Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Profile: CIO from the business Veronique Dargue, vice president at EDS and ex-CIO of British Gas

By Kate Bulkley


October 18, 2006

Veronique Dargue

As business-savvy becomes essential to the CIO role, candidates are coming from a wide variety of backgrounds - some more technical, some more business-focused. As a companion to a feature piece on this topic, Kate Bulkley speaks to a woman who moved into the CIO position with a non-technical background - EDS' Veronique Dargue.

"I am not a techie," says Veronique Dargue, vice president of energy and utility at EDS since earlier this year. "I am an expert in transformation and change programmes and I wouldn't for the life of me be able to fix a computer or programme anything!"

Yet this self-confessed non-techie was CIO of British Gas Residential for Centrica for one year before joining EDS. Before that she was group director of IS procurement and logistics and MD for South East Europe at Novar, a building system conglomerate. And from 1999 to 2001, she held the CIO job at Prudential Retail UK. That's a lot of CIO experience for a non-techie.

Many companies would have said 'you are a CIO so you are a risk to move into an operating job like this'. But they did it and I benefited. Dargue, who is 41 and one of only a handful of UK-based female CIOs, was educated in France as an engineer at one of the prestigious Grand Ecoles and also has a degree in nuclear physics. "All these degrees do is open doors for you and the better they are, the more doors they open. For me, many of the doors had nothing at all to do with engineering," she says.

Indeed her first job after school was for Deloitte and Touche as a management consultant for retail and fast-moving consumer goods. "Because it was the trend at the time in the early 1990s, I ended up working a lot in information systems," she says. In 1994 she moved to Mars as sales and marketing systems director. "From then on it was all IT jobs. But all my jobs have been IT in the context of how it's applied to the business," she says.

Dargue has ridden the rising and falling wave of businesses' fascination with IT, joining Prudential Retail UK in 1999 with Y2K on the horizon and the dot-com boom in full swing. As CIO she had a seat on the board.

She says: "At the time there was a lot of hype about the CIO being a route to being CEO because a lot of us reported directly to the CEO during that time. Post the dot-com bust there was a focus on reducing the cost of IT and optimising it for revenue growth. Because in those days it was all about money, in many cases the CIO went back to reporting to the CFO or the COO."

In fact when Dargue joined Novar in 2001 it was as a CIO reporting to the CFO: "Two years before I would never have taken a job reporting to a CFO but it shows how times had changed!"

During her four years at Novar, Dargue was given the opportunity to move out of a straight IT job to become the MD for the whole Italian business, which was in a bit of trouble at the time. "Many companies would have said 'you are a CIO so you are a risk to move into an operating job like this'. But they did it and I benefited," says Dargue.

At British Gas she moved back into a CIO role because "it was a big name company" and she was reporting directly to the British Gas CEO and sitting on the board. Interestingly because of Centrica's desire for "consistency" she reported to the Centrica CIO as well. "It was quite complicated," she quips.

At the beginning of this year Dargue made a move back into a more general management role at EDS because she wants to gain more experience outside of a straight CIO function.

Dargue says having both knowledge of IT and general management skills is the only way to be a top-flight CIO but she also sees the combination of the two as a good platform if one has CEO aspirations, which Dargue does not deny. "Before I joined EDS I looked at a lot of CIO jobs but I thought I had done a lot of it before," she says. "But I remember how I liked running the Italian business for Novar, so I wanted to get back to something like that


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