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CIO Spotlight: The best of home

Tom Paye | Sept. 26, 2013
Using the high-octane approach to IT found in his hometown of Manila, the University of Wollongong in Dubai’s Joseph Aninias has emerged to become one of the most respected IT heads in the UAE.

Having discontinued their service level agreements with vendors, UOWD's IT team then had a financial justification to hire someone as technical support. Aninias took it upon himself to shape the new employee on how UOWD ran its network. And once again, Aninias showed that his ability to turn high-stress problems into pragmatic solutions was something to be reckoned with.

"We wanted to be technology-agnostic and cost-conscious," he says. "And the finance people liked that. At the early stage, we had finance on our side already. Coming from a commercial background, I could see that driver. If you don't have finance on your side, it's always going to be a battle. Sure, you can always win the battle by injecting some technological terms, but you want finance to be on your side. You want to look out for the benefits of the company — you need to keep that in mind."

By 2003, Aninias's Australian IT manager had decided to go back to his home country with his family. At the time, the university was going through a major restructuring — a new director had been appointed (a member of the Australian parliament, no less), and the organisation was keen to fill the missing gaps in management.

Aninias seemed like a natural fit for the IT manager role, but he wasn't entirely keen on taking the job at first. For one thing, he wasn't sure he wanted the pressure of the top position, and for another, he enjoyed his down-in-the-wires job that allowed him to play with his technological toys. The biggest reason, however, was as ever a pragmatic one — throughout his time at UOWD, Aninias had come to be doing several jobs at once, meaning it would be nigh-on impossible to replace him.

"I said to the director, 'If you want to replace me, you'll need to get five more people. You won't find a generalist with the same attention to detail,'" Aninias explains.

Despite this warning, though, the director asked Aninias to write those five job descriptions and hand them into HR. "In the same week, I saw the postings for those four or five positions," he says. And within three months, Aninias had been appointed to the role of IT manager.

That was in 2004, and Aninias has since overseen a massive expansion at UOWD. The university has moved to Knowledge Village, and built up one of the most robust IT systems in the business. Ever one to relish a new challenge, Aninias has also embarked on major projects, such as a desktop virtualisation initiative that has allowed new levels of learning flexibility. And in terms of his personal development, he completed his Master of Business Administration degree a few years ago.


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