After Hours with Zaki Sabbagh

ACN delves below the corporate strategy to understand what really makes the region’s CIOs and IT leaders tick. This month: Zaki Sabbagh, CIO at Zamil Industrial Investment

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After Hours with Zaki Sabbagh
By  Ben Furfie Published  September 28, 2010

ACN delves below the corporate strategy to understand what really makes the region’s CIOs and IT leaders tick. This month: Zaki Sabbagh, CIO at Zamil Industrial Investment.

What was your first role in the industry?

I started out as an engineering programmer at Zamil Steel back in 1994 and that role lasted up until the beginning of 1999. After that, I was relocated to the IT department in Egypt where we had just opened a new factory. I spent three years in Egypt heading the IT department there and worked on a lot of major IT projects, including a datacentre establishment, an ERP implementation and in-house application localisation.

How many people do you manage and what is your management philosophy?

I have almost 80 people. My philosophy is that I don’t believe in a structured organisation; I believe in a flat organisation. Transparency is another one of my major philosophies.

What was your first PC you owned?

The first computer I owned was an X86 and that was back in 1986 or 1987. I also remember one of my relatives owning the first Apple Mac and he started doing some analytics and programming. It was a very attractive system, with the concept of the hard disk — 1MB!

What’s your greatest achievement?

My greatest success was approving a successful shared IT services model at a time when a lot of international projects were failing. The concept of a shared services model was very challenging and at the time a lot of organisations failed to achieve it, with some even killing off their projects. I am really proud that we have achieved a lot of success from providing a proper shared services model. It is governed by the use of many good practices, including ITIL practices. We also achieved the IS0 20000 certification — the only company in Saudi Arabia to do so.

What is your fondest memory of working in the industry?

Every single year of my career in IT has been the fondest. I really consider that to be the case and I would definitely apply it to the 1,000-plus technology projects that I have executed during my career.

Which technology will have the biggest impact on the market in the next year?

Cloud computing, because it will help to bridge the gap between IT and the business. IT is looked at from a technical perspective because people are technical people. This is true to a certain extent because if you go to an IT department you will see a lot of attention paid to software, hardware, upgrades, networks and integration. When cloud computing arrives, all of this is overcome. You don’t need the server, you don’t need to upgrade, you don’t need licences. The focus will go directly on how to customise an application to suit a business’ needs. Cloud computing is going to change the culture of a business.

What’s the best way to deal with stress?

In order to be a person that absorbs stress, you need to build yourself up to be a proactive person, not a reactive person. The moment you act on a reactive mode you will burn yourself out. I don’t think of work from the moment I leave my office unless I have something specific to work on. I also allocate a specific time for myself during the week or the weekend to catch up with paperwork and administrative tasks.

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