While Samaritans work hard to support our communities, behind the scenes one man and his team are on a mission to ensure its digital systems and processes are up to task: Meet Head of Business Technology, Luke Russell.
Since joining the not-for-profit in this newly-formed role earlier in the year, Newcastle boy and Southern Cross University MBA graduate, Luke, has got stuck into the technology strategy, and is excited about the projects in motion and possibilities ahead.
Always keen to find out what makes our recent candidates tick, we asked Luke to tell us about his job, his achievements, his career aspirations and more.
Tell us about your current role?
I’m fortunate in my role to be entrusted with the development of Samaritans’ overall ICT strategic direction, while remaining responsible for the design, governance and success of varied and complex transformational ICT projects. Generally, I balance my time between those activities and supporting my team in the work they’re doing.
What’s your favourite thing about working for the Samaritans?
The people and culture. I think Samaritans has a long-standing reputation of appealing to altruistic executives and professionals looking for a way to combine talent with relevance. Working with and developing alongside those people is what I enjoy most.
Can you talk us through your career path to date?
I entered the IT industry almost 20 years ago as a systems engineer. I worked with service providers and corporates in the telecommunication, education, health and defence sectors, observing and responding to significant evolution in technology and business practice over that time.
Throughout my career, I have remained connected to the engineering space, but my passion has steered me towards leadership roles that allow me to influence the relationship between people, process and technology. That ultimately led me to my current role with Samaritans.
What was your first ever job?
During high school, I worked casually at Blockbuster Video, during the nostalgic age of VHS.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Opportunity. Every day is another opportunity to learn and experience something new.
Did you have a career plan?
I guess I was lucky that I knew from a young age that I wanted to be in IT. It was the technology itself that attracted me in the beginning. As my roles developed through my early career I realised how much of an impact IT can make to the way a business operates and differentiates itself. The connection between those two disciplines framed my approach to learning, relationship building and education pathways.
I was once told to set a long-term career goal, but for me it was necessary to set smaller incremental targets that gave me a regular sense of achievement and helped me to not lose sight of the big picture.
What are your success habits?
I don’t have any revolutionary success secrets, but I have formed a few habits over the years. I set clear goals for myself, both personal and professional, and I avoid being distracted by what others may or may not be doing on my way to achieving them. I also seek out and surround myself with supportive people who challenge me and add value.
I live by the Eisenhower matrix, or big rocks theory. This is about evaluating the relationship between what’s urgent and what’s important. Fairly basic, but very practical. It applies to both my work and personal life and changed how I value time.
What projects or work achievements are you most proud of?
It’s the tired philanthropic cliché, but I am most proud of the development and success of the people in my team. It is gratifying to witness their development and achievements as they move through their respective careers.
What’s next for your career?
I think you can always have a better understanding of this industry and sector so continuing to gather broad experience is one of my goals. I am really enjoying myself in this newly created role and I have so much more I want to achieve here.
What’s your dream job?
I think something where travel collides with strategy and I’m able to work on my golf short game. Maybe that means I’m destined to be a caddie?
If you weren’t in IT management, what would you be doing?
Renovating and flipping houses.
What can’t we learn about you from your resume?
Arguably, I spent too much time during my schooling years on the golf course but I have the rare achievement of two hole in ones, on the same hole, in the same week during competition to show for it.
What’s your favourite inspirational quote?
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
What advice would you give someone starting out in your industry?
Our industry creates some great challenges and demands sustained commitment, but it also offers great rewards and opportunities rarely found elsewhere. Find a mentor; someone that understands your ambitions and can cut through the background noise. Build connections early and often. Relationship skills combined with strong capability is what will accelerate your success.
From Blockbuster Video to leading the ICT strategy for one of Newcastle’s most well-known charities, Luke has certainly planted and nurtured that career tree. In another life, who knows, he may have been a contestant on The Block or playing in the Masters.
If you’re interested in working at Samaritans visit – https://www.samaritans.org.au/ Or if you’re looking for Technology opportunities in the Hunter Region and Newcastle area, contact GWG for a chat today.