With extensive global management experience to draw on, Intelligent CIO talks to Khalid Jalal, Senior Group ICT Manager at GARMCO, about successful leadership, CIO versatility and the progressive nature of the IT scene in Bahrain.
Khalid Jalal is one of the leading IT figures in Bahrain – a country that is at the sharp end of Digital Transformation.
He has extensive experience across the sector and is now firmly established as the IT leader of Bahrain-based Gulf Aluminium Rolling Mill (GARMCO) with a multitude of global responsibilities.
This is one of the largest downstream aluminium facilities in the Middle East and is a one-stop source for a wide range of premium aluminium flat rolled products, delivered to over 45 countries, directly from the Kingdom of Bahrain.
GARMCO’s annual production capacity has been continuously expanded to include high-quality flat rolled aluminium products in various sizes and alloys, including sheets and coils.
These products are exported to key markets around the world – stretching from Australia to the USA – to over 2,000 customers in more than 45 countries.
Established in 1981 by the governments of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq and Qatar, GARMCO has steadily developed into a truly global organisation with a network of six subsidiaries and its associate companies spanning the Middle East, Asia, Far East, Australia, Europe and the USA.
Today, the group employs over 600 people worldwide, and has an annual turnover exceeding US$450 million.
Not surprisingly, leading its IT operations is a demanding task but Jalal has led by example to deliver outstanding performance – not just at the company’s headquarters but also for its global subsidiaries.
After more than five years in his current role, he has been praised by colleagues for his excellent people management skills and has received their respect for his technical knowledge, comprehensive project management skills, as well as his understanding of business needs.
Intelligent CIO talks with him about the need for IT leaders to be excellent communicators, a subject rarely mentioned in the tech community, and the requirement for continuous learning due to the dynamic nature of the IT sector.
We also discuss the importance of IT leaders valuing their team, the versatility demanded of a modern CIO and the advanced nature of the IT scene in Bahrain.
Can you tell me about your role at your current company?
As Senior Group ICT Manager, I look after the entire ICT of GARMCO Head Office and its subsidiaries globally. I ensure we have the right strategies and objectives in place and they are fully aligned with the business strategies and objectives.
So you are the senior IT leader and exercise global responsibilities?
Yes. I am the Senior Group ICT Manager at GARMCO and look after ICT in its Head Office in Bahrain and its global subsidiaries in USA, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
How important is it for IT leaders to have effective communication skills?
Communication is a pre-requisite for a good and successful leader. For a successful IT leader where most of his time is spent communicating at various levels, one of his success KPIs is his communication skills.
Do you think CIOs are going to need better presentational skills in the future?
A CIO is always a public (internal and external) facing figure and most of his time is spent in communications and presentations of various types and at various levels. With such a critical role and responsibility, a CIO definitely needs to have good communications and presentation skills.
Personally, I would recommend CIOs join Toastmasters (an organisation that operates clubs worldwide to promote communication and public speaking skills) where they can continuously improve their public speaking, communication and presentation skills.
Is there anything that has occurred in your career that has taught you your most important lesson?
Career wise, there has been lots of learning and I am still learning. The beauty in the IT field is that it’s so dynamic that learning cannot be stopped or even delayed.
I think the best thing I’ve learned is that, always love your job and do your job with passion and you will be successful. If you do your job just as a job, in a long run you will not enjoy it and chances are there that you will not be successful.
Secondly, your success was only possible because of your team who had supported you in your success journey, so ensure you take good care of your team and value their efforts and input always.
Overall how would you describe your managerial style?
My managerial style is very simple. What I like for myself, I like for my team and what I don’t like for myself, I don’t like for my team and that is the secret of my success as a manager. Respect, encouragement, motivation, empowerment and trust are the pillars of my successful managerial style.
How important is it for CIOs these days to be versatile?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, a CIO wears various caps. A CIO is a technical leader, he is an innovation leader, he is a commercial leader to an extent and he is a marketing leader at times as well, and the list continues.
In a mature organisation, a CIO plays a critical role where he may be representing the organisation at the board level. This requires a CIO to be multi-talented and think out of the box at all times.
How would you describe the IT scene in Bahrain?
Bahrain IT is very advanced given the size and limitations it has. The key benefit here is that the Bahrainis have got talent and in many organisation the roles are very well handled by Bahrainis themselves.
The Bahrain Government through Tamkeen (a semi-autonomous government agency that promotes the development of private sector businesses) is heavily investing in local talents and start-up business for entrepreneurs. What might be lacking still is that Bahrain needs more marketing and promotions of organisations and even government level ICT visions as well as achievements – that is my personal point of view.
Do you have any other outside interests?
Outside my work, I participate in various voluntary events where I get a chance to contribute to society. For example, I have chartered and am the current president of Bahrain IT Professionals Toastmasters Club. I am also VP of the Artificial Intelligence Society, a board member at the Technology and Business Society, and a member of CIO Knowledge Club Bahrain, to name a few.