From graduate to executive general manager
During his 18 years with Suncorp, Charles Pizzato has risen from junior systems engineer to executive general manager. As many more graduates prepare to join our business – including his team – he shares his advice and tells why tech graduates have an enormous opportunity ahead.
Charles knows what it's like to stand in the shoes of a new Suncorp graduate. He joined Suncorp in his early 20s in 2004, back when flip phones were high tech and companies’ technology infrastructure revolved around large data centres.
Now, he leads a team of over 220 employees and 400–500 partners as the Executive General Manager of Technology Infrastructure, and credits Suncorp with launching his career.
"I worked for a couple of different organisations before coming here, but nothing that held me," he said.
"I was looking for an opportunity to work as part of a large technology team that was known for getting things done – somewhere that gave me the opportunity to move around, and somewhere whose values and purpose aligned with mine – and I found it here at Suncorp.”
He certainly hasn’t wasted the opportunity. From his first junior role, Charles has worked across an incredible range of technology and leadership roles supporting the whole breadth of the organisation across Australia and New Zealand.
For anyone wanting to become a leader, his advice is to jump at any opportunity.
“Leadership always interested me, because it allowed me to have a greater influence, by delivering projects that make a real difference for our customers and work more closely with our great people.
There’s genuinely a strong culture at Suncorp of really fostering and developing our talented people, and to strive to be better every day. It’s support I’ve had through my career, and now as a leader, I get to do that for others.EGM Technology Infrastructure Charles Pizzato
“Unfortunately, the skills that make you a great technologist aren’t the only ones needed to make you a great leader. I therefore challenged myself to jump at any opportunity to take on different leadership roles, even if I didn’t necessarily have all the skills, in order to build my capability. I was also constantly looking for opportunities to grow the number of different technologies I had exposure to.
“It meant that I really pushed myself. One piece of advice I always give to new graduates is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I never learn more than when I’m throwing myself in the deep end.”
This approach to his career has given Charles exposure to an incredible array of opportunities, from the Promina acquisition in 2006, to ultimately leading Suncorp’s core banking transformation from 2014–18.
He describes the latter as his “single-handed biggest opportunity for growth”, with the project seeing him lead a team of 500 people across technologies he didn’t have a lot of background in.
“It was one of my first real leadership tests in the true sense of the word. This wasn’t something I could get done by relying on my technical background; instead I had to rely on my skills as a leader and focus on surrounding myself with great leaders and technologists, providing clear direction, helping them solve problems and clear the runway for delivery.
"People often talk about how it is hard to get things done when working for a large organisation, the challenges of cutting through red tape, being caught up in bureaucracy and spending your time on busy work. They lose focus on the outcome and spend more time selling the dream than delivering it. I have always had a laser focus on delivery and outcome (I refer to it when talking to my team as done-done). What you want to be remembered for in an organisation is what you delivered, not what you talked about delivering and never got done.
“There’s genuinely a strong culture at Suncorp of really fostering and developing our talented people, and to strive to be better every day. It’s support I’ve had through my career, and now as a leader, I get to do that for others.”
There's an unshackled energy that comes from someone who has just finished university and wants to make their mark on an organisation.EGM Technology Infrastructure Charles Pizzato
Suncorp’s Technology and Transformation team takes the biggest cohort of graduates each year compared with any other department, and Charles said graduates play an incredibly important role within that team.
“There's an unshackled energy that comes from someone who has just finished university and wants to make their mark on an organisation,” Charles said.
“It builds the diversity of thought within the team, which is critical for a technology team. They tackle problems differently to someone who graduated 20 years ago.
“Technology also moves fast, so what today’s graduates are learning in 2022 is very different to what I learned graduating in 2001.”
And for a future career in technology, Charles says it’s a great time to be starting out.
“With the focus on cloud, data, digital and automation, a lot of the work we used to do is now commodity – but it only increases the value of our work.
“We’re now working much closer to the business to deliver customer solutions than ever before. It used to be that you were either in business or technology, but that’s no longer the case – we can be both.
“What will make today’s graduates successful in 20 years’ time won’t come down to how well they can sit and code in a back room, but instead how well they understand how the business operates and how well they can solve business problems.
“I’m humbled that I’ll get the chance to meet and develop these future leaders.”