CIO: A day in the life

Expereo CIO Jean-Philippe Avelange explores the global demands of an always-on role, the pace of technological change, the critical ‘people’ element of IT, and the value of disconnecting
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The Chief Information Officer job title infers a primary emphasis on technology. Yet, it has always been clear to me that the most critical element of the information technology specialty is people.

As a CIO, for example, how can I attract top-notch technology employees to join my team? How can I keep them involved, engaged, and valued? How can I keep them excited enough about the work that they want to stay and evolve with the company?

Moreover, how can I influence the mentality of the entire organization – many of whom are not involved in day-to-day technology decisions – around the value of creative IT teams whose skills and passion can transform an organization?

That is the mindset I bring to work each day, focused on building strong, productive connections between my IT team and the rest of Expereo.

I set aside most of the morning of each workday for the regular touch-base check-ins with my teams worldwide.

[ Also read Product experience and engineering: A day in the life. ]

My day starts at 7:30 a.m. with check-in calls with colleagues in Singapore and the Philippines as they near the end of their workday, followed by similar calls from east to west across the globe to colleagues in Dubai, Amsterdam (where I'm located), and various locations in Europe and North and South America.

Connecting a global IT team

Keeping a rhythm and pace is important for the IT team, whose focus on achievement and innovation comes from momentum, ideas, collaboration, and goals.

Running on-time meetings with clear agendas, timelines, and outcomes is one way of keeping the entire team on track and focused. Most team members are working a hybrid in-office and at-home schedule, and by 9 a.m., I usually have a good sense of the big picture of our global team and upcoming technology projects/goals.

Expereo’s adoption of the OKR model, based on pre-identified yearly, quarterly, and monthly objectives and key results, sets the pace at a Monday morning team meeting to plan the week and identify projects or tasks that must be addressed.

Because all teams are partially remote, the Miro virtual whiteboard is our primary tool for collaboration, interactivity, project tracking, onboarding, process review, outages, and problem-solving.

The remainder of my day revolves around check-ins with other Expereo colleagues, including the chief product officer, chief technology officer, and chief operations officer, plus other IT product leads, architects, developers, and infrastructure and operational specialists.

Managing technology's power – and people

One of my key CIO challenges is the speed of technology evolution. My telecom engineer background fuels my passion and curiosity for coding, problem-solving, and innovation. Maintaining a hands-on passion for technology work ensures that the team’s skills and technology base stay current and on a path to success.

Any new technology must be viewed, questioned, and tested within the context of a critical question: Does it solve real problems?

The challenge, of course, arises in the pace and “wow factor” of new technologies. They can be shiny and exciting, but any new technology must be viewed, questioned, and tested within the context of a critical question: Does it solve real problems?

An equally important challenge is not the technology itself but the people who specialize in technology. Given the central role that IT plays in digital transformation, I must keep my team members and direct reports engaged and excited about their roles.

It is also necessary for me to convince my non-tech-focused colleagues about the transformational nature of technology to help people and companies stay connected, effective, relevant, efficient, and informed. It’s no secret that IT is often perceived as a cost center. I’m responsible for ensuring that everyone within the organization understands that IT is a critical business component that drives change, success, and growth.

Fueling growth – and finding time to decompress

How do I decompress from the challenges of the CIO role? Work and personal time often seem to blur together, so I spend as much time as possible with my wife and daughter.

I am also an avid kite surfer, my away-from-work passion. The beauty of kite surfing is that when I’m on the water, I can’t answer my phone, and I can’t be interrupted. I can truly disconnect when it’s just me and the wind and my kite out there on the water.

Since I joined Expereo in 2017, the company has grown from about 275 employees to almost 600, and more than 100 are involved in IT. I could not have imagined when I started that the role would be so fast-paced and that we would develop quickly into the successful and growing company we are today.

My primary focus as CIO is to fuel a tangible passion for technology and leverage my engineering background to keep the IT team and the company moving forward and innovating to help grow value internally and externally.

[ What is a ‘day in the life’ like in your role? If you’d like to participate in this series, reach out here! ]

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Jean-Philippe Avelange has over 20 years of IT telecom experience with Capgemini and later as a founder of InovenAltenor and Avelto, working for major telecom operators across Europe. He joined Expereo in 2017.