David Oxnam CPA describes himself as a “bit of a change junkie”.
In 18 years with materials giant Boral he’s had at least six jobs.
The latest, as chief information officer (CIO) overseeing a multimillion-dollar IT budget, is one of Oxnam’s most challenging so far.
Before taking it on he thought long and hard, not least because he was stepping up to manage an area tangential to his professional expertise.
As well, he knew he’d have to implement tough programs once he took the reins.
Oxnam doesn’t shy away from admitting he’s a manager, not an IT expert. “The strengths I can bring to a CIO role are a pretty structured and methodical approach and a good ability to engage with other stakeholders around me, and also communicate and bring staff on the journey,” Oxnam says.
“If you’re reasonably senior in finance, you often have the trust and you have deep connections into the senior management of the business – that’s really important in IT as IT investments are usually quite big.”
Since becoming CIO, Oxnam has led some difficult changes, such as outsourcing some of Boral’s technology services to Hewlett-Packard. The move attracted wide media attention in March when it was announced 40 jobs would go.
“It’s never easy making structural adjustments,” Oxnam says. “But you’ve got to have the right moral approach.”
The decision to outsource was based on economies of scale. “We are a modest-sized IT organisation,” he says. “Boral doesn’t have the IT intensiveness of a bank, for example. For us it’s more about things such as data centres and help desks. Hewlett-Packard has the scale to do that much more successfully.”
Oxnam grew up in Perth, Western Australia and, after gaining a commerce degree, started his career in an accounting firm. But he soon realised he felt more comfortable in a corporate environment.
Oxnam particularly liked the way his next employer – aluminium and bauxite behemoth Alcoa – invested in its people. “They were really strong at people development and leadership development,” he says.
“I went on half a dozen week-long training courses including some leadership development programs in the US.”
Oxnam is now passing on knowledge as a mentor through CPA Australia. He is also a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
“I’ve been lucky enough to coach, lead and mentor some extraordinary staff,” he says. “It’s been a privilege to work with some of them and help them grow into other things. I’ve got some people I’ve mentored and they’re now CFOs or very senior in major worldwide industrial companies, so I feel very proud of that and I have enjoyed it immensely.”
Outside of work he is a passionate sailor and what he calls a MAD – Mature-Aged Dad, with a seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter.
Every Wednesday he starts work late and does the morning drop-off at school, lingering to chat with other parents.
And his local school has perhaps the best-qualified treasurer of any parents and citizens’ association. “I do like to contribute back to the community,” he says. “I guess you bring to bear the talents you have.”
Career history 1980 – 2013
2012 – present
1995 – 2012
Various roles including shared services manager and GM commercial (WA), Boral
2000 – 2002
MBA, Graduate School of Business, Macquarie University, New South Wales
1985 – 1995
Various positions, Alcoa of Australia Ltd
1983 – 1985
Trainee auditor, Ernst & Young, Perth
1980 – 1983
Bachelor of Commerce, University of Western Australia
This article is from the September 2013 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.