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A well-travelled CIO

Nadia Cameron | Jan. 21, 2015
How Qantas’ tech chief, Luc Hennekens, is ensuring the airline’s IT function is at the forefront of business innovation.

Luc Hennekens

Qantas CIO, Luc Hennekens, is possibly one of the most travelled IT leaders in Australia. So it's appropriate his current role is in the cockpit of the country's largest airline, helping to steer the technology team to become custodians of business and customer experience.

Hennekens grew up in the Netherlands and studied industrial engineering, but in his eagerness to pursue an international career, he moved into IT.

His first job in the 1990s followed a week-long student placement at Procter and Gamble, which led to an internship with the FMCG company's IT function in Spain working not only with technologists but also architects, biologists and psychiatrists.

"I'm not the kind of guy that likes specialism," Hennekens comments. "IT at P&G was interesting because the internal IT organisation was seen as one that figures out how the business gets more value through technology.

"I worked a lot with marketing and R&D on customer data, as P&G was making a science out of customer understanding."

After stints in France, Latin America and the UK to join P&G's newly formed Global Business Services team, Hennekens moved to Manila to help set up the shared IT services unit in the Philippines.

He then switched to HP in a business and commercial role, spending three years in the US. It was when he was looking to head back to Europe that he was asked to join a New Zealand energy company as CIO.

"The more we talked about it, the more I understood the transformation agenda and thought why not," Hennekens says.

"Going from a market that's highly competitive in the US, with plenty of capability, to a very small market, where we were a big fish in a small pond, brings a whole new set of challenges.

"One was reporting to a board, which I hadn't done when I worked for HP or P&G, but it was a great experience."

Hennekens joined Qantas in January 2013, initially as CTO.

"My first reaction was that I'm not by nature a CTO -- I haven't grown up through deep technology and have always been more on the business side," he says.

"But I got talking to Paul Jones [former CIO and now executive general manager of strategy and planning] and we were on the same wavelength. I loved what he was doing here in Qantas.

"Qantas was clearly going through a huge transformation from being a government organisation in a monopoly and duopoly position, and into a market that has opened up to a lot more competition.

For someone who wants to work in technology and business, it's a great opportunity." It was also apparent the CTO role was a clear path to CIO, and Hennekens was promoted to the job nine months later.

 

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