Intelligent CIO Africa Issue 43 - Page 71

GET TO KNOW... On the lighter side of things, we ask the industry experts what makes them tick. . . . Robert Speed VP of Blackboard Middle East and Africa wWhat would you describe as your most memorable achievement? I was fortunate to be given the opportunity three years ago to lead the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region for Blackboard to bring back productivity and profitability and it has been a memorable and exciting journey to date. Re-establishing Blackboard in the MEA region, fostering closer working ties with customers and business partners as well as to build and lead a team of talented people in the education sector. This transformation has only been able to happen due to the leadership in place at Blackboard who have worked hard together to pivot the whole company to be focussed on delivering innovation within existing products and through new technologies and simplifying our business as we move towards being a fully SaaS business. What first made you think of a career in technology? Timing is everything, I am a firm believer in that. I was not at any point thinking of a specific career in this sector but was fortunate to get an opportunity in 2000 to join one of the world’s leading contract manufacturing companies Solectron Global Services. The technology manufactured for clients such as Nokia, Ericsson, IBM and Cisco enabled me to grow and understand the various attributes of the business from materials management, procurement, software, kaizen productivity philosophy – ‘constant, continuous improvement’ plant manufacturing and supply chain. I was fortunate to end up leading key customer accounts in this sector globally so really came to appreciate the technology business. This experience has given me the grounding and adaptability to work on various complex business challenges and to lead teams. Education technology was a step into a new sector within a UK company Promethean and then a pivot into education software with Blackboard. What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position? I have seen and been a part of so many management styles throughout my career “ BUSINESS NEVER STOPS, EDUCATION IS A REALLY ENJOYABLE SECTOR TO WORK IN. and have adopted the right ones that work. Trust, empathy, assertiveness, constructive dialogue, guiding and collaborating are some of the key attributes I apply. This for me creates the right environment for the colleagues I lead to be empowered and to be confident in their decision making. It has proven to be very successful and helps develop mutual respect between team members and leaders to achieve the desired business and personal goals. INTELLIGENTCIO 71