CIOs, and where they have one its fine. But where they dont have one, weve basically stepped in and weve helped, and weve paved the way for the strategy for the region on making GE a best-in-class regional centre, he says.
Ive actually been in the role now for three years. Its been a roller coaster ride, and its been a very good one.
So, having been introduced by British Airways to GE, and gone on to nab the firms top regional IT job, does Sleiman ever look back and think about what might have been, had he realised his dream of becoming a pilot?
I always did, but the problem with flying is that age is against you. It makes it a lot more difficult, as you get older, to get involved. Anyway, my love originally was with flying itself yeah you had assistance from technology, but now, technology can enable an aircraft to take off and land on its own, so in that sense, I think it was a blessing in disguise.
That said, Sleiman still keeps up his flying licence, which requires him to fly 13 hours every year. Whats more, with GEs massive ties to the aviation industry GE is the worlds largest aircraft engine supplier, and is the worlds biggest leasing company for aircraft Sleiman still gets plenty of access to that world.
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