In 2002, Computing Canada introduced the IT Executive of the Year award to recognize information technology leaders who stand apart from the crowd. Readers encouraged us to expand the awards program to all levels of IT leaders, so this year we are launching the IT Leadership Awards, which recognize the achievements of IT professionals in six categories. From a large number of nominations, our judges chose the following people and projects as outstanding examples of IT Leadership in Canadian organizations.
IT Mentor of the Year
Susan Dineen, Vice-president, Arius 3D
For Susan Dineen, equality isn’t necessarily a good thing.
“I’ve always believed in equity rather than equality,” said the vice-president of Arius3d Inc., and this year’s IT Mentor of the Year. “Equality means you are the same as the person sitting next to you. Equity means you are treated as an individual and the unique person that you are.”
Every person requires something different to be successful, she said, and in an equitable environment you receive what you need, as an individual, to be successful.
Some people need a lot of stroking and encouragement, she said, while others need direct feedback. Some need to work in a collaborative environment, while others like to go off on their own. Some need to work spontaneously, while others need time to think.
“If you create a culture that is based on goals, recognizing success, having fun, working with passion, then it does spill over into your business success,” she said, adding employees are more engaged when they see a direct link between what they do and where the organization is going on a more strategic level.
With Arius3d, Dineen is responsible for identifying markets and developing strategic relationships with clients around the world. She helps drive revenue with complex three-dimensional technology solutions, from police forensics to museum archiving, and part of her role involves mentoring IT and engineering professionals.
Dineen also works with Fox Group Consulting on a part-time basis as an IT industry analyst. In her consulting role, she advises clients on how they can apply technology to their business. “I’m not coming at it from a bits and bytes perspective,” she said. “I’m coaching and mentoring and getting them to think like a CIO.
She spent the majority of her career as CIO of Sony Music Canada, before moving to Arius3d in 2000. At Sony, she developed a technology strategy that positioned it as the most technically advanced affiliate in the world.
“I mentor a lot of people and I have for a long time,” she said, adding she was fortunate to have someone mentor her. “He was the CFO in the first company I worked for after I got out of university,” she said. “He taught me how to think and act on a strategic basis. He also felt it was very important to give back (to the community).”
This experience got her thinking about high-performance teams: what does it take to develop one, and what type of performance system can create an environment where people can excel? To be a mentor, you need to set clear goals and objectives, she said, and have a well-defined performance system that recognizes success and encourages improvement.
Dineen has also served as a mentor in a number of non-profit organizations ranging from Canadian Women in Communications to the Canadian Music Industry Charity. She also participates in numerous associations to provide mentoring for next-generation IT and telecom professionals.
IT Manager of the Year
Janet Irwin, senior manager of the Technology Support Unit, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care
A job well done in the public sector doesn’t translate into a fat raise or hefty bonus.
“You can thank them, you can pat them on the back,” said Janet Irwin, senior manager of the Technology Support Unit with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, this year’s IT Manager of the Year.
In the public sector, where monetary incentives are non-existent,
Irwin has managed to retain staff by keeping morale high. Since joining the ministry in 1987, she’s had a turnover of just one employee.
She now manages an IT staff of five for approximately 250 employees in 15 distinct business units that fall under the ministry’s jurisdiction. She’s responsible for strategic IT planning, which includes everything from the acquisition and installation of technology to contingency and continuity planning.
“It’s a great team,” she said. “We almost finish each other’s sentences — it’s scary sometimes. We get to know each other’s quirks, but we also work with those.”
Over the past year, she led the IT team in digitizing a paper-based business system in the ministry’s Subrogation unit (for third-party suing). This involved rolling out a workflow system across four departments to put documentation online.
“Some departments can get very territorial, but this just broke through all of that,” she said of the system, which became operational last April.
As a result, the ministry is making great strides in clearing up its backlog of files managed by the Subrogation unit, said Greg Horton, who provides technical support for the ministry. This translates into more money for government and faster service for clients.
But there was an added bonus. “Once the backlogs clear up, morale raises and everybody gets a lot happier,” said Irwin.
This is part of her philosophy: She studies the marketplace, tries to understand what’s out there and how it can apply to the needs of the ministry’s 15 business units. “I like to introduce new objectives into the branch,” she said. “My staff gets very excited. They don’t want the old mundane stuff, day in, day out.”
She also treats her staff as a team. “I provide leadership, I provide guidance, but I delegate a lot of work to them,” she said. “So I hold them responsible and accountable, and that’s a real motivator.”
When you learn something new, she said, you feel good about yourself and do a better job. She has an open-door policy if a staff member needs to talk about a particular project, and tries to remove obstacles (such as legal complexities) to make their jobs easier.
Trust, respect and communication are qualities that make a good IT manager, she said, and these are qualities she was raised with. So is the capacity to handle change — something crucial in the IT business. “I love change,” she said, “and government is a good place for that.”
— By Vawn Himmelsbach
On Thursday: Winners of the IT Champion and IT Executive of the year.