Howard Lau (PhD)
Howard has over ten years’ experience in problem definition, decomposition, and solutioning. Over the past six years he has been working with stakeholders to define strategic IT architectures and implementation roadmaps to support long-term business objectives.
Howard has a Doctor of Philosophy, Computational Biomedical Engineering from the University of Sydney, and a Bachelor’s Degrees in Commerce and Engineering.
What three traits define you?
Curious, persistent, thoughtful
What was your dream job as a child?
Who do you look up to? Who are your mentors, both those you know personally and those who inspire you from afar?
Elon Musk for his vision in creating new markets and companies for the betterment of society.
What is your favourite pastime outside of work?
Right now, trying to re-establish the grass on the front lawn.
What is your favourite quote?
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
A conversation with entrepreneur & businessman, Bernhard Hürzeler
Written by Jonathan Watcham
It’s not hard to understand what drives entrepreneur, businessman and visionary, Bernhard Hürzeler. Over lunch in a sunny park near to one of his biggest clients, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Bernie Hürzeler speaks about life, business, technology, society and his other major interest, paragliding.
Yes, paragliding. It’s an adventure sport not for the faint-hearted, where a solo-pilot, launches on foot from the side of a mountain, flies free without an engine and uses air currents to lift and glide while suspended beneath a lightweight wing created from aluminium and fabric. It sounds fascinating, scary and quite intoxicating.
It’s also one of Bernie’s enduring passions. That coupled with kite surfing, it brings him alive. His face becomes animated, and his eyes shine as he shows you a recent video he shot, while soaring high above the cliffs near Stanwell Tops, just south of Sydney.
It’s like a special form of meditation
Bernie describes paragliding as both a sport and a special form of meditation. It takes total focus and involves a pleasurable sensory overload that means three hours of flying will go by in what seems like just minutes. “It’s great for clearing the mind and for dealing with stress,” he says. “I always feel renewed and I do it as often as I can.”
To the casual observer, Bernie looks fit, motivated and energetic. Dressed in a sailing jacket and trainers, he says he is now working on one of the biggest consulting projects his company has ever undertaken. And it will require a clear head and total focus to help Commonwealth Bank (CBA) modernise and integrate its IT systems.
In his conversation, he uses words like ‘passion, intelligence and authenticity’. That is what he looks for in his team. “You need passion and intelligence,” he says, “the two go together. If you have those two characteristics, then authenticity is a natural result.”
Technology and the IT sector is not just for technicians and scientists, he adds. “We need people who are passionate, willing to keep educating themselves and able to try things to find answers for our clients. We also need people who know their limits and know when to look for and call in extra resources to help them. That’s authenticity in action.”
Another word Bernie often uses, is ‘professional’. He wants people working in IT to see themselves as professionals – in a complex, challenging and ever-changing IT world. It’s not just a job, he stresses. It requires persistence, patience and thinking. Also, a willingness to seek and find solutions, and look for opportunities to reshape a client’s business.
We need to be able to solve problems for clients – before they even know they have them…
That’s what ICM does best, he says. That’s what he encourages his people to strive for with their customers and clients. He wants them to stretch themselves, take responsibility and solve problems, as he says, “…before they even know they have them.”
The Swiss-born businessman is now Chairman of ICM, soon to be rebranded ARGENTI. He founded ICM in 1997 and since then it has grown steadily, taking on bigger and more complex projects. Like a recent multi-platform APT integration project for the State Library of New South Wales, in Sydney. Here the ICM/ARGENTI team worked alongside other partners to create an integration gateway for the State Library, one of the largest information and data-collection agencies in the Southern Hemisphere.
An integration gateway allows various IT systems and platforms to interface and talk to each other. Which sounds simple, but it’s a highly complex process. There’s a lot of design thinking, development and coding. It’s often made more complex by organisational layers and all the people and resources that need to be part of it and actively factored in.
That’s where a lot of the exploring, planning and recognising potential problems comes in. In the early stages Bernie describes it as, “An abstract engagement – where you have to first explore and think through what has to be done in the project.”
Now chief advisor, thinker and mentor to the team
The business has grown steadily and has now passed a milestone where it is moving into its next phase of expansion and focus. Bernie’s role too has changed. He’s now the chairman, with a board of directors and a CEO. The CEO, Simon Cheadle strategically manages and directs the business, while Bernie assumes the role of chief advisor, thinker and mentor to the team.
With his Swiss heritage, Bernie also speaks passionately about ‘Swiss Principles’ he has tried to imbibe in the business and will continue to do so. Principles such as precision, quality, creativity and innovation. “It’s easy to talk about it,” he says, “but it’s something I’ve always tried to implement and follow in my businesses.”
Long ago, as an engineering student in Switzerland, Bernie dreamed of owning a software company. He loves automation and the possibilities it creates for enhancing user experiences. Automation is something that clearly motivates and drives him. He loves what he calls the ‘perfection of automation’ – something that can help and benefit society, and make life easier and more accessible for everyone.
Bernie seems to be relishing his new role as chief motivator and mentor.
“We have great people,” he says, “and we’ll need more.” Probably another 15 to 20 by the end of the year. Technology is constantly evolving, but the problems are often the same, he says – just more widespread and complex.
Our point of difference? Qualified, impartial assessment – coupled with great implementation.
When asked who else offers what the ARGENTI business does best, he thinks for a minute and then answers: “Not many do what we do. Vendors can provide advice and solutions. I think what we do best is offer highly qualified, impartial assessment. We are also great implementors.”
“Bigger organisations like banks, government bodies and public organisations will always need solutions to integrate ever-evolving systems and they will need to make these platforms talk to each other. They will also need intelligent people to develop software applications and create ideas to help them leverage new technologies, and take advantage of global phenomena like Cloud engineering.”
“That’s what ARGENTI will always do best. We started out writing code, but now we also solve complex, multi-platform problems for big organisations,” Bernie says. “And that’s exciting.”
“Whatever the challenges,” he smiles, “we will be able to come up with answers.”
With that he jumps up, packs away what’s left of the lunch packages and heads back to work with the team at CBA. He’s a man of passion and action …and clearly he loves a challenge.