CIO at Wine & Spirit Education Trust

Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself

I work as the Chief Information Officer for Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) based in London, with offices in the US and Asia Pacific regions. I have responsibility for Data Protection and business modernisation through implementing the organisations information technology strategy to support the delivery of our suite of drinks-related education products to our global customer. 

What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?

I began my journey as an engineer working for one of the big 3 automotive manufacturers, after 8 years there I was presented with the opportunity to review my career path which then followed a traditional route from technology service and support roles in local government to a Head of IT in the legal services sector. 
Having been with the WSET for 7 years now, I have continued to develop as a senior leader where I am driven to utilise emerging technology to deliver business efficiency and high-quality customer experience’s supported by robust foundations. 

Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?

Not at all, I was never interested in technology when I was younger and to follow a career as a tech leader was not part of the plan. However, I thrive on developing people and delivering business modernisation and know how technology plays a pivotal role in supplementing the growth of an organisation. 
I find it fascinating to see how emerging innovations can drive and support how a business delivers its strategic objectives but recognise that despite what technology can do you will always need dedicated highly skilled individuals to collaborate and influence the possibilities.

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Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?

There are several people who during my career, have in some way influenced me and supported my development. Not all have been in high-profile or senior roles, I believe we learn from everyone we meet and engage with and it is important to recognise how they can have an impact on how you grow and behave as a leader and a person. 

How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?

Technology leadership roles will continue to evolve, we are now more strategically focused and aware of how emerging technology can influence and support the direction of an organisation. However, it continues to be our responsibility to help adapt and shape our roles for our successors which will prepare them to embrace the technology that is yet to be developed for the mainstream like Nanorobotics, emotional AI, and who knows what else?! 

What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?

Technology leaders must continue to understand the business at a deep level and try to be ahead of the curve so that they can influence and support change to meet the strategic objectives of a business, strategic awareness is always important. 
The way we work has changed, the way people want to be managed has changed, all of which I believe has had a positive impact on performance but has meant that as a leader we need to evolve our leadership skills, I use my coaching and mentor skills more than ever before to develop people and building trusted relationships, these are key elements to being successful in meeting your collective business goals.

How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?

Reading articles and blogs regularly tops the charts and remains an important learning tool, but you cannot beat face-to-face conversation with your peers and knowledge sharing at relevant hosted events.
Personal development is an everyday experience, we continuously learn and develop.

What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?

Data analytics, learning more about our customers that we just do not have deep knowledge of as yet, we’re a historic industry but the new generations want to engage in a vastly different way but still be recipients of traditional methods too. The technology we use will have to developed in a way that retains both important aspects.

"Develop trust in people and always be aware of the value of good working relationships."

If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?

Understand that the job is never done, technology evolves, and we need to be utilising that continual evolution to help the business you work for evolve to, develop trust in people and always be aware of the value of good working relationships.

Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?

That's a good question. I would like to develop my understanding of people and how they work, coaching and mentoring is a hugely beneficial tool for a leader and is an area I would like to use more to help others on their chosen career paths.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

There are so many things that could be changed for the better, from politics to the environment, we all have a part to play. As a parent, I would like to change the pressure and mental health impact on children to conform and follow the social media hype. 

A big thank you to Tony Cook from Wine & Spirit Education Trust. for sharing his journey to date.

If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.

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The CIO Circle Editor
Post by The CIO Circle Editor
May 10, 2023