Guest interview with Thomas Gageik, a specialist in IT
Thomas, firstly can you tell us a bit about your career to date and what projects you have undertaken in an Interim capacity?
My career as an Interim really came about by chance and was quite opportunistic as I took my first role to cover some downtime between jobs. I had been working for 15 years at some of Europe’s biggest blue chip companies including Mars and Deutche Bank and I saw an interim position as a great way of gaining some new experience whilst still being able to make a difference. The flexibility also allowed me to search for my next permanent job. However, I really started to enjoy this kind of working so I’ve embraced it and I now focus on transformation roles in both the B2B and B2C focussed businesses. Many projects have seen me stabilising challenging IT teams and delivering critical projects.
What do you consider to be your core specialisms?
My main specialisms are around IT transformational roles and maximising the impact IT can have on a business. IT is often perceived as an expensive function so it’s vital companies get the most value out of their system otherwise it’s just not efficient for the business it serves.
The IT sector has evolved hugely over the past 10 years so what do you think are the main challenges for the market?
The sector never stops evolving and that’s one of its biggest draws. The last decade – even the last couple of years – has heralded the introduction of a new broad set of solutions that have changed the way we all work, including; Cloud, Digital, E-business and Mobile offerings. The key challenge is to select the right portfolio of solutions for a particular business situation and to then get them to work together properly. That’s a relatively new issue as 15 years ago you had to make individual elements work on their own but now it’s about picking them in the right sequence and making every one operate seamlessly.
On the flip side, what do you think are the main opportunities?
Well, it’s never been so easy to deliver so many complementary solutions so fast as long as they are carefully selected. Thanks to the connected mobility solutions available we can now offer users a level of service that is beyond what anyone could have dreamed about. All of these make business quicker and leaner but – of course - on-going costs need to be carefully planned and monitored. Other factors i.e. data security and data protection also require thorough attention in today’s current climate which is being driven by legislation such as the Patriots Act in the US.
How have these affected your own career?
On-going advances mean I have to adapt quickly; I’m also always learning and there is no room for complacency. It’s essential that I stay current and technically adapt even as a senior interim as I need to be able to make informed decisions and be aware of the impact they have.
Can you see what you do changing in the short to medium term?
That question really links my previous answers. I really think there will be more of the same and which will see me keeping a solid grip and understanding on the ever changing trends in technology. Three years ago not many people would have predicted the impact that the iPad has had but you also need to be commercially savvy in order to make an informed decision on whether a certain gadget or advance will actually add commercial value.
You’ve worked in many global and multicultural organisations, so... as an experienced team builder, how difficult is it to bridge diverse cultures and interests?
I’ve not found it difficult as I believe it’s simply about effective consultation. The key thing is that you can’t really be specifically trained for it; it’s about experience and being able to intuitively understand the differences between people and companies. If you do too much training then you run a much higher risk of referring to stereotypes. You need to come into a new organisation with an open mind and you have to like people! I also always look at each new role as an opportunity to learn. An interim needs to be able to work out what a client expects in terms of a respectful approach by being open minded and being prepared to adjust to the individual in question. If you don’t feel that you’re good, then you need to work on it...quickly.
As we said, you’ve held a variety of senior positions for a long time so have you seen attitudes towards Interims shift – especially since the economic crash?
Yes, definitely. Finding the right CIO is a real challenge for companies right now and it’s becoming more difficult to find a good fit. Many are now taking a ‘try before you buy’ approach with interim roles leading to permanent once credibility and effectiveness have been proved on the job.
What do you think are the main benefits for a company that employs Interims?
Having access to potentially critical skills in a much shorter lead time is the most obvious, but also being able to tap into a higher calibre expert without the commitment or cost of employing someone full time is also key. Interims are often seen as a bazooka to crack a particular problem but they can help to sharpen a company’s vision and define what is needed and expected from any future permanent employee.
Finally, any words of advice for readers of Perspective who may be thinking of becoming an Interim?
I would certainly recommend it as an option as it exposes you to more interesting and diverse situations. However, take care not to become emotionally attached as you might loose the neutral/ outsider point of view which can be seen as an interim’s biggest asset. Before you apply for an interim position, be very confident you have the necessary skills to make an impact straight away as you won’t have much leeway and will be judged from day one. It’s vital to hit the ground running and be prepared to network and build rapport quickly!
You can connect with Thomas here