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7 Questions with Dr Vladas Leonas
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7 Questions with Dr Vladas Leonas
Name: Dr Vladas Leonas
Current title: Consultant
Current organisation: LUAN SOLUTIONS
Dr Vladas Leonas was born, brought up and educated in Moscow, USSR. In August 1991 at the age of 35 he migrated to Australia under the skills based migration scheme. By this time he already held a degree deemed by NOOSR as equivalent to a PhD in Computer Science, was an established ICT Professional with over 50 publications including a children’s first book on computers, was heading an R&D function of the very first ICT joint venture in the USSR (150+ people) and had been the founding Chair of the Soviet UNIX Users’ Group and a member of the Board of the European UNIX Users’ Group. As soon as he was eligible to apply for Australian Citizenship he applied for it and became an Australian in November 1993. Professional Activities Vladas is a distinguished ICT professional with an outstanding ICT career with a strong focus on the public sector spanning over the last 25 years, who has made a considerable contribution to the industry and the profession, both in Australia and internationally. A brief overview of his career over the last 25 years is shown below: icare Senior Consultant Jan 2019 – present NSW DFSI Director Technology and Architecture Jul 2018 – Jan 2019 NSW DFSI Director GovDC and Marketplace Aug 2017 – July 2018 UNSW Director Infrastructure and Operations Aug 2016 – Aug 2017 Sydney Motorway Corporation Chief Information Officer Jan 2015 August 2016 Transport for NSW Deputy Group Chief Information Officer Jun 2012 – Jan 2015 Transport for NSW Acting Group Chief Information Officer Nov 2011 – Jun 2012 Transport Construction Authority Chief Information Officer Dec 2010 – Jun 2012 VLCA Chief Information Officer (Consulting) Sep 2010 – Dec 2010 NSW Land and Housing Corporation Chief Information Officer Jul 2006 – Sep 2010 ac3 Chief Technology Officer Aug 2002 – Jul 2006 NSW DPWS Chief Information Officer Dec 2001 – Aug 2002 Gtech Australasia Corporation Director of Technology Aug 2000 – Dec 2001 Telstra Corporation Limited General Manager, Technology Jan 2000 – Aug 2000 Telstra Corporation Limited National IT Manager (CIO), Payphones Jan 1996 – Jan 2000 Telstra Corporation Limited Section Head, Intelligent Networks Jan 1992 – Jan 1996 Cee Data Systems Software Engineer Oct 1991 – Jan 1992 Vladas has always sought to be at the forefront of innovation and technology and to be involved in the most challenging projects. As a result he has been a key participant of the following unique initiatives (they are all in the category of “once in a lifetime”) of National or State (NSW) importance. Examples include: • 1992-1996: As a second in charge of the development of a unique world-class Intelligent Network platform (still used by Telstra today) he moved the development process from a small-scale to an industrial scale, including separation of Quality Assurance, Documentation, Systems Administration and Operation of the Test Environment from the original Systems/Software Development process; was a key player in the sale of the platform to ClearNZ, Telecom Malaysia and Teleglobe Canada. • 1996-1999: As a National IT/Technology Manager he oversaw the replacement of 35,000 public payphones across Australia – from tender to full implementation (a $132 million project) and managed pioneering work - the first in the world introduction of multi-functional smart cards (a $30+ million project); he also pioneered the transition from a proprietary hardware platform to a commodity Intel-based hardware platform as early as in 1996, well before it became a trend in the 21st century. A Board Member of the Global Chipcard Alliance (1997 - 2000). • 2003-2004: As a CTO of the Australian Centre for Advanced Computing and Communications (ac3) he oversaw the delivery, commissioning and operation of the very first Australian supercomputer with performance exceeding 1 TFlop (??) (rated by the Top500.org as No. 108 in the world) for less than $1 million; that supercomputer was so unique that Oracle requested to use it to benchmark scalability of the Oracle DB as there was no other supercomputer of this type in the world to do this benchmarking. • 2006 -2010: As a CIO he oversaw the replacement of the core housing management system for Housing NSW – from tender evaluation to full implementation (a $198 million project) • 2011-2015: As Acting Group CIO/Deputy Group CIO he established the ICT function at Transport for NSW. • 2015-2016 As WestConnex CIO he established core business processes and business systems, ICT systems and subsequently implemented holistic outsourcing of the ICT function using a pioneering approach with an “As-a-Service” model. • 2018 and 2019 Member of the CIO Magazine “CIO-50” Judging