Centre Court Performer

Saturday, September 1, 2012 - 12:14

By Gerard McManus

When Infosys Australia and New Zealand's Managing Director and CEO Jackie Korhonen was a teenager she was a budding Australian sports star, crisscrossing the European satellite circuit in pursuit of elusive tennis titles.

While she never quite made it to the Wimbledon finals, Korhonen describes the period modestly as a "growing- up experience" but one that gave her valuable life lessons in self-discipline, self-organisation and resilience.

Now head of the Infosys Australia and New Zealand division, Korhonen still values the importance of goal-oriented drivers in the careers of people under her charge.

"Sport is great for teaching resilience – all sportsmen and women lose and have their bad days and bad seasons, but are then able to regroup," she says.

"In business you win bids, you lose bids, clients sometimes leave, so you've got to be able to rally yourself and not get despondent."I try to encourage younger people in this situation to look beyond just today, and the occasional setback and take the long- term view of their development. It is about perspective and finding a balance."

Australia and New Zealand have been star performers for Infosys in recent years, maintaining a solid growth performance, as divisions in other countries faced heavy crosswinds.

Nearly 2300 employees work for Infosys in Australia and New Zealand, providing IT solutions and management consulting services to a host of businesses from SMEs right up to some of the country's biggest telcos and mining giants. Infosys Australia has also begun making a strategic move into the important government IT space.

"We sat down a few years ago to establish goals for our local business, drawing on the corporate objective of being a globally respected corporation and translating that goal into metrics for each of our four key stakeholders in Australia and New Zealand," Korhonen says.The following formula was devised: "We want our clients to be delighted and confident. We measure that in how likely they are to return to do business with us year after year, and their willingness to trust us with their most strategic work.

"We want our teams to be talented, engaged and reflective of the diversity of Australia and New Zealand. Within our professional and geographic communities, we want to be connected and respected. And, of course, for our shareholders, we want to run a successful and sustainable business."

Korhonen came to Infosys after a long and successful career with IBM, with degrees in engineering and science.

"What attracted me was the company's global perspective," she says. "I liked that about Infosys because my natural instincts are to look for people who are different but complementary.

In Australia Infosys has a leadership team that is roughly a third Australians, a third Indians and the rest from other countries.

One of the strengths of Infosys is it encourages a heterogeneous workforce.

"I have tried to learn from a lot of people, I observe people closely and try to adapt," she says.

"I also know you can't change who you are, your style has to be natural, and Australians have a particularly good radar for that kind of insincerity."

Korhonen says more should be done to encourage talented young Australians to pursue a career in IT, and she also tries to be a role model for young women to pursue an IT career path.

"One of the frustrations we have is drawing Australians into this field – so many young people don't see the potential in IT," she says. "I don't think we sell it very well in Australia and a lot of parents don't understand the tremendous potential of it as a career.

"With law, accountancy or medicine there is a direct career path, yet the truth is IT is much more flexible than other careers."