Johnny Serrano, CIO with Australian mine security specialists GroundProbe all the time had a fascination with how issues labored, from his first Sony Walkman to the rising variety of video games that had all of the sudden develop into out there to children.
“I actually knew that I needed to receives a commission to make video games. That was my complete motivation,” Serrano tells CIO Australia.
Nevertheless it wasn’t till the now CIO50 alumnus completed highschool that he began significantly considering an expert profession in know-how.
A yr later, having taken step one of buying a diploma in software program engineering, Serrano discovered the inspiration to enrol in a Bachelor of Data Expertise, Digital Commerce at Queensland College of Expertise.
“I used to be actually lucky to review that enterprise IT diploma. I’d be coding in a single class after which finding out enterprise and economics in one other; it actually offered me with a holistic view of enterprise,” Serrano says. His first actual job in tech would quickly expose him to that and extra.
The beginning of a profession in IT
Whereas working for Brisbane-based Funds Databases in 2006, he was despatched to Innisfail, 260km north of his hometown of Townsville, which had been devastated by cyclone Larry, then the strongest to ever hit Australia inflicting $1.5 billion price of injury.
With hundreds of individuals making an attempt to make insurance coverage claims for broken or destroyed houses, vehicles and different belongings, Serrano led a crew to face up a brand new community and methods to assist handle the surge. That have taught him of know-how’s potential to genuinely enhance lives.
“I received to be on the bottom, actually serving to folks and serving to rebuild the city, which trying again was actually significant,” Serrano says. Returning to work again in Brisbane, Serrano who can also be chief information officer at GroundProbe, resumed his side-hustle within the nightclub scene serving to DJs kind out their music information and methods for exhibits.
Subsequent, he landed at US defence firm Raytheon, which had just lately established an Australian workplace in Brisbane. And for the perennial gadget junkie, this opened an entire new world of technological surprise.
“I visited army bases throughout Australia and was uncovered to some fairly cool stuff,” Serrano says. Particularly, he labored on creating — and decommissioning — supporting infrastructure for Tremendous Hornets and F-111 fighters. He additionally helped to help flight simulators, inadvertently realising his dream of being paid to make video games.
“Throughout my 5 years at Raytheon I can say my know-how learnings — and profession on the whole — actually accelerated. I labored with extremely technical people who offered their time and expertise without spending a dime to a savvy younger employee like myself who was prepared to take benefit and hear,” Serrano says.
These early mentors additional influenced him in serving to to undertake a “calmer, huge image perspective of methods to cope with incidents that was each reassuring and confidence-building”.
Typically, he was concerned in extremely delicate operations, which included establishing vital initiatives in regular civilian buildings disguised in order not seem misplaced. “The defence trade data I gained, and safety controls applied are nonetheless a part of my pondering to this present day,” he says.
Saving lives with know-how
Arriving in Australia as a refugee from war-torn El Salvador within the Eighties, Serrano has all the time had a robust sense of social justice. And now, with a few years of high-level and senior know-how expertise below his belt, he launched into a significant profession pivot, sitting the GAMSAT medical entry examination with the intention of at some point becoming a member of Medication Sans Frontiers.
Needing to complement his earnings as a mature-aged pupil and new father, Serrano took a job as a technical enterprise analyst within the IT division at GroundProbe, anticipating to be there for a couple of yr.
Suffice to say, life received in the way in which, because it was round this time he and his spouse welcomed their first youngster into the world, now the eldest of 4.
Quick ahead to at this time, Serrano has now spent 5 years as each CIO and CDO of the corporate the place he oversees a crew of 11 which have helped set up it as a real digital transformation chief within the mining trade.
Whereas there have been important developments in security through the years, few would argue there’s nonetheless a lot room for enchancment, particularly in creating economies the place mine accidents stay tragically frequent, typically leading to lack of life and severe damage, devastating households and communities.
Because it was based in 2001, GroundProbe has been creating software program and digital sensors designed to assist mine operators — and staff — be extra alert and attentive to the numerous risks that may current themselves, whereas accumulating web site information to tell extra clever challenge design.
Harnessing augmented actuality in the course of the pandemic
Like so many know-how leaders, Serrano and his crew have been thrown many a curveball all through the Coronavirus pandemic, not least of which was the shortcoming to have GroundProbe engineers bodily go to purchasers resulting from journey and different COVID-19 restrictions.
This was introduced into sharp aid when a buyer in Bolivia had one in every of its radars cease at a mine web site. In response, Serrano and his crew labored rapidly to create an answer combining augmented actuality (AR), sensible glasses and video that has proved transformational.
“Utilizing AR we have been capable of get every part again up and operating in below an hour,” he says.
Mine operators have been capable of plug into the system and obtain detailed, real-time directions from GroundProbe’s service groups through AR headsets, serving to them preserve operation of the corporate’s merchandise for detecting harmful wall motion.
With that check case confirmed, he and his crew rapidly mobilised to make the know-how out there throughout all of the 30 nations GroundProbe operates in, spanning Asia, Africa, Europe, South America and the US.
Serrano boasts that whereas lots of GroundProbe’s rivals have been scrambling to determine methods to keep up service ranges, the corporate confidently launched a advertising and marketing marketing campaign with the tagline ‘We’re nonetheless operational’. “Our machines do save lives all around the world and we pleasure ourselves on with the ability to maintain them up and operating utilizing augmented actuality,” he says.
In some ways it was a possibility for him to attract on all his previous skilled experiences, bringing collectively disaster administration and hands-on downside fixing.
Serrano shares classes to steer
Maybe much more importantly, it helped him hone useful management expertise, each within the administration of his personal crew, in addition to working with senior executives in a mission-critical capability.
Serrano had beforehand led the worldwide deployment of a brand new ERP system for GroundProbe and commenced a significant program to retire technical debt, however this was completely different.
He notes that main his crew in creating a profitable technology-led response to COVID-19 has helped reshape entrenched “defensive” perceptions amongst the GroundProbe administration that IT is merely an “overhead”. There’s now elevated respect all through the corporate for what know-how can do, a way that it’s a necessary a part of the enterprise, in addition to better appreciation of the folks which are concerned in its deployment.
“Implementing tech is a journey, however it’s actually all in regards to the folks on the finish of the day,” he says.
Serrano feels that gaining government help for this imaginative and prescient is the most important problem going through many CIOs at this time, particularly as they arrive below elevated strain to conjure and deploy methods for digital innovation that ship tangible enterprise outcomes.
Because the onset of the pandemic, GroundProbe has developed a laser-like deal with enhancing buyer expertise, which Serrano says additional underscores the significance of giving his tech crew as a lot freedom as attainable.
However this additionally means guaranteeing they’re free to fail.
“We get informed we’re not allowed to fail however it’s going to occur whenever you’re a supervisor. Nevertheless it’s about de-risking that, which comes again to belief,” Serrano says.
Standing up rising know-how like AR on a world scale was a dangerous transfer for him and his crew, and he admits it may have gone both means.
But he’s cautious to encourage his youthful crew members to trust of their concepts, and to not worry failure, invoking the phrases of American actress Stella Adler: “You’ll solely fail to study if you don’t study from failing”.