Panel • Member of the ICT Advisory Board for NSW Treasury ICT Reform (FMT) (2015 – present time) • Member of the NSW Treasury Gateway Review Panel (2006 – present time; participated in more than two dozen Gateway reviews) • Member of the Advisory Board of the NSW Public Sector Community of ICT Professionals (2012 - Present Time) • Independent member of the NSW OSR (??) ICT Board (2009 - 2011) • Member of the NSW Government CIO Executive Council, Member of its ICT Investment Committee and Government Data Centre Reform Program Board (2006-2010) • Member of the NSW Businesslink IMT Board Committee (2006-2010) Australian Computer Society – Vladas was made a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society in 2011, which recognises those ICT Professionals who have made a significant contribution to the profession. In 2010 he became a member of the ACS NSW Board Executive Committee. A year later he was elected Secretary of the ACS NSW Branch Executive Committee (BEC). In 2013 he was elected Chairman of the ACS NSW Branch Executive Committee and a member of the ACS Management Committee at the National Level and the NSW ACS Congressional Delegate. He has served in these roles for 2 years. During his time as Chairman of the ACS NSW Branch Executive Committee, and as part of succession planning, Vladas mentored another member of the BEC to be ready to succeed him in that role, and achieved a generational change at the Chairman level – from a “Baby Boomer” Chairman to a Millennial (Generation Y) Chairman. This is the comment that person made about Vladas on LinkedIn: “Vladas was an inspirational chairperson and managed to constructively challenge the CEO to evolve the organisation to meet the needs of its members. He also motivated and facilitated pragmatic, business driven discussions across a board of volunteers from varying backgrounds. Vladas is one of the few people I'd recommend as able to successfully drive change in a politically challenging environment.”. While being Chairman of ACS NSW Branch Executive Committee and a Member of the Management Committee at the National Level Vladas’ focus was : 1. Improved definition and articulation of the ACS value proposition to its membership base. 2. Changing the focus and KPIs of the ACS NSW Branch Executive Committee and ACS NSW Branch from good ideas and random initiatives to two major areas: Membership Growth (“Get Members''), and Membership Retention (“Keep Members”). IEAust – Vladas is a Fellow of Engineers Australia, where between 2000 and 2005 he has been Chair of the IT&T Panel for IEAust Engineering Excellence Awards. He is also a regular IEAust interview panel member, participating every year in numerous interviews of new IEAust applicants. Mentorship – Over the last 25 years Vladas has been both a formal and informal coach and mentor to a large number (30-40) of people. He has become a role model literally for hundreds of ICT Professionals. Being an empowering person by nature and enjoying developing people to their highest potential, he has assisted at least two people achieve Chief Information Officer (CIO) level. One of them is current the ACS CIO. He is still mentoring some of his mentees from early to mid 90s. He has also assisted one of his mentees to achieve becoming a CEO. Other Achievements In 2015 Vladas featured among ten other high-profile individuals in Ella Kushnir’s book: “Secrets to Communicate & Empower – Become an Authentic Leader that People Value, Trust & Respect '' (Global Publishing Group, 2015). In January 1999 “The Nilson Report'' (at the time the most respected newsletter in the smart cards world) named Vladas (with only one other Australian) among “The twenty-four individuals that currently have the greatest influence on the future of the smart card industry worldwide…” (Issue 683, pp. 1 and 9). Vladas’ name and biographical notes have been published in the following reference books (as well as having been nominated for publication in a dozen of others): Marquis “Who’s Who in the World”, Men of Achievement, Asia/Pacific Who is Who, Asian/American Who is Who, Five Thousand Personalities of the World, Five Hundred Leaders of Influence, Millennium Hall of Fame, Leading Intellectuals of the World. Education – Vladas is focused on continual improvement and on-going education and professional development: • Innovation Strategy: Leadership Development Program for NSW Government Senior Executive Service – 2013 • Delivering Business Results: Executive Development Program for NSW Government Senior Executive Service (AGSM) – 2013 • Company Directors Course (AICD) - 2010 • Emotional Intelligence Program (Genos) – 2009, 2013 • EWK International CIO Development Program 2009 • Finance for Non-Finance Staff (HNSW) – 2008 • Prince2 Foundations (OGC – via pm4success) - 2007 • Lead Auditor (SAI Global) – 2004 • ITIL Foundations (OGC – via EXIN) – 2003 He has