About 2 years ago I moved over to UBS to run the COO function for the APAC Chief Technology Office across Wealth, Asset Management, and Investment Banking. My primary objective, from a personal perspective, was to continue exploring Intrapreneurship in an MNC environment, but also to get experience with a European corporate culture. This year, my role is expanding to cover Global Regulatory Technology Enterprise Architecture and Strategy, so I've been spending a lot of time boning up on Dodd-Frank, Basel III, etc.
In terms of lasting lessons, my start-up years taught me the importance of people management and employee engagement. Start-ups are intense, 24x7 environments and everyone needs to act as a single, trusting, aligned unit or you'll quickly drop off the edge of the cliff. At Merrill, I learned the importance of Influence and Win-Win Negotiation and the role and tactics of ethical politics. At UBS, I'm still learning of course, but I have been most satisfied with my success integrating into a well-defined, but fairly different, corporate culture and building an internal, professional brand as someone who can be trusted as an insider despite being a newcomer.
What would you say are the key attributes every technology leader should have?
Well, to me, the job of a leader is actually pretty clear and simple (even if execution is fuzzy and complex).
First, you must define the organizational strategy and design-in alignment to the strategic objectives from the very top to the very bottom of the organization. You do that by putting the right people in the right roles, aligning policies and procedures, and, most importantly, driving culture.
Next, you must communicate strategy far and wide-up, down, and across, and internally and externally. And when I say communicate, I mean that you must be able to influence day-to-day behavior. That is, you must achieve both understanding and buy-in of objectives and ensure that those objectives and values are reflected in the day-to-day activities of everyone. And, since memories are short and fire drills abound, it means communicating again, and again, and again.
Finally, you need to shepherd execution. To me, that's primarily about good people and program management, knowing what you need to measure and how, and being flexible enough in the moment to know when you need to make exceptions.
So with all that said, when I look for leaders in my organization, I'm looking for clarity of vision, the ability to inspire and influence, the ability to spot the right people, and the ability to sit back and allow it all to bubble.
Of course, the context matters a great deal. The skills required to lead a start-up function is different from leading a turn-around, or a realignment, or sustaining a Cash Cow business.