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'Gamekeeper to poacher'

"I have gone back to being the customer of the IT department, as opposed to leading it," Glenn Armishaw reflects on the transition he has gone through in the past three years at Toyota Financial Services.

Armishaw has been with the company for 18 years, starting as a "money lender", then leading a division responsible for IT, and is now development group manager. His current portfolio covers customer services, consumer sales, marketing and product development. He takes on a different mindset when he deals with the department he used to head for 10 years, likening the move from "gamekeeper" to "poacher".

His focus is now on the customer side of the business, and his current role includes working with their insurance partners, on advertising, CRM, staff customer services team, fleet management, developing products and new channels.

Armishaw is a member of the executive management group, whose members also have experience on IT management and this makes for "interesting discussions" during meetings.

He explains a number of industry financial companies and banks had the underpinnings of systems dating back into the 60s and 70s. "We are used to technology enabling it [the enterprise]," he says, but the difference is technology "has become far more all encompassing".

He says moving out of IT was not a problem for him. "It has always been my intention." For some people, taking on the transition after 10 years in the role would be "fearful".

In his case, he concentrated on change on the business side. "Very few projects fail because of technology," he explains.

Armishaw says what worked for him was the way the company rotates staff to do different roles. This was how he was thrust into the CIO role. "I became the IT guy because I was heading the project that required IT," he says.

He credits TFS for taking the "brave" decision to appoint someone who had no IT background at all, to take charge of a vehicle point of sale project. The POS system replaced calculators and paper based ledgers. At that time, only one person in their company had a PC and it wasn't Armishaw. When Y2K came along, he ended up being the IT manager.

"My movement to IT was my equivalent of getting an MBA," says Armishaw, who has a commerce degree. "Some people feel they are typecast as engineers and to break the mould, get a generalist education to recast themselves," he says. "I recast myself by going into IT."

"IT allows you to look right across the whole business, managing competing priorities, [providing] lessons on people management, and being patient."

He reckons his career path may not be a common route for CIOs, but says he liked the varied experiences that came with the roles he has taken. His key advice? "Be open to opportunities and change."

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