Q&A: Ian Metcalfe, IT director, Brother

In the first of our special series talking to IT and business leaders who are taking part in this year's Byte Night event, we speak to Brother's IT director, Ian Metcalfe.

Describe your role in three words.

Chief innovation officer

How did you get to where you are today/into IT/business?

After university I joined the Co-operative Wholesale Society as a management graduate trainee. They asked me to pick a division to join, showed me a list of divisions, accounting, sales, marketing, manufacturing. I closed my eyes put my finger on the page and it came up IT.

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We need to understand how we can exploit new innovations in order to create differentiation and benefits in our business.

Having got on the IT track I moved to Brother after three years and have worked in various roles across the business until arriving in my current role. However, it is continually changing and developing, which makes it interesting.

What's the biggest challenge of being a modern-day CIO?

Speed of change is the biggest challenge. We need to understand how we can exploit new innovations in order to create differentiation and benefits in our business. There are now so many new things coming to the table every day that reviewing them all is impossible. So we have to be selective, identify those we think will make the biggest difference and investigate those.

And the most rewarding thing?

Seeing the satisfaction and happiness on the faces of my staff when they have successfully delivered something. That can be delivering a major change initiative, and the company president thanking those project members for their efforts, or a simple "job well done" email from a member of staff. Just seeing my staff well up with pride for a job they have done, knowing they will go home happy that night is one of the best things I can think of.

What is the biggest mistake you think you've made? What did you learn from that


That is quite a tough one. I have made many mistakes over my time, and it is always about learning from them. I recall my first week with Brother. I had been shown how to change a backup tape on the main server on my first day, so the rest of the week I did the same job every morning, until Friday, when I became too complacent, and hit the wrong button, powering off the main server instead of ejecting the tape! [It taught me to] always concentrate on the job in hand regardless of how routine that job has become.

I am fortunate to live in a culture whereby we are encouraged to act, if we make a mistake we just learn from it and ensure we don't make the same one again. In a fast moving world, you can't live in fear of failure, you have to embrace it as part of the learning experience, otherwise we never move forward. Let's say I have certainly learnt a lot over my 20-plus years in IT.

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