On the lighter side of things, we ask Olivier Croly, Senior Vice President, Barco APAC, what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
It’s going to show my age! I started my career in GE’s IT department. Back in the early 1990s, they announced plans to deploy a global email platform, so their 20,000 employees could communicate freely and transparently. I was 27 and they put me in charge of it. We’re talking pre-Internet, so we had to build our own TCP/IP network, including in developing countries like China, and all in under two years. Pulling that off was quite a stretch and it really piqued my interest in the transformational power of technology.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
Like many people of my vintage, I came to it by chance, rather than design. I studied business at university but ended up doing some telecoms and IT subjects. That led to a job in ICT. In those early days, I did a little coding but it didn’t excite me. What did excite me was seeing how ICT could be applied to business problems, and matching use cases with the optimum technologies. Back then, awareness of the industry was very low – not many people had the idea it could offer good jobs and a great career.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
As a leader, you have to be forward thinking, anticipating what’s going to happen in the world and being strategic about where you focus your efforts. I strive to communicate my strategy effectively to the team, so everyone’s aligned. Execution is also critical and to do it well you need a performance culture. Some people might say I’m demanding but it’s always with a clear goal. It’s a lot of fun when everyone is committed and working collaboratively.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
Historically, the audio-visual industry was focused on enabling great experiences for people who were together in the same physical space – an office or a conference room. Then COVID-19 arrived and everything went remote. Now, we’re seeing lots of hybrid use cases, where some people are in the room and some are elsewhere. So the big question is, how do you ensure everyone is engaged at the same level? From a technology perspective, it involves the merging of AV and ICT into a single solution.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
It’s an important question when your office is also your home, as it has been for most people in Singapore during the past 16 months. Since COVID-19, I’ve started practising yoga and that’s one way to unwind. I also try to be quite structured with my agenda and make sure it includes break times. During the first lockdown last year, I just sat on my chair in video conferences for hours and hours. That’s not sustainable and the experience made me more mindful about the need to switch off. In normal circumstances, I love getting out with family and friends.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
It’s hard to think of anything I’d do differently, if I had the chance of an Adam Sandler-style ‘Do-Over’. In fact, there’s one career decision I’m very glad I did make… After a decade on the CIO track, I took a sideways step into mergers and acquisitions, carrying out due diligence on potential takeover targets. That got me out of the technical space and into the business management stream and that’s where I’ve remained. At the time, it was a big jump – and one not many IT people make – but it resulted in a lot of learning and a lot of fun. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time on the frontline. I did, but potentially doing it for another 30 years felt a bit limiting.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Historically, audio-visual was a very hardware focused industry but that’s changing rapidly. Companies like ours are building up their capabilities in software and services, so they can offer a complete solution that helps customers achieve business outcomes, as well as technical ones.
What are the region specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?
The diversity of the region is a big one. APAC is more of a concept than a reality because it’s made up of developed and emerging nations and they have quite different needs. You have to be able to address the high end and the entry level simultaneously. And because there are so many cultures and languages, it’s a complex go-to-market. Reaching all the customers across the region calls for a complex network of partners and sales people.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
Last year, Barco launched an internal ‘start-up’– a SaaS offering focusing on the education sector – and I was appointed global sales lead. Building that business has been a huge focus for me and will remain so over the next 12 months. The subscription market is something quite new for us and we’re having to learn to do a lot of things differently. Along with other senior leaders, I’m also focused on developing our services business, so it accounts for a greater proportion of our revenue.
What advice would you offer to someone aspiring to obtain a C-level position in your industry?
During my career, I’ve worked with high growth businesses and survived tougher times, when sales have slumped. The first is more fun but both experiences are equally valuable. Being prepared to weather the ups and downs – and to learn from them – is important. My other advice is to think about your career as ‘growing a tree’. Build up a solid foundation of knowledge – I spent 10 years working in ICT and was subsequently able to leverage those skills in other roles – and then branch out into areas that interest you. Some people try to do that too quickly and the tree isn’t stable. And, while networking has its uses, my approach has always been to win strong sponsors through high performance. If people know you and trust you because they’ve seen you deliver, they’ll want you along on the journey with them.Click below to share this article