Robin Sutara discusses her career journey transitioning from Chief Operating Officer to Chief Data Officer to Chief Technology Officer and the power of being flexible in an evolving world as more and more companies become technology-led. At our CTO Craft Winter Con, she’ll be hosting a talk on C-Who? The evolving roles of C-Suites in Technology.

Robin Sutara
Robin Sutara
Hi Robin, welcome to the CTO Craft Spotlight Q & A. You’re our day one opening keynote speaker at the CTO Craft November conference and Field Chief Technology Officer, Databricks. Can you give us a teaser about what you might share with our audience at the CTO Craft Conference?

Having held the roles of Chief Operating Officer, Chief Data Officer, and now Chief Technology Officer, I am looking forward to sharing a bit of my journey and the skills that have helped me in each of those roles. 

In your opinion, how are traditional definitions of the C-Suite changing as organisations evolve?

Every organisation is evolving as a result of the changing ecosystem – whether pandemic, conflict, or financial recession. Thus, the C-Suite supporting those efforts are also evolving. Technology used to be a “nice to have.” It is now foundational, and every organisation is becoming a technology or data company.

Do you think that CTOs and CIOs officers are developing a new level of authority within the C-suite, and if so how can they maintain this authority?

I think this varies depending on the maturity of the organisation. Those who are more mature on their journey and understand the power of technology, specifically data, to their business create a platform and opportunity for the CIO and CTO roles to have even more influence and impact than ever before.

What role can C-Suite members play in creating and supporting an inclusive workplace?

The most powerful thing, in my opinion, that the C-Suite can do to create and support an inclusive workplace is to ensure commentary is supported by action. Speaking of inclusion but having an organisational structure or culture that doesn’t demonstrate or reflect that point of view is one of the most detrimental to building the teams we all want.

Can you tell us more about what you do in your role at Databricks?

As a Field CTO, I provide consultation and thought leadership to global organisations on how to successfully implement data-driven transformations, including people, process, culture, and technology.

Thanks Robin. How has your background in engineering, technology and Microsoft helped you to do the role you do today?

After 23 years at Microsoft, I have had the amazing opportunity to experience first-hand the complexities of implementing data-led transformations. Oftentimes we focus on just the technology, but that is just one part of the puzzle that organisations need to consider.

As a woman in tech, how do we ensure that underrepresented individuals who haven’t had the same opportunities as peers are given fair and equal access to new roles and opportunities in tech?

There is a real opportunity to build new talent by moving away from traditional expectations. For example, are your job descriptions inclusive? Are they overly focused on complex skills that can be learned on the job? What are the gaps in experiences or points of view that talent from non-traditional paths could bring? 

Finally, can you recommend a book or a podcast that every technology leader should read or listen to either in the space of coaching, learning and development or leadership in general? 

The Squiggly Career – Ditch the Ladder, Discover Opportunity, Design Your Career by Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis. I love that it can be applied to your own career but also as you are coaching or leading your teams to develop their career paths.


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