been sought to present at numerous conferences both nationally and internationally. Examples of the most recent ones are: • StrategyNext, Sydney, 2018: “GovDC, the most successful NSW WoG project to date” • Cloud and DC Edge, Gold Coast, 2018: "How Can We Maintain Relevance in An Evolving IT Landscape?" • Public Sector Innovation Show, Canberra, 2018: "Digitally Transforming NSW Government with GovDC and the Digital Marketplace" • FSTGov New South Wales, Sydney 2017: “Quantifying the benefits of Data Centre Migration” • Strategic Data Governance, Sydney, 2017 • iTnews Roundtable on Enterprise Networking Challenges, Sydney, 2017 • NSW Government Digital Thought Leadership Series, Sydney, 2017 • Cloud Adoption in Local Government, AAPT/TPG, Sydney, 2017 • FSTGov New South Wales, 2016: “Building the Government of the Future on an Integrated IT Infrastructure” • CIO Leaders’ Summit Australia, 2016: “Transitioning into “As-A-Service” for small to medium organisations” • Gov CIO Summit, Gold Coast, 2010: “Leading Efficiency and Cost Reductions through Innovative ICT” • Public Sector ICT, Sydney, 2009: “Maximising the Value of Shared Services” • Asian CIO Summit, Singapore 2008: “Stakeholder Engagement in Complex Organisations” • GovTech 2008, Singapore, 2008: “Engaging Senior Stakeholders in Driving Long-Term Behavioural Change to Drive the value of ICT” • GovTech Summit 2007, Canberra, 2007: “Keynote Panel Discussion: Improving implementation timeframes and meeting ICT project challenges”
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
Working with narcissists
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was very technical when in 1996 I got my first executive role at Telstra. I have become a divisional CIO of Telstra Payphones and Card Services Division. This was my very first exposure to politics and a complex stakeholder landscape. And this role has done both - widened my horizon and created aspirations. I guess I should thank my Managing Director. I started to focus on stakeholder management, relationships, people, influencing, EQ and then somehow it happened - from CIO of NSW Land and Housing Corporation (3,500 sits) to acting Group CIO of Transport for NSW (30,000 sits)...
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
It depends... I always get up early, sometime between 5 am and 6 am. Start with emails and news. If I need to write something or develop a presentation I tend to allocate a continuous 2-4 hour slot with no interruptions. Being in charge of ICT Service Delivery developed a habit to check emails frequently and to answer phone calls and SMS on a 24x7 basis. I have no problems having back to back meetings when it is required. But I also need thinking time. I tend not to work after 7 pm, unless I am teaching a class at the Australian Graduate School of Leadership or consulting one of my Doctoral students. Occasionally I have to break this rule and to work after 7 pm if I need to meet a deadline.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Being authentic and humane, not being afraid to show that I do not know the answer.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
There are actually two - "The Goal" by Eliyahu M. Goldratt that I have read in the late 90s and "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni that I have read around 2005.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
"Culture eats strategy for breakfast". This quote is attributed to Peter Drucker, but I am not 100% convinced that he is the actual author. In my opinion, culture is the foundation and without solid foundation it is impossible to build a solid house (read leadership capacity)... There are a lot of ingredients that are required and it takes time to do it. And unfortunately one wrong person can destroy it in no time should they happen to be at the helm.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Some years ago I was a CIO of a medium-sized organisation. One of my guys has made a terrible mistake and instead of two test PCs deployed a new O/S image to all servers desktops and laptops in the organisation. We have lost all business systems (except for email, as we have managed to physically disconnect the cable from the email server before it was impacted)and all PCs that were turned on at the time (about a 1,000 of them)... I thought that I would be fired! But I have taken it on the chin, I went to the CEO and explained the situation. I have never revealed who has made this mistake it was - it stayed within the Team. The Team worked overnight and by the next morning all PCs were usable and final minor issues have been resolved by mid-day. All Business systems, except for one have been restored within 48 hours, the last one - in 72 hours. I did not get even a slap on the wrist. In fact, our CEO and the whole organisation were extremely impressed with how we have restored all services.