Spotlight on IT Pro Mentor:
Ben Livson

How did you get started in IT?
I started in 1978 as a software engineer in a defence and aerospace plant for combat avionics and remotely piloted vehicles. I rose through the ranks to lead QA and Testing of systems integration in the PMO. Ten years later I continued as a R&D Manager with Unisys. Afterwards I progressed to more commercial IT services with the top consultancies, telcos, financial services and government being the big clients.

What do you consider your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement has been stopping my clients from chasing bad business with excessive risk. In one instance I managed to stop a USD$200m investment in an ICT business that later on became insolvent. On a more positive note I have several times rescued failing projects as well as successfully delivered full life-cycle projects.

What do you like most about working in IT?
I always like the people interaction and human networking in particular with the business stakeholders and also coal face end users. Being appreciated by your clients and especially by end users is the best reward one can have in IT.

What do you see as the future industry trends?
I see a lot of IT becoming commoditised and off-the-shelf. Users will be able to implement complex business processes with the latest tools. IT has to become ever more business focused with technology becoming less and less important. Business expects measurable guaranteed outcomes and in particular guaranteed savings. The top tier vendors will ever increasingly insure such outcomes and IT becomes a risk management exercise where payment is tied to measured performance. On the technology side, I see natural language based search, web advertising, collaboration and social networking becoming increasingly important. The Windows-Intel Wintel desktop with the advent of Web 2.0 will evolve into easy-to-use “black-box” web-devices requiring minimal or no maintenance by end users as opposed to the current Wintel PCs that do not suffer computer illiterate users. Most importantly we are constantly moving towards a knowledge economy with knowledge capital and knowledge management becoming key drivers to prosperity. I see IT professionals having intellectually much more stimulating and challenging work in future.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to enter the IT industry?
I strongly advise all in the IT industry and anyone aspiring to enter IT to pick up solid business skills in disciplines such as engineering, science, commerce, accounting, medicine or law. Having just IT skills will not be enough but one has to be able to master at least one business domain and be properly trained in it.