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John Owen

Group CEO, Mastek Ltd

Years of working in the industry, your contribution reflects versatility and volubility. What has influenced your decision making process at various stages?

I hope values and trust throughout. When building a career as an individual contributor it was about personal pride, accountability and trust in myself to deliver results. As I progressed in my career, it thereafter became about delivering results through and with people, which meant that I had to earn their trust. And now as a CEO it’s about inspiring people to deliver results in their own way but also earning the trust of all the stakeholders in Mastek to steer the company within the ethos and values we define as important to us.

WCRINT Super Fest – 17-5-18 -London

A project or an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
Simply the current and next project is the most significant. Turnarounds are always more rewarding. Seeing belief, confidence and pride return to people, customers and companies is a feeling money cannot buy.
How do you integrate corporate philanthropy or corporate social responsibility as a part of your business strategies?
CSR to an Indian company and its employees is fundamental and refreshingly authentic to a business leader with only western experience. It’s neither the money, nor the PR that’s important but the discretionary investment every Mastekeer makes to help their society develop. Mastekeers genuinely care and our job as leaders is to support, encourage and make it easy for people to contribute to society in multiple ways. As an example, our India based employees have long been able to make charitable contributions via payroll giving and this year we’ve enabled this for all our UK based people.
What has been your driving force or philosophy in life?
Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability and commit. Always, play to win with passion but accept that others can sometimes outplay you and accept defeat gracefully but reflect, learn and move forwards.
How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition?
Success is about fulfilling one’s potential and therefore has many definitions. One man’s success is another man’s failure.

We are constantly making things better, faster, smarter or less expensive. In other words, we strive to do more with less. Tell me about a recent project or solution to a problem that you have made better, faster, smarter or less expensive?
Mastek is about creating value and building new ways of working through Enterprise Digital Transformation. If we look at the example of Together, one of our key customers and a major player in the UK lending space; their brokers were using obscure, complex product interfaces when dealing with customers. We worked with them to replace this with a unified broker portal which is easier to use, more systematic and clear about what brokers and customers can expect from Together, and about how the lender’s products work. The end result: a 30% cut in underwriting turnaround and a 150% growth in their loan book which helped drive overall business growth of 150% over the last four years. That’s digital transformation.
In your opinion what is the most significant aspect of leadership?
Giving every Mastekeer the permission to unlock their inbuilt passion, talent and energy to influence society through their work. When people recognize their own talents, it very quickly translates into better customer service.
Your perception of an empowered society. How far your industry has / can contribute for the same?
One of the major reasons I joined Mastek was the concept of Mastek 4.0, which removes the traditional command and control hierarchy and processes. Mastek is a knowledge based business and our only IP is our people so it stands to reason that smart, committed people can configure their own work load balance better than any supervisor which I think is a throwback to a manufacturing era when companies didn’t trust their people as much as we do today.
How are you actualizing strategies for product and process improvement?
Standstill and we die. AI, automation, machine-to-machine learning will impact the old world so we actively look to understand and embrace new technologies for the benefit of our customers, employees and ultimately shareholders.
How do you see the market 5 years down the line?
Digital will be at the heart of every business, government and society. We cannot uninvent social media, the internet, smart phones etc… it will be like paper today, we cannot function without it as it glues companies with customers, governments with citizens and people to people. The rate of transformation is only going to get quicker as smart people realize what they can achieve through technology.
 One thing you wish to change and one thing you wish to retain about your industry?
Retain: the rate of change, it will only increase and challenge everyone and everything to be the best.
Change: Governments and regulators need to be ahead or at least level with technology as unchecked development infringes ethical and economic boundaries which if not managed will create friction and damage society. The fact that we can do something technically isn’t a good enough argument to necessarily do it.
One thing you have to let go off as an entrepreneur/leader?
Retirement: I always thought I’d retire and then live life, but this industry keeps me motivated, challenged and young as my daughter said “you’ll never retire, you love it too much” and she is right!
Whom do you owe your success to?
My parents! They had a great work ethic and always encouraged me to do things I was passionate about and therefore usually good at this is a virtuous circle. I also recognize my own shortcomings so having a diverse and complimentary team is critical. I don’t need or want a team that agrees with me but a team that comes to the best decision. There is no perfect candidate, accept it and build perfect teams!
Best thing about your job?
Seeing a team develop, grow and enjoy learning. Our anthem sums it up perfectly “We make magic here, We are Mastekeers”
A message from you to all the future entrepreneurs/leaders?
You’re only as good as the team you build and the people you lead. If you ever get an air gap between what to say and what to do then that’s the early warning signal of potential failure. People follow what they see not what they hear and unless you’re an inventor I would suggest you will be needing people to follow you!

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