'Great technology leaders start with themselves, not with technology'

Joan Mulvihill, centre director at the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce

26th June, 2018
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How long have you been in your current role?

Joan Mulvihill, centre director at the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce

I joined IC4 as Centre Director on a contract from February 2017 to October 2018.

What are your day to day responsibilities?

As the Centre Director I work with our industry partners and academic researchers to deliver high impact research to industry. While I’m not directly involved in the research I am responsible for resource planning of people and budget on a day to day basis. At any one time we have 15 to 20 research projects underway across DCU and AIT. We also run a pretty hectic events calendar so there’s rarely an uneventful day!

What is your professional background?

I’m a business leader rather than a technologist. While I’ve worked in the tech industry for the past decade, having been CEO of the Irish Internet Association for 7 of those past ten years, I have also worked in professional services as a family business consulting and manufacturing where I negotiated global car leasing contracts. I am living proof of the transferability of core skills in leadership and management.

How do your particular areas of expertise manifest themselves in your current role?

Managing multiple stakeholders with diverse opinions in a constant state of motion, moving things forward to reach an end goal takes resilience, diplomacy, strong influencing skills and a problem-solving mindset. Good leadership for me is not just about hitting the target, it’s about the manner in which you do it. Any ‘expertise’ I have is definitely not technical. For sure, you don’t spend 10 years in as an industry spokesperson without knowing how that sector and its players all work and fit together but when I was negotiating global car leasing deals I learned all about that too.

How do you see your role developing in 5 years’ time?

Yikes! My current role is a fixed term contract that runs to the end of October this year when the 5 year funding of IC4 as an EI Technology Centre comes to an end.

What advice would you give to someone adopting a CIO role for the first time?

So, I’m not a CIO so I’m not sure I’d be best placed to give this advice but one common characteristic of the great CIOs I know is their focus on the business and not the technology. They are business leaders and pragmatic innovators.

What are the greatest challenges facing modern technology leaders?

I think they are the same challenges that face all modern leaders – finding and keeping great people. I was reading an article the other day about the Collison brothers who founded Stripe. I was thrilled to see that these young men while technically brilliant are very quick and clear in pointing out that they would have achieved nothing if it had not been for the brilliant people they have had working with them. They rise to that challenge of inspiring and motivating their teams. Great technology leaders start with themselves, not with technology. They start by asking themselves questions like “what kind of leader am I/do I want to be?”

Joan Mulvihill is chairing the 2018 CIO and IT Leaders’ Summit, September 12th in Croke Park. Visit www.ciosummit.ie for details

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