Mario Foster is the Group Chief Information Officer at Al Ghurair Group. The Group is one of the UAE's oldest and most respected family conglomerates with a diverse portfolio of businesses. An accomplished and multiple award-winning Chief Information Officer, Digital Transformation Officer and Chief Information Security Officer, Mario joined Al Ghurair Group in January 2023. His responsibilities include leading the Group IT organisation, evaluating and restructuring the existing IT Operating Model, and setting strategic plans to take the Group's IT function to the next level.
Prior to his current role, Mario served as Group CIO for Al Naboodah Group Enterprises for almost eight years. He transformed the Group IT department into one of the best IT departments in the region and won multiple regional and local awards under his leadership.
Mario brings with him 30 years of international experience leading complex IT business transformation projects, system enhancement solutions, information security, and infrastructure development solutions, including private and public cloud-based solutions. He has expertise in cutting-edge technologies such as Robotics Process Automation (RPA), Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Business Intelligence (BI), Internet of Things (IoT), 3D Printing, SaaS, and EaaS.
Learn more about the Middle East CIO community here.
Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.
I began my career in the IT Infrastructure domain with Microsoft Canada, then transitioned to IT Security and Information Security at RSA Security. Subsequently, I ventured into business applications, leading multiple ERP implementations for large groups. Over the past few years, I've delved deeply into digital transformation projects, utilising some of the latest cutting-edge technologies. I've been working as a Group CIO for the past 14 years, exclusively for large conglomerates.
What is one of your guiding leadership principles?
One of my guiding leadership principles is fostering a culture of open communication and continuous learning. I believe in the power of collaboration and that our best solutions arise when diverse perspectives come together.
With disruption being a key theme of recent years, where do you see the CIO role going in the next 1-2 years?
The role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) will continue to evolve significantly in the next couple of years. With digital transformation accelerating, the focus is shifting from managing IT infrastructure to driving business strategy through technological innovation. I anticipate the CIO role becoming even more central to identifying and leveraging new technologies for competitive advantage.
Moreover, as remote and hybrid work arrangements become increasingly prevalent, the CIO will play a crucial role in ensuring that teams have the technology and cybersecurity measures they need to work effectively and securely. This includes investing in collaborative tools, automation, AI, data analytics, and other technologies that can drive efficiency and innovation.
Finally, with the growing importance of data in business decision making, CIOs will need to focus more on data governance, privacy, and ethical use. We'll be key players in harnessing the power of data while navigating regulatory complexities and maintaining trust with customers and stakeholders.
In summary, the role of CIO will be more intertwined with business strategy, employee productivity, and ethical considerations than ever before.
What advice would you give to someone just starting out as a CIO?
Transitioning into a C-level role, particularly as a Chief Information Officer, can be challenging, but also very rewarding. Here are a few pieces of advice:
- Understand the Business: Align tech decisions with business outcomes.
- Communication: Convey tech concepts clearly to all stakeholders.
- Build Relationships: Collaborate across the organisation for effective tech implementation.
- Stay Current: Continually learn about new technologies and threats.
- Lead by Example: Encourage innovation, resilience, and ethical conduct.
- Emphasise Cybersecurity: Prioritise a robust cybersecurity strategy.
- Balance Strategy and Operations: Address daily IT issues but also focus on strategic tech innovation.
Remember, your success as a CIO will be measured not just by your technical knowledge, but by the business value you deliver through technology.
Tell us 3 fun facts about yourself.
I am a big Liverpool fan; I love to travel; I am a dedicated father.
What is the value of joining an Evanta community?
Networking Opportunities; Industry Insights; Leadership Development.
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