ComputerWorld Canada honours IT leaders

Charaka Kithulegoda, senior vice-president and chief information officer of ING Direct Canada, was honoured with ComputerWorld Canada’s 2011 IT Leader of the Year Award in the large enterprise category for his work creating a comprehensive mobile platform for the bank.

Kithulegoda spearheaded a series of strategic initiatives to extend mobile functionality to ING clients. Rather than simply focussing on the more-popular iPhone and BlackBerry devices, his team created applications for the PlayBook, Windows Phone 7 and Android smart phones, making it the first bank in Canada – and until recently, the only bank in the world – to support all the major mobile platforms.

Kithulegoda stressed the importance of creating a team whose talents are greater than your own.

“It’s difficult sometimes to not let your ego get caught up in it and encourage your people to challenge you and not feel threatened by it,” Kithulegoda said. “Attracting those people is the biggest challenge.

That sentiment was also resonated with Larry Franks, winner of the IT Leader of the Year Award in the small and medium enterprise category.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned over 30-some years in this business is to hire the best people you can,” Franks said. “It’s always a very good result if you never worry about hiring someone smarter than you.”

Franks was recognized for his work delivering a network of 26,000 smart meters and supporting IT infrastructure for Peterborough Utilities Group, where he is vice-president of technology services.

While the IT Leader of the Year Awards recognize IT professionals who report to highest executive levels, the second annual ComputerWorld Canada IT Leadership Awards  also recognized IT managers, mentors and educators.

Eric Swanson, data centre manager with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, received the IT Manager of the Year in the large enterprise category for his work on a data centre and intelligent containment project, which was recognized by the Uptime Institute in May as a world-class innovative approach to increase a data centre’s cooling efficiency. He said leadership can be found anywhere in the ranks of an organization.

“I know we’re focussed a lot on the senior folks and managers and CIOs, but I think one thing that’s really key is we all can exhibit leadership,” he said. “No matter where we are in the organization, we can all do things well and show leadership.”

Kalyan Chakravarthy, director of IT for the Toronto International Film Festival, was honoured as IT Manager of the Year in the SME category in his first stint with a small business, hailing from an enterprise IT background.

“It was a great 2010 for me, moving from a big, large operation. I’ve never worked with an SME organization (before),” he said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into. I thought it was 10 days a year. I have a two-year-old daughter, so I can spend more time with her. Everything proved to be wrong,” he said, chuckling.

Three months into his tenure, Chakravarthy had moved the festival’s e-mail platform into the cloud, then supervised the relocation of TIFF’s offices with minimal disruption and down time.

“TIFF was really a passion-meets-profession kind of thing. I love movies, especially Bollywood,” he said.

James McKeen of Queen’s University  was recognized as IT Educator of the Year, having co-founded two industry forums bring that bring together leaders in the industry to discuss critical IT issues, bringing that research into the classroom and linking graduate students with business leaders.

Avi Pollock, vice-president of innovation and strategic planning with RBC Financial Group, was named Mentor of the Year. Pollock leads the Next Great Innovator Challenge, an innovation contest open to students nationwide that has attracted more than 500 team entries. Recognizing the need for RBC to tap into the knowledge of its employees, Pollock created an internal version, the T&O Employee Innovation Challenge, which attracted participation from more than 500 employees.





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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a freelance editor and writer. A veteran journalist of more than 20 years' experience (15 of them in technology), he has held senior editorial positions with a number of technology publications. He was honoured with an Andersen Consulting Award for Excellence in Business Journalism in 2000, and several Canadian Online Publishing Awards as part of the ComputerWorld Canada team.

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