Career changes that prove life exists after being a CIO

Two silicon.com CIO50 alumni lift the lid on what they did next...

Robin Dargue made the move to tech vendor Alcatel-Lucent

Former Royal Mail CIO Robin Dargue has moved from a non-tech business to tech vendor Alcatel-LucentPhoto: Alcatel-Lucent

...similar to his CIO roles as he looks after the technology infrastructure of the company. As his job title suggests, he is responsible for overseeing a business and technology transformation during a tough period for the company.

Dargue said the company now wants to become "an absolute world beater" and his role is to look at how business processes and systems can be improved to serve customers better, drive innovation and make the company more agile.

It was the prospect of a new challenge that tempted Dargue away from Royal Mail as he never had a particular ambition to work for a tech vendor.

"I think I've got a defective part of DNA in my body that says the more somebody describes the challenge and makes it sound undoable and difficult, the more I get excited and attracted to wanting to go and help," he says.

"My passion and energy lie in driving business transformation using IT as the lever to do it. So wherever there's a big business challenge, that's where I'll go. Whether it's in industry A, B or C is secondary to my personal situation. I just like big business challenges," he adds.

Alcatel-Lucent's IT infrastructure had been neglected as the business tried to improve its fortunes, according to Dargue. "When you are short of cash and profit, internal IT is not the place you go investing - you've got to get the right products to the customer first. So we're now embarking on how we really bring our internal IT into the 21st century," he says.

The first difference between working in a non-tech compared with a tech company, according to Dargue, is the much higher proportion of employees who are experts in technology and willing to challenge the technology decisions taken at senior level.

"When you say, 'We think the solution to X is this', you get a lot of comment on why you might not be right, which is very different to a normal company. So you're really kept on your toes," Dargue says.

The other major difference with companies Dargue has worked for is that Alcatel-Lucent is a global company operating in 130 countries with manufacturing in China, Europe and the US, and with R&D labs that "follow the sun as they try and drive forwards the innovation".

The global nature of the business brings some benefits in Dargue's eyes. "The richness of thinking of that diversity of culture and talent is immense and I think it's something we're just beginning to tap into. That's really a big standout for me."

Talking of a global business, Dargue felt he needed to be as close to the company's other senior executives to do his job effectively so he moved his family to Paris - "a beautiful city" - where his new employer is based.

"I just have a belief that to drive business and IT transformation you need to be close with your colleagues on the management team. So I have to be here to make this a success," he says.

However, Dargue is aware he hasn't been the only person affected by his decision to leave the UK. "The people that usually suffer in any international move are the spouses and the kids. I'm at work every single day being challenged and driving forwards but it's also a big change for them. As a family package, it's a big change and it takes time to get used to it."

Dargue also admits his French still needs work. "I have to say, my O-Level French isn't that good so I'm having to improve it rapidly," he says.