This content is produced by The Australian Financial Review in commercial partnership with DXC Technology. It was first published on AFR.com on 2 May 2019.
At just 25 years old, emerging technology consultant, former cowboy and avid gamer Patrick Stoddart isn’t shy to admit his end goal is to disrupt and change the world with what he does.
The winner of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) 2018 Young ICT Professional of the Year award runs augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) projects for DXC Technology clients across utilities, healthcare and the federal public sector, and he understands the importance of innovation in solving business problems.
“My game design and development skills really are the tip of the spear,” Stoddart, an IT graduate from Deakin University, says. “They are very much a forefront skill in pushing the boundaries of what we can do with technology.”
Stoddart says the increasingly lifelike graphics behind today’s blockbuster games apply to what he is doing with AR and VR – developments he says will “change how we use technology at a fundamental level”.
The technologist first developed his interests in computing while growing up on a farm in regional Victoria. When he was not driving cattle on horseback and show-jumping, he was playing games like Pokémon and dreaming of the possibilities evolving in these digital worlds.
This led to his degree majoring in game design and onto his role as part of the Young Professionals Program at DXC Technology, the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company.
“Augmented and virtual reality are going to have huge impacts across the world for general, everyday human life,” Stoddart says today. “What inspires me is how we can improve someone’s day – from people in their corporate job to patients in a hospital.”
Among his projects, Stoddart and his team are exploring how virtual reality can reduce pain and anxiety during simple hospital procedures as well as improving quality of life in palliative care. Work has shown how these virtual worlds can serve as a diversion for patients and give them a sense of freedom from the confines of a hospital bed.
Apart from his education and a personal willingness to challenge the status quo, the developer and consultant credits his success to the culture of innovation at DXC.
“If I didn’t have that kind of culture with my manager and my team then I wouldn’t be able to do what I do,” he says. “The culture is almost like a little family. We’re all go-getters, we like to get stuff done and we care about what we are doing.”
In order to foster a creative mindset and innovate, Stoddart says it is important to give employees a degree of autonomy and a place where they can see their ideas are valid. This can be done through workshops or ideas sessions with the team to get them out of the standard routine. He also cites the importance of enabling information sharing – especially through the channels and tools of a global company like DXC.
“We’re sharing all the cool stuff we’re doing globally so the whole organisation is aware and can contact us if they want to find out more. That grows the innovation across the typical country boundaries. I think that’s a big part of how innovation takes off in an organisation.”
Attracting and retaining emerging talent like Stoddart is something DXC managing director in Australia and New Zealand Seelan Nayagam says is a further reason to foster a culture of innovation in the organisation.
“When we launched DXC two years ago we were very clear up front that we had to reinvent ourselves,” Nayagam says. “In particular how do you retool, reskill and reimagine the way we deliver services to our customers. The key to all that is innovation, and this isn’t just driven around technology but primarily around culture.”
He says this includes letting employees know “it’s OK to fail” and to keep encouraging an innovative mindset to keep moving and coming up with new solutions.
“It’s encouragement but more importantly it’s the leadership actually listening to those ideas and showing that we take it seriously. No matter how simple or complex, once you start to share success stories, you are communicating a desire of building an innovation culture. When employees see the benefits these solutions bring, this motivates them to do the same, and it then becomes part of your DNA.”
To give an example of this innovation culture, Nayagam cites events like the recent DXC Build-A-Thon, which brought together 130 leading technologists to Adelaide to innovate and deliver high-impact projects. Over three days, participants coordinated and delivered multiple high-impact projects at once, showcasing an agile and modern way of solving business problems.
He is also proud of the recognition by ACS at the industry body’s Digital Disruptors Awards: Stoddart’s win in 2018 follows that of another DXC employee, Phillip Matheson, in the same category the previous year.
“For me innovation needs to happen on a daily basis,” Nayagam says. “It’s about constantly looking to leverage new thinking, new ideas and new ways of using technology to deliver outcomes that move the bar for clients. Our role as leaders is to reinvent ourselves for the new digital realities – shifting our culture to empower employees to think outside the box, and try new things, even if it means failing. Failing fast and failing smart are the key to learning and innovating.”