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Participant thoughts

Clive Cockburn

CIO, Howden Joinery Group plc

For 13 years I was Head of Infrastructure for Howdens, but became Deputy CIO at the beginning of 2015. I spent a year accelerating into the role, and attending the Oxford CIO Academy was an important part of my development and preparation.

It was a short, sharp, quite intense programme that gave me a good introduction to what a CIO does, and the sort of knowledge that I would need to take on those responsibilities. 

Perhaps more importantly, though, I found that it gave me confidence that I could handle the role and be a success in it. During the programme I’d be sitting in a lecture theatre or seminar room, surrounded by talented and experienced people from many different nationalities – obviously Oxford is able to draw all those people in – and suddenly realise that I felt quite comfortable there. I was able to kick around with these people, join in with discussions and debate, and hold my own – which was a good thing as we really were together for such a long time during the day! There was a certain amount of lecturing but the programme was really based on huge amounts of discussion – both in the sessions and over meals and a beer in the evening.

'The role that I was moving out of is a technical job, but to be a CIO you need to have a broader base and more strategic outlook.'

It was really useful for me to meet all these people from different organisations – from oil companies to the Australian Federal Police and Irish Inland Revenue – and find that we were all grappling with fairly similar problems. As part of a growing business, it made me feel quite heartened, in fact!

I loved David Pendleton’s NEO analysis – in fact, I would have liked more time with it. He talked about the analysis with each of us, and people were guessing who it was. It was such a friendly group and we had great fun, as well as learning a lot. I had some quite odd scores, actually, which made me a bit out of the ordinary and – surprisingly to me – naturally entrepreneurial. Innovation is something I’m doing a lot of at the moment, so I found all of the innovation focus very interesting.

I liked the way many of the sessions were framed in such a way that you started asking yourself questions. For example, the piece on success factors for CIOs and also the stories about successful and unsuccessful CIOs. We all brought our own challenges to the programme, and we were able to apply new knowledge and ideas to our individual situations.

'The sessions got us looking at our challenges in a completely different way.'

The facilities were very conducive to learning. It’s easy to underestimate how important the environment is on a development programme. As this was so intensive, the fact that we were looked after well, with fantastic food, was really important. I liked the fact that the building we were in was so light and airy – and, of course, the dinner at Pembroke College was a real treat.


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Zindzi Cresswell

Business Development – Executive Education, Open Programmes

Saïd Business School

University of Oxford

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