Technology Article 1: Technology Leadership and Why I Chose to Pursue a CTO Course as a Projects Leader

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Written by Sam Houston


I wanted to share some insights from my Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Programme at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to delve profoundly into the world of technology leadership and strategy, and its potential to revolutionise projects, particularly in the mining industry. The lessons I’ve learned are applicable across various sectors, including infrastructure and oil and gas as well as others. I decided to write a series of short articles to share this experience.


One of the key takeaways from this programme is the immense potential to drive positive change in the world through better delivery of mega projects and major projects. By integrating technology, sustainability and people, we can safely create a future that is not only technologically advanced but also environmentally responsible and socially inclusive.


I believe that the role of a CTO goes beyond implementing technology solutions. It’s about strategically harnessing the power of innovation and digital transformation to achieve long-term success. As a strategy expert, I am deeply committed to this vision.


I hope you’ll enjoy this series of blogs from me; however, I want to hear from you too! I value your ideas and feedback on how together we can leverage technology, people, and sustainability to drive transformational change in major projects. Let’s collaborate and make a positive impact together.




In today’s ever-changing world, technology is the driving force behind innovation and transformation across industries. As someone deeply involved in Major and Mega Projects executive leadership, I felt the need to dive even deeper into the world of technology. In this blog, I want to share with you why I decided to pursue a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) course, fuelled by my passion for technology, the transformative potential of major projects, and the emerging synergy between the roles of CTO and Chief People Officer (CPO).


A Lifelong Love for Technology


Technology has always fascinated me. Growing up, my father was an early adopter who worked in various tech fields, from telecommunications to programming engineering. I was surrounded by the latest gadgets of the time, like beepers / pagers and analog mobile phones (which were mind-blowing back then!). Technology became a part of who I am, and I made it a point to keep up with the ever-evolving digital and technology landscape. Throughout my career, I’ve been involved in digital delivery, overseeing major and mega investments, and leading transformational change initiatives that embraced technology. I strongly believe that focusing on technology, sustainability, and people is the key to unlocking the full potential of major projects and creating a better future for the world.


Insights from a Digitalization Perspective


During my time at Cranfield University for my Master’s program, I had an incredible experience working on a large digitalization project. It consolidated my experiential view that the opportunities for major projects and the mining industry to embrace technological and digital transformation are huge. It was also clear that strategic and systematic and change was crucial to address these challenges.


Through extensive research, including my thesis on the impact of the lack of cognitive diversity in senior management teams in mining, I became even more convinced that the whole industry needed a transformation. Changing existing operational assets is a massive undertaking, not just from a physical technology or digital management perspective but also in terms of cultural and people-related transformations. This is a mammoth, generational task. I realised that for long-term change to happen, it had to start at the early stages of asset development. As a strategic executive leader specialising in major and mega projects, I am in the perfect position to make a real difference and to drive sustainable change.


The Emergence of the CPO and the relationship with the CTO


I stumbled upon several articles discussing the rise of the Chief People Officer (CPO) as a crucial executive role. As Nieto-Rodriguez says in the Harvard Business Review (hyperlink below), “With the significant increase in automation of operations and the increase in change initiatives and project work, a new role is emerging in the executive committee.” It struck a chord with me because I have witnessed the growing opportunity in this area throughout my career, particularly within the last decade or so. It became clear that the executive committee needed a new role, and that role is the CPO.


That’s when it hit me—my role as an Executive Head of Projects perfectly complemented the responsibilities of a Chief Technology Officer (CTO). With technology’s profound impact on business operations, embracing the CTO role allowed me to leverage technology strategically and work hand in hand with the CPO to tackle the industry’s challenges effectively.


Choosing Wharton for the CTO Course


When it came to choosing where to pursue my CTO course, Wharton was my top pick. As one of the world’s top business schools and the oldest in America, Wharton had an exceptional reputation, top-notch faculty, and rigorous courses. I’m currently halfway through the course it has been an enriching experience so far.


Looking Ahead


In the upcoming series, I’m excited to delve into the dynamic relationship between the CTO and CPO roles and how they can drive transformative change within the global mining industry. I’ll discuss a few tangible approaches to applying technology initiatives. Although my focus is on mining, the principles I explore are applicable to other industries like infrastructure and oil and gas. Stay tuned for some exciting insights!


So, let’s dive into the world of technology leadership and discover how it can shape a better future for major projects and the world


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