CTO Sessions: Christian Reilly, Citrix

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? "Artificial Intelligence"

Name: Christian Reilly

Company: Citrix

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: March 2015

Location: UK/ USA

Christian Reilly is Vice President & CTO at Citrix, responsible for technology strategy and platform engineering for Workspace Services. Prior to joining Citrix, Reilly held leadership positions at US-based engineering and construction firm Bechtel, where he was most recently responsible for the strategic planning, enterprise architecture and innovation programme within the corporate Information Systems & Technology group.

What was your first job? I worked in a music store in my home town - this is one of my big passions.

Did you always want to work in IT? Yes, ever since I took my first home computer to pieces in 1983. I was fascinated by what was inside and knew that I would work with computers (there really wasn't any IT back then)

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I was easily bored at school, but I went to college, too. I mixed Business with Computing. I also studied, back in the day, for almost every Microsoft MCP/MSCE certification there was, along with every Cisco CCNA/CCNE certification.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I started my IT career at a company called Technology PLC who were eventually bought by ICL and then Fujitsu. I started in systems engineering, getting a good understanding of all kinds of technologies.

What type of CTO are you? One who likes to challenge the status quo and one who always likes to push ideas and people past their comfort zone. I'm also one who has a very keen interest in the customer's business (because of my background) and always try to represent the customer to the best of my ability.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? Either robotics or advanced prosthetics - I think both will improve the human quality of life, but in very different ways.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Artificial Intelligence - because although there's a new dawn, it's not a new concept - and most of what we're seeing now is too much hype around Artificial General Intelligence which, to me, is still science fiction.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? We have launched a mental health awareness programme inside the company. This is something near and dear to me and it's fantastic to be able to help others who are affected by mental health issues.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? I am helping many customers drive their digital transformation initiatives via our overall product and services strategy. It's a team effort across the company and also with our customers. There's definitely a balance between customer experience and employee experience and I believe that revenue growth is positively affected by both these areas of focus.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? Employee engagement and the overall modernisation of their application portfolios.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? By understanding the business goals and being absolutely clear on what success means. Technologies will come and go, but business goals usually have a longer time horizon. Being flexible is key.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Being a vendor CTO, I have the privilege of working with many customer CTOs and CIOs to help them match their business and tech strategies. No two customer environments are the same and no two sets of customer challenges are the same. It's great to learn and share experiences.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Clear direction. Business alignment. Strong leadership. Change agents. Without these four things, I believe any tech strategy is doomed to fail.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? The CTO role will continue to bifurcate - technical CTOs will own more product direction and corporate and field CTOs will continue to own both the longer time horizon vision and the customer advocacy.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Being IT Director for the construction of the world's largest ever greenfield airport - Hamad International in Doha, Qatar.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have probably been more patient and listened to others more when I was younger. I was so keen to learn that I forgot to listen to sage advice sometimes.

What are you reading now? Transforming NOKIA - The Power Of Paranoid Optimism To Lead Through Colossal Change. It's an incredible story of the rebuilding of an entire company.

Most people don't know that I… taught myself to speak Arabic when I lived in the Middle East.

In my spare time, I like to…DJ and ride my very powerful jetski - but not at the same time!

Ask me to do anything but… eat oysters….no way. Never.