"Where I derive job satisfaction is being able to make a positive difference. For me, it's important to legitimise emotion and bring in personality in order to help people understand the value of emotional intelligence alongside IQ and business acumen," says Claire Hamon, CIO of Rok Group.
Hamon believes that "having fun is very important in order to create a brilliant environment to work in as it's motivational. But it's also about making change happen in a positive way by bringing people along with you."
Hamon has been at property and construction firm Rok Group for five months after a long career in the financial services industry and a stint at the Crown Prosecution Service as head of IT.
The sector switches have left Hamon unfazed. "I consider myself to be sector-agnostic," she explains. "The language and requirements are different, but a linguist can speak languages. I translate IT terminology into the language of the business, so I think of myself as a linguist whose job it is to speak business language and talk in terms of business outcomes, while we in the IT team work out the technical bits."
But Hamon also feels that her ability to work as part of a team is equally crucial - not least because she is an avid rugby player. "You don't see it more clearly or starkly than you do on the rugby pitch, but leaders don't always have to lead from the front," she explains. "It's important to give clear leadership and be a strong leader with a clear vision, but it's also about knowing when to stand back and cheer from the sidelines. Celebrating the success of others is as important sometimes as cutting a new path."
Daring to be different has stood Hamon in good stead in her career. It is also why she ended up at Rok, which employed her not only to head a traditionally male-dominated function, but also to sit on the board of a firm operating in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
"I prize difference," she says. "Mould-breaking resonates with me as does looking for unique ways of adding value. It's not about breaking with convention for the sake of it, but adding value by understanding how and why the things you do have an impact on others. That's not only my personal view, it's a company ethos too."
So how did Hamon get to where she is today? Her first step was to follow in her electrician father's footsteps and attend the London Computer and Electronics School, where she developed an interest in programming. "It's very much about logic and that made sense to me. It fitted," she says.
From there, Hamon was hired as a programmer by Lloyds TSB before moving into a variety of roles ranging from leading a development team to undertaking project, programme and supplier management.
Her big break came after returning to work after having her first child. Although initially there was no real job for her to return to, Hamon started devising new project management processes before becoming involved in a group-wide Year 2000 initiative.
"The reality of maternity leave is 'out of sight, out of mind'," she says, "but a chance set of circumstances came along. It's what you do with those chances that makes the difference, though, and what I did was to turn that chance into an opportunity. Initially it's about having the courage and conviction to do something like that, but it's also about having a positive and proactive approach to life. It's up to you make life happen it doesn't happen by accident."
The post turned out to be "one of the most successful parts of my career" partly because it gave her "a great opportunity to work with people from different departments across the business".
The reward for her skills and hard work was the offer of a business analyst position to research and explore the future of the financial services industry for strategic planning purposes.
At the same time, Hamon also started a part-time MBA at Bath University, which she completed on maternity leave with her second child. Her specialism was cultural change and the qualification, she says, was "foundational" to getting to where she is today.
"I shifted from someone who had always loved being with people to become a business leader. The thing that the MBA does for you is teach you the language of business and to see information systems in the context of the business, not as an end in themselves."
But during her maternity leave, she also experienced an epiphany when she realised she wanted to move onwards and upwards rather than back to a job with her former employer.
"I had quite a lot of time to think about what I'd really enjoyed about my jobs up until then and that's important. It's about making positive choices about the future. It's not about saying I want do less of this, but saying I want to do more of that."
As a result, her next move was to take a job heading up the IT function at the Crown Prosecution Service. Here she "brought a commercial view into the business", while the organisation taught her that "a morally motivated workforce is unstoppable".
It was this insight that led her to Rok, which she describes as "mould-breaking in the way that it treats and employs people", not least because it has a policy of employing permanent staff in an industry traditionally reliant on casual labour.
"The idea is to find somewhere that you fit and where you feel that your integrity is intact when you go home in the evening. So it's about being clear about your own values and the things that make you happy. But it's also about proactivity and recognising that you're responsible for your own career, which means making positive choices about your own future," she says.
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This was first published in January 2008