Barbara Gottardi – CIO Interview Series
Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself
Currently I am the chief information officer for Vanguard in Europe and I am based in London. I am Italian and grew up in Italy but moved abroad after University. I am married, I have 2 boys and live in London. I used to play basketball up to University and I am very passionate about sport. I have increased my running habit in lockdown!
What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?
I left Italy after University as wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I landed in Dublin where I stayed for 2 years – my first job was in a customer support role for Visio and then I started working for a Software company. They transferred me to London where I have been living since. The biggest chunk of my career has been at HSBC where I started in 2004 as Test manager. I quickly moved into Project/Programme Management across Investment Banking, Asset Management and Retail Banking and worked my way up to CIO. I also spent two years as Chief Risk Admin Officer in the Legal Department and then back in Technology as COO for a year. In my last role with the Bank I was promoted to MD and I was the CIO for Channels and Retail Business Banking. Last year in September I started a new role as CIO for Vanguard.
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?
I wish….I was very jealous of people knowing what to do from high school. I wasn’t really sure….I tried few things and understood what I didn’t like. I cannot say it has always been easy – especially coming back from 2 maternity leaves…you do wonder at times why you are trying to juggle so many things and how much easier it would be to just focus on one thing, but then you do realise that the hard work does pay off. Having open and honest conversations with your husband/partner and manager is key!. I do love building and leading high performing teams, I love connecting the dots between business and technology and I love seeing different culture/thinking/people coming together to try and find solutions for customers.
Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?
I was offered a coach almost 10 years ago and that was the best thing that someone could have recommended to me. I am still in touch with her and she has helped me a lot in difficult times. It’s amazing how helpful it is to talk to someone who is not directly involved into what you do but can see things from a different perspective.
How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?
I would love to see Business and Technology becoming one unit (instead of business vs technology) and focusing on serving the customers. Easier in small companies but not impossible in bigger ones. Technology should be seen as a real enabler and technologists should be focusing on building “things”customers wants and not “things” they want to build.
What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?
Empathy, being able to see the bigger picture and not putting themselves first!
How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?
I do read a lot and try to keep in touch with people to understand what’s going on. I listen to podcast while running – this is my new habit since lockdown.
What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?
If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?
Be yourself and stay true to your values – it will be tough at times but in the long run you will not regret the decision.
Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?
I am at a point of my career where I am more interested in ‘giving back’. I feel extremely fortunate about the opportunities I have been given. I have met many people, made many long-term friends, traveled the world, and learned from many cultures. I am passionate about helping new mums in particular not to give up the career and to help young people to believe more in themselves. I have experienced some terrible management and I believe I can help people to go through difficult times and come out stronger.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Politics….too many personal causes mixed into what should be the right thing to do.
I would also encourage people to keep fit and keep something to do they are passionate about (walk, run, yoga, cycling…) – sport is so important and it does help with mental health and clear thinking.
If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.