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A head for business

Byron Connolly | May 26, 2014
Corrs Chambers Westgarth’s Jon Kenton talks about his elevation up the c-suite, how technology is transforming legal firms, and why CIOs think the way they do.

"We saw very early that Asia was the global economic engine and that was both an opportunity and a threat for Australian business - our clients," he says. "Our ambition therefore was to ensure the competiveness of our clients and our country by helping them to engage effectively in the Asian growth machine."

Kenton is responsible for 400 staff out of a total team of 1000 at the law firm. He was CIO between 2007 and 2011 and since then, has quickly become responsible for areas of the business that aren't directly related to technology.

In January 2012, he completed a three-month stint as CIO and director of people, a role that covered human resources, and learning and development. Within a few months, Kenton was again promoted to COO, a role that he has held for the past two years.He says the move was a natural progression.

"It's obviously a big jump but along the way, I picked up different roles around the firm that weren't strictly technology. The HR and learning and development position was an example of that."

Dealing with ambiguity
Kenton believes CIOs are very fact-driven and analytical but once they move into a more senior, c-level positions, being able to deal with uncertainty becomes very important.

"You won't have all the information you need and you won't always have the time to go and get it," he warns."A lot of people with analytical backgrounds - not just in technology - tend to think in a very fact-based way. They think 'If I present the facts, they will agree with me', without really understanding what those facts mean, what that person's motivations are, and where they are coming from.

"My biggest journey over time has been around working with other people, working out how to get my points across and really influence people."

So do CIOs lack the skills required to move up the c-level food chain? Perhaps some do but Kenton also believes a number of people in senior technology roles are happy being where they are and don't necessarily want to progress upwards.

For those who want to move higher, a change in mindset might be a good start."I've spent some time with people throughout my career who have been frustrated because they think they have the answer yet no-one is listening to them," Kenton says. "They haven't perhaps spent as much time thinking about how they present the argument in the first place."

There's also a mindset from CIOs to mention downsides, he says. "As a CIO, it's ingrained in you to find out why things won't work - so if you get presented with an idea, you immediately ask 'why won't that work?'"

 

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