UKtech50: India Gary-Martin, From techie to COO: the road less travelled

Computer Weekly hosted an event at the Science Museum in London to coincide with the announcement of the UKtech50 list of the most influential people in UK IT. We invited top IT leaders to share their great ideas for how to innovate with IT, influence the role of technology in their organisation, and inspire their peers. This video is one of a series of the speakers talking to the audience of IT leaders.

Over the past 20 years, managing director of investment banking technology and operations at JPMorgan India Gary-Martin has held top IT roles in some of the biggest financial institutions in the world. She has also received numerous awards including outstanding contribution to diversity by Women in Banking and Finance, best female technologist by the European Banking Technology magazine and has also been named to the Powerlist 100. In this presentation, India will take the audience through the journey of a woman who started her career as a developer and who is now the global chief operating officer of technology and operations at one of the world’s largest banks. Having lived and worked on three continents, she has a unique perspective regarding what it takes.

India Gary-Martin – Managing Director, Investment Banking Technology & Operations, JPMorgan 

In her current role at JPMorgan, India Gary-Martin is responsible for managing the strategic agenda for the 13,000 person Technology & Operations division of the investment bank. In India’s 20+ year career in financial services, she has held a number of CIO and COO roles both regionally and globally at firms including Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers, Royal Bank of Scotland and JPMorgan.

Read the full transcript from this video below:  

UKtech50: India Gary-Martin, From techie to COO: the road less travelled

India Gary-Martin: I am not actually doing slides. I thought that I would just talk to you about my journey, which I think is very important. As you can hear, I have a North American accent, but I have been here for 15 years, so I promise that I have been converted.

My job actually, is the Chief Operating Officer of Technology and Operations for the investment bank at JP Morgan, which is a big grandiose title for running the day-to-day business as it stands for about 14,000 people globally. Let me talk kind of how I got here because I think that is more important. I think the thing that I would like you to take away from this is the diversity of thought because that is what I bring, that is very different. I noticed that I was the sole woman speaking today. I hope that I can demonstrate why you need to go out and find more of me to populate your organizations. Did I hear am ‘Here, here,’ there? Good. I see a couple of ladies. Thank you for being here, ladies.

When I think about my personal journey, it has been quite an interesting one because all of the things that you would traditionally need to be an IT director, I do not have. Those are: My degree was in history from university with a French minor -- that is way off the path. If I look at the people who were in my organization, I was the female, the only female in my class when I came into my graduate class in the organization that I joined -- strike two. Strike three was that actually my year five teacher told my parents that I was not very bright and would never make it. That is a big strike, but somehow, I managed to get past that. ‘What do we say to her now?’ We will start there.

What I am getting to is that in my experience, leaders are made, not necessarily born, and that is one of the things that I challenge you with. We look at people, and we make assumptions about what they should be, how they should look, or immediate views about them without understanding that, actually, it is the diversity of thought that drives what we do. Even taking it a step further than that, I have, through my career, worked in each of the major markets in financial services. I came here, I was in New York first, and then I came to London, took a huge risk and went to Frankfurt. Took an even bigger risk and went to Tokyo, then came back to London. In terms of my ability to be able to bring to my organization from a technology perspective, the cultural differences and challenges that we talk about because it is about the technology, that is what we do. In my business day-to-day, that is what we do and that is what we provide.

Having the diversity of thought and the creativity that different perspectives bring is tremendous. In my own organization, we have done a lot of work on making that look different so we can get that, and I am a testimony to that. When I think about, again, going into my own history and all the things that it took for me to get here, it was a real challenge. The organization that I joined, that hired me from university as a history major, was actually quite novel in their approach. They hired me and some others because they believed that, from a technology perspective, it was better to hire people with arts backgrounds: English, history, music, art, whatever it might be, because they would bring a really different perspective to technology. They trained us on the tech part, over an 18-month period, but what they got was people who thought very, very differently about how to solve technical problems. The creativity is like the CINOs -- we became a whole different breed of something else. The creativity that we brought and the perspective that we brought was very, very different. That organization, I believe, thrived very much because of that.

There were times when being in technology and financial services that I really wanted to go to the front office side, it was the sales and training, I wanted to be there. Then one of my mentors said to me, which actually changed my perspective, and I use with all of my teams, 'Why would you want to leave powering the engine?' That is exactly what we are. The creativity, again, that we demonstrate in creating solutions to be able to process billions and billions of pounds, and billions and billions of transactions every year, changes the game. That, for me, was my epiphany moment.

I want to talk quickly about the leadership component of that. I spoke earlier about how I believe that leaders are made and not born. I gave you my history, my school history clearly was not very strong considering what my teacher said about me. I moved on, as I said, past that. When I look at all the things around me, which molded and shaped me, it was very, very different and those were the things that made me a leader. There are three things that I consider when I think about leadership.

One of them is authenticity, being who you are, which for me, coming into an organization where I was the only woman, I was the only ethnic minority was very difficult to do because I thought I needed to be something different than who I was. The authenticity piece of that, getting comfortable with who I was and being able to demonstrate that in way that added additional perspective instead of being a challenge was something that I did not find easy in the beginning. Once I found that authenticity and found that being who I am is a wonderful thing, the value that I actually brought to the organization actually helped us to change how we operated, it became very clear that I would be more successful, so authenticity is one.

The second one is around ambition -- obviously, underpinned by talent, but ambition, and not being afraid to take risks. In a technology organization, particularly in financial services, we early on did not take as many risks; it was about how we support our business. We have evolved and changed tremendously, I would say in the past 20 years. Now, we are writing iPad apps for our clients, and we are doing all kinds of things that we had not done before: Offices on the west coast in California to try to harness some of that energy. It very much follows what the gentleman was saying from IPSOS is that, we have got to change, and we have all got to evolve, and if we want to attract the best and brightest talent, we have to evolve in a different way. We have to start thinking about how we do things differently.

The final thing I will say before closing is timing. Timing was the third thing. Being in the right place at the right time is great, but I will also say that you have to create the opportunities, as well to make that happen. Though the timing is really, really important, it is also about, how do you create those opportunities? How do you put yourself forward? How do you demonstrate that you are prepared to take risks? Which is I was, moving countries three or four times over the course of the last 20 years. It gives you, again, the perspective, be prepared to take the risk. Be creative and innovative.

With that I will say that though I used to always say that I was an accidental leader, I think that I have come into my own and I am now a real one. Thank you.

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