As an experienced Information Technology professional of over 30 years, Christiane Wuillamie OBE has always valued quality of software, excellent service delivery and good IT management. She grew her IT services business 100% year on year from 1994 to a trade exit in 2001 with a 40% margin on fixed fees projects, all this based on operationalizing a high-performance culture on all aspects and processes of her business.
Christiane is co-founder and CEO of Pyxis Culture Technologies, which specialises in predictive culture analytics for business growth and improvement.
Below are the highlights of the Interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Christiane Wuillamie OBE:
Describe who you are as a person, inside and outside of the workplace.
I am a risk taker and profound believer in the ability of people to accomplish great things and overcome difficult situations if given the right leadership, proper tools and management support. I am a serial entrepreneur who tackles the hard-to-solve business and IT problems by focusing on fixing the basics, hiring and developing the best people, and building a strong team culture. My colleagues and friends would also describe me as a great project organizer and tough task master. Yet on every project and every company I try to make it a fun and developmental experience for everyone. I am passionate about realising individual potential. Both in business terms and at individual level, I usually have a very clear vision of what could be realised before anyone else.
Describe your background and what did you do before you started/joined the company?
I grew up during the Vietnam war and come from a military family. My father was a senior naval officer and was incarcerated in a re-education camp after the war for 12 years. I experienced the war and overcame many challenges during that period. My father was a big influence in my life and a great leader. I did not have the privilege of a supportive upbringing nor the opportunity for education. I left Vietnam aged 14 to go to France and basically brought myself up, fending for myself. I started work very young. I decided to go to England for more opportunities where the culture is more open and liberal. In 1980, I worked for UNHCR (United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees) and help set up a reception centre for resettlement of Vietnamese refugees picked up by a Merchant Navy ship and from refugee camp in Hong Kong. I was responsible for the Medical Centre. It was a profound experience.
I have always taken the hard way on my professional journey. I have worked for organizations large and small as an employee and as an advisor, I have always given by best and honest recommendations on solving issues. This does not sometimes serve me well.
Tell us about the inception of your businesses. How did it all start?
I began my professional career as a software coder, then an IT project manager. My successes lead me to become one of the youngest Head of IT for a major UK bank. When I set up my own IT Services Company in 1994, I decided to deliver emergency IT projects recue on a fixed fee, fixed deadline basis. At the time no-one worked on a fixed fee. The secret was to use clients’ project employees who have deemed to ‘have failed’, organize, team build the project team, fill in any management or specialist gaps with my own employees, engage and communicate constantly with business users and together deliver to the deadline with the client employees. My policy was that the clients’ team get the recognition for delivering the project successfully and not external consultants.
Which are the major services of the company and how do they help the company to get ahead in the competition? What value-added services does the company provide?
Pyxis Culture Technologies is a first mover in identifying and quantifying the actual causal factors that create and sustain corporate culture. We give organizations the insight and tools to change culture and link to business performance. One of the key innovations of our approach is the ability to identify hidden risks and to leverage hidden assets to improve business performance. Basically we have developed a risk-based approach to leveraging strategy, structure and culture as a way to improve competitive advantage.
Culture is an overused and misunderstood word. People often find it difficult to define culture, especially senior management. Culture is normally perceived as an HR responsibility and focuses most of the time on employee engagement and surveys. We believe culture is actually a leadership responsibility.
Pyxis Culture Technologies view culture as a business ecosystem, consisting of multiple causal factors inside the organisation, such as policies, work practices, training, management style and numerous other factors that interact to influence how employees at all levels interact with each other, customers and suppliers. PYXIS takes a system thinking approach using visual tools and software to map all these important culture causal factors. Our platform has the facility identify hidden business risks that are culture related and provides a roadmap to improve culture and business results.
What is the significance of innovative ideas in the company?
Innovation must be at the core of every company culture. That has always been the case but is especially true now that we live in a global economy and the pace of technology is accelerating. Every company is vulnerable to new technology and new competitors, many of which are halfway around the world and don’t care about your past success. They want your customers.
Innovation is not incremental but comes from a step change in thinking about how to best serve customers and solve problems. PYXIS is innovating the culture consulting industry, which has been static for the past 50 years, relying on employee surveys and top-down culture workshops. The fact is that over 70% of culture change efforts fail to deliver on the business benefits. It’s time for new and innovative thinking, and that’s where PYXIS is perfectly positioned. PYXIS is about leveraging your assets and people to continually adapt your business to changes.
Give us your opinion on; do organizations rely heavily on individual heroics or team processes?
No one individual can deliver organizational success. Success requires teamwork and shared objectives. Unfortunately, most executives focus more on the success of their own function than the overall enterprise, thus creating functional silos with little information or resource sharing. It is often the case that one function delivers on its projects and budget, yet the company overall underperforms.
What are your responsibilities as the CEO of the company? What is the happiest part of your daily routine?
The fascinating thing about being the CEO of a fast growth disruptor company is that every day is different. It requires keeping your eye on the long game as well as reacting to day-to-day issues of product development, cash flow, customer suggestions and of course, social media and marketing. The best part of my day is speaking with potential clients and seeing their eyes light up when they grasp that finally it is possible to really get a grip on culture and how it impacts business performance.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
My advice to aspiring leaders is to always volunteer for the worst assignments, since that is where you will learn the most about yourself, your capabilities, and the needs of the business. Also, I strongly suggest they read the biographies of great leaders throughout history, both ancient and modern. They will learn examples of how adversity forged their leadership skills and philosophy and how they overcame obstacles.