The First 100 Days as CIO B2C KPN
Who: Artie Debidien
What: Sinds 1 mei 2022 CIO/EVP Consumer, Enterprise & Wholesale Technology Solutions at KPN
Interviewed by: Melissa Raczak, partner at Deloitte
You have spent 25 years in IT and technology in the financial services sector, most recently at Nationale-Nederlanden. Why this move to KPN?
‘Within the financial sector, I have demonstrated my capabilities as not just a CIO, but a change agent. This has advanced my career and created opportunities for me. Now, I want to show that I can also get other sectors moving. KPN appealed to me because of the company’s commitment to social impact through technology. I thought, I want to be part of that! My goal was to have made my move before my 50th birthday. I did, too. I turn 50 this October. The change has proved to my liking, and the differences are actually not that great in practice. Finance and telecommunications are both currently transitioning from ‘OldCo’ to ‘TechCo.’ The context is similar and the accompanying challenges are familiar to me.’
How did your onboarding go?
‘I designed my own onboarding process. I opened up my calendar to everyone, so people could see exactly when I was available and where. They could then look me up during breakfast or lunch, at brown bag meetings or the occasional workshop. No need to reserve a slot or announce their intentions; everyone was welcome to show up and have their say. It ensured that I actually ate, which is something I otherwise tend to forget when I am working, and allowed me to experience my new work environment’s company culture for myself, understand how decisions are made and gain insight into what various members of staff truly want, including our talents.’
So, what do people want?
‘KPN is facing challenges on all sides. These originate with other and newer telecommunications companies, some with innovative new business models, but also with customers. Instead of entering into competition with those other telcos, the company aims to once again lead the way through innovative services, revenue streams and growth models. Including in new markets. I find that very inspiring.’
How do you intend to work towards this in the coming months?
‘I want to invite everyone to put in some thought and tap all available skills in order to develop new propositions from the inside. Our current approach does not always facilitate this. While we transitioned to agile working previously, this has not proven effective for everything or for all people. Let us stop treating it as the be-all and end-all of our organization and demote it to one possible approach, a tool. I believe the time has come for revolution instead of evolution. It is for good reason that I have named my plan for 2023 ‘Lead or lose.’ I see great opportunities for us to pivot from telco to TechCo, from being a telecommunications operator to a modern, digital and data-driven technology company.’
In IT and technology, women remain underrepresented in the C-suite. As a role model, what advice do you have for other women?
‘If I can do it, so can you. As a woman, mother and person of color, I began as a backend developer/engineer. It is not always comfortable being the odd one out, but I never complained and always refused to play the victim. Do not allow your life and career to be guided by the plans of others. Go after what you want for yourself. For me personally, part of this is inspiring others to make a commercial and social impact. And yes, the two can go together!’
This short interview has been published in Management Scope 08 2022, as part of the regular 'Coming & Going' section.
This article was last changed on 28-09-2022