CIO50 2022 #21 Mary-Beth Hosking, PointsBet
Early in her career at a tech leader, Mary-Beth Hosking found it difficult to empower people to undertake tasks, preferring to micromanage team members and not give everyone a chance to step up.
She tells CIO Australia that she sees the same trend at times in young leaders. She believes there is a reluctance to give work to others when you believe you can either do it better yourself or you don’t trust others to deliver quality work.
“What I realise now is that my fear of letting go, I found myself getting burnt out and I started to resent my team. This was a direct reflection of my own behaviour, not theirs. I did not understand why I needed to constantly monitor their work; why the work wasn’t getting done and why the quality of what was being delivered was less than expected.”
Hosking admits that when her leadership career started, she wasn’t a leader, she was a manager who wasn’t allowing her team to grow. As she took on more and more of the work herself, the team become less satisfied with the work they were doing.
“This dissatisfaction grew until I felt that I was failing. The department was underproducing, we were not meeting our key performance indicators and team members started to leave.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘It can’t be me, can it?’
It wasn’t until one of Hosking's mentors advised her that she needed to allow people to own their mistakes and learn from them that she finally understood exactly what empowerment was and how, if you get it right, your team will soar.
These days Hosking is chief information officer at PointsBet, an online gaming and wagering company with 900+ staff in Australia and overseas. The company was established as a start-up in Australia and has grown with a gaming presence in 13 states plus Ontario and Australia.
Having now been with the organisation for a little over eight months, she spent the first three observing the organisation’s ways of working as she began to bring the strategic plan together.
Hosking says that competition is fierce in the US and if PointsBet’s application is down for maintenance, there are around multiple other licensed online sportsbook providers in the market that can take its place.
While preparing her IT strategic roadmap, she worked with her team to brainstorm options. She presented a business case for ‘near zero downtime’ project to the executive leadership team. This project would reduce repetitive deployment tasks.
Dealing with US regulations
Clearly, Hosking needed to find a way to better service the business by improving the way it deploys features without impacting turnover. At the same time, PointsBet made it very clear that it wanted to ensure features would still be deployed without impacting the customer’s betting access.
The US has strict jurisdictional regulations that must be adhered to and this means seeking approval to deploy any critical code to its environment.
What makes this innovation so unique, says Hosking, is that the business can deploy code without bringing the system down and toggle the features off until the jurisdictional regulators approve the feature.
“Then, without downtime, we can turn the feature on and the customer has not been disadvantaged by the system being unavailable. By ensuring maximum uptime of the environment, we have a lower chance of losing the acquired customer to our competitors".
A good bet
Being responsible for optimising the organisation's cloud infrastructure costs, Hosking worked with the team to understand the best way to navigate jurisdictional requirements needed for greater enablement of code deployment.
PointsBet has now reduced repetitive deployment tasks with an increase in uptime metrics during deployment windows.
“Increased uptime means that customers can bet at any time and are less inclined to jump to a competitor’s application. Our customers' betting activity is no longer impacted due to downtime,” Hosking notes.