Monday December 9, 2019

'Bring the values you try to teach your children at home into the office'

Sheamus Causer is chief technology and information officer at Ulster Bank. Born in Brisbane, Australia, to an Irish mother and British father, he joined the firm in August 2019. Before that, he led Deutsche Bank’s global analytics function and was a director of risk analytics at Deloitte Ireland

Gillian Nelis

Managing Editor

@gnelis
24th November, 2019
Sheamus Causer, chief technology and information officer at Ulster Bank Pic: Fergal Phillips

I’ve always had a keen interest in both business and technology, so the opportunity to study the emerging field of information management at Queensland University of Technology in Australia was a great fit.

After graduation, I worked for several years at the Government of Australia across various IT security and project delivery roles, before eventually moving to consulting.

My first major step into the world of data was leading a team analysing ticket sales and allocation for the Sydney 2000 Olympics. With more than six million seats available during its two-week duration, it was one of the first big global events involving online ticket sales.

The buzz in Sydney in the lead-up to the games, combined with demand for seats at events like the opening ceremony, meant that public interest in all things ticketing was intense. That, and my subsequent involvement in the Beijing 2008 Olympic bid, really sparked my interest in what was then the relatively niche field of big data and analytics.

It was around this time that my path to Ireland was also being set. I met my Irish wife, Diane, when she was travelling across Australia. Following the births of our daughter and son, we relocated to Ireland in late 2010.

By that stage, the focus of my career was firmly on financial services. We arrived at a time when the recognition of the importance of data across the industry was growing exponentially. Ireland’s credentials as a global hub for technology and innovation was also gaining momentum.

If I wasn’t working in financial services, I would probably be involved in video game design or something similar. I enjoy technology, and I like being creative, so I think my career is always going to be closely aligned to those interests.

On my approach to work, I think you should bring the values you try to teach your children at home into the office.

Fatherhood has been a very rewarding and humbling experience for me. Like all parents, I started to see the world through a new set of eyes. Having both a boy and a girl in the house means I am an expert in all things “Minecraft and unicorns”, and know the difference between a muggle and a wizard.

I'm also conscious that, from a young age, children are very attuned to the world around them. It isn’t unusual in the Causer household to be fielding questions about robots, who is the strongest superhero, and the impact of carbon emissions on global warming - all in the same breakfast conversation.

Being aware that I am shaping the world ahead of my children is something that influences my approach to work. It is very important for me, for example, to champion the values of diversity and inclusion because that is ultimately the type of workplace I would want my own children to experience.

In terms of my work style, I try to bring a clear customer focus combined with a sense of calm. Calmness is, I think, essential when you’re dealing with the challenges that come with running a technology function in any large organisation. There is always an underlying sense of urgency, but the hurdles you face are only ever as big or as small as you make them.

I am conscious that people often look to technology to provide a cue as to the significance of an event or opportunity. As Ulster Bank’s “face of technology”, a key part of my role is being able to alternate between day-to-day and strategic priorities, and translating all of this into an understandable and pragmatic plan of action that people can get behind.

Throughout my career, I have been lucky to have a series of great mentors, whom I’ve tried to emulate through my leadership and people management style. The big learnings for me have been:

1. The importance of “real time” feedback. If people get a shock at a formal review, then - in my opinion - you are not communicating effectively as a leader.

2. Always giving credit when it is due and always try to recognise the contributions made by your colleagues.

3. Perhaps most importantly, no matter how busy things are, always recognise that there is a world outside the office and give people the space and support they need for the moments that matter.

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