James Lucas shares his approach to collaborative command


The Ascendis Health IT infrastructure manager talks about the power of strong, dynamic partnerships.

In the early days of his career, James Lucas, Ascendis Health IT infrastructure manager, studied electronic engineering at university. Upon graduating, however, he initially faced challenges in finding work in his field of study, so he ventured into technical recruitment. However, after some years, the allure of the work began to wane, and he yearned for a more fulfilling path, one that resonated with his passion for technology.

James’s transition into the realm of IT came through a fortuitous contract with the recruiting company he worked for. The Department of Defence had a crucial project requiring a junior project engineer, and James seized the opportunity. The two-year role demanded specialised expertise in configuration and change management, providing him with the perfect foundation to build his IT career.

Collaborating with the CIO
Over the years, James has evolved into a dynamic leader, blending strong technical expertise with a generalist outlook. In 2020, he started working as second-in-command to his current CIO, Nkosenhle Ngongoma, and in that period they fostered a strong collaborative relationship built on trust and understanding.

“By learning and adapting to each other’s preferred working methods, we have achieved a lot. My approach to collaborating with the CIO involves gathering as much information as possible before presenting advanced proposals, allowing him to refine and implement them efficiently.”

A core tenet of their combined vision for Ascendis Health is robust governance. Emphasising the importance of well-defined procedures, James champions this aspect of IT, which has contributed significantly to the company’s success. He says, “A strong governance framework ensures that projects are meticulously planned, reducing the likelihood of unforeseen issues and ensuring smooth implementation.”

His portfolio includes diverse projects such as email migrations, system implementations, and infrastructure upgrades. He firmly believes that successful projects are forged during the planning stages. With a methodical approach, James aligns all elements before taking action, mitigating risks and maximising project success.

Driving leadership success
James is not only skilled at handling technical challenges, but also excels in interpersonal relations. He recognises the significance of collaboration and communication in the field of IT, valuing people skills as much as technical expertise.

James believes that IT professionals can enhance their technical knowledge by constantly challenging themselves and striving to find solutions independently. He emphasises the importance of instilling in his team the mindset of attempting to solve problems on their own before seeking assistance. “Like many individuals in the IT industry, I have found myself in situations where I was the sole IT personnel in a small business. This forced me to develop problem-solving skills without relying on others. I try to teach junior team members the art of researching and exploring possibilities before seeking help, as it fosters self-sufficiency.”

While this approach ultimately cultivates a culture of problem-solving within the team, James also understands the importance of being available to provide assistance when necessary. He says, “The goal is not to withhold help but to strike a balance between independence and support. In the IT field, there are typically two types of individuals: those who actively seek knowledge and those who are less inclined to do so.” James firmly believes that continuous learning and pushing oneself beyond one’s limits are what differentiate those who thrive and achieve their highest potential.

By empowering his team to explore solutions independently, he ensures that they develop and maximise their potential.

Harnessing self-development for success in the IT industry
James’s genuine interest in technology serves as the catalyst for his fresh ideas and innovative mindset. Throughout his IT career, his passion for open-source software has flourished. In his spare time, he actively engages with new technologies, constantly experimenting and tinkering.

“This hands-on approach not only fuels my continuous learning but also provides me with a profound understanding of IT architectures and systems,” he notes. Armed with this knowledge, he fearlessly confronts challenges, employing his creativity and ingenuity to overcome them.

Career ambitions
James had never particularly aspired to the role of CIO, envisioning himself primarily as a group head of IT or solutions architect. His deep passion for the technical aspects of the job drives his unwavering pursuit of solutions to complex technical issues. However, he remains open-minded and ready to embrace new opportunities and challenges that could potentially propel him towards the highly sought-after CIO position.

Thriving on fitness
Outside of the realm of IT, James possesses a deep passion for fitness that has truly transformed his life. “My journey began in 2016 when I embarked on a health transformation through an employee wellness programme. Through attention to a healthy diet and consistent training habits, I achieved substantial weight loss and a significant improvement in my overall fitness levels.”

Ultimately this led him to having the opportunity to qualify as a certified personal trainer in 2020. Unfortunately, due to the unfortunate timing coinciding with the pandemic, he was unable to fully use his certification.

He admits to having lost the athletic edge he gained, but with discipline and perseverance, qualities that have consistently served him well throughout his career, he is confident that he will be able to re-establish a sustainable and improved level of health and fitness.

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