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Forecast: Innovation

Divina Paredes | Nov. 26, 2013
The flipside of Alistair Vickers' business card features a rugby ball -- and a reminder how MetService plays a role in the victory of the All Blacks at a final game at Eden Park."

Latecomer to IT

Alistair Vickers has been CIO for nearly three years, moving to this role after a year-and-a-half as IS operations and support manager.

He manages an information services group of 20 people who are assigned into two teams -- architects and IT operations.

Vickers says working in ICT was not his original career plan. "I was a latecomer to IT," he says, during an interview at the MetService headquarters in Wellington. He had wanted to join the army or be a diplomat, but instead trained to be a teacher, and taught geography and French in his native United Kingdom.

But this was actually a small slice of the slew of roles he took later on. "I have probably done a hundred different jobs in my life," he says, smiling. "I have been a jackeroo (worker) in a cattle station in the Northern territory of Australia, I directed fashion shows, I have been a builder...I worked in a bookshop in Paris, ran a second hard record store in Notting Hill Gate."

He was working as a risk analyst for Schroders in London when a friend told him about a master's degree in information services at Brighton University. This was in the 1990s when the view was IT experts "weren't very good communicators", says Vickers. The course was essentially training technology people to be IT managers, CIOs or senior project or programme managers.

While merchant banking was an exciting place to work, he says it did not meet his career expectations, so he enrolled in the course. The degree led him to a job as a network engineer with Nortel. "I was one of the 20,000 they hired in 2000 and was one of 30,000 people offered redundancy in 2001," he says.

During this time, he met his Kiwi wife, Amanda, a veterinarian, who was working on the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK. They moved to New Zealand in 2003.

While looking for a permanent IT job, Vickers sent out CVs to a range of organisations, and helped out with the Green Party. Thus, he found himself in an "enviable position", with three job offers - an assistant to an MP for the Green Party, an analyst with the Department of Corrections and senior operations analyst with the Ministry of Health.

He took the third job, partly because they had offered to pay for him to do a master of business administration, which he completed at the Victoria University of Wellington.

Whilst doing his MBA, Vickers changed his job four times, moved house four times, and had two children. When the health ministry had a restructuring, he offered to take redundancy in 2005.


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