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5 Minutes With William Confalonieri

13th Jan 2015

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William Confalonieri is the Chief Digital Officer of Deakin University Australia and was awarded Chief Information Officer of the Year by ITNews in February 2014

William has postgraduate qualifications in Computer Science, Business and Economics, is a certified Enterprise Architect and graduate from the Australian Institute of Company Directors. During our recent sit down, William shared his passion for emerging technology and some insights into his very busy day to day. Thanks William!

What are your business priorities for the next 12 months?

The motto of Deakin University's Strategic Plan is "Driving the Digital Frontier". One of my top priorities is to continue to innovate and keep us at the forefront of the sector in the digital space.

What's the best piece of innovation you've seen or adopted in recent times, that has had a positive impact at Deakin University?

Deakin is the first University in the world to utilise IBM’s ‘Watson’ Artificial Intelligence machine to support our students. We are also the first organisation in the world to implement the most advanced version of Watson. The potential that lies in Watson is mind blowing, which is why I am really proud of our involvement.

http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/us/en/ibmwatson/

Describe a typical day?

A typical day will begin with a family breakfast, and providing I am working from a local campus, the school run.  At work my day is firstly divided between meetings with my team and stakeholders and processing important emails requiring answers. After that, the remaining time will be dedicated to strategic formulation, checking on the most challenging projects and looking for new ideas. Once my working day is complete I will then head off to meet the wife and help with the numerous after school activities my three children are involved in. Following this I may even be able to squeeze in a trip to the gym!

When stakeholders come to you, what business problems do you commonly hear? And is technology always the answer?

Stakeholders come to me with a variety of problems, mostly relating to my space. However, sometimes the answers do not lie in the most obvious of places!  It could be a question of Systems Architecture, or something related to business process. The fun part of my job is to decipher the issues and provide innovative and practical solutions, whilst remaining true to my own vision for Deakin.

Your career has spanned continents and through your job you travel the world, how does the maturity of the technology space in Australia stack up?

We are invested in a number of high profile projects here at Deakin, some of which have received international recognition and awards. Deakin University and the wider community in Australia are well known for being early adopters of bleeding edge technology.  A prime example of this would be our own involvement with ‘Watson’.

What's your advice to anybody interested in becoming a CIO/CDO?

My advice would be to focus not only on becoming a highly respected technologist, but also a transformational leader as they are intrinsically linked.

How did it feel to be awarded ‘Australian CIO of the year’ and how has this last year been?

As you can imagine, the satisfaction was overwhelming and as a consequence this past year has been very atypical, with a huge component of external facing activity. Personally this has been very rewarding.

Apart from your day job, what other interesting projects are you working on?

In addition to my work here at Deakin, I hold non-executive responsibilities with several other organisations. I am President and Council Chairman with McKinnon Secondary College, and I am a Non Executive Director with Vernet, Callista, AAF and Code for Australia. Sometimes I could really do with a few extra hours in the day!

Favourite place to travel?

Fiji- In addition to the warm and friendly people, I found the landscapes around the small islands incredibly beautiful. Our first trip to Fiji was in 2011 and I can see us returning there many times in the future. It is such a wonderful place.

Favourite local restaurant and dish?

I don’t really have a favourite restaurant, but I have a favourite type of meal: Thai. I try to test a new Thai restaurant any time I get the opportunity.

And finally, as a CIO/CDO what is that burning question you’ve always wanted to ask your peers?

Too many to narrow down to just one!  However, my questions typically go in the direction of understanding the challenges my contemporaries face in their role and understanding their future vision.