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Get To Know: Neil Stobart, VP of Global Systems Engineering, Cloudian

Get To Know: Neil Stobart, VP of Global Systems Engineering, Cloudian

What has been your most memorable achievement?

Building a team at Cloudian that has worked incredibly hard, achieved success and bonded as a unit. Creating an environment where there is safety for individuals to challenge the orthodox, doing things differently and have the creative freedom to shape how we engage with our customers and shape our business culture. This is what I like to think I offer the team and hopefully they agree.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

A career in tech wasn’t always my plan; after completing a degree in Economics, I found that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Bar work wasn’t enough to support a life in London so I ended up successfully applying for an IT graduate scheme at Woolwich Building Society in 1996.

The industry was completely different to today, but I have always loved it – that first graduate role gave me great insight into different disciplines and was the start of a life long career in IT.

What kind of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?

I believe in putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and treating them as you would like to be treated and this is the philosophy that I like to ensure both myself and my whole team employ.

The philosophy is simple – happy customers are loyal customers and we want all the organisations that we work with to come back to us with any challenges that we can help them solve in the future.

What do you think will emerge as the technology trend of 2018 and why?

The biggest technology trend of 2018 has already emerged. Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data have been dominating headlines and there is no question that these topics will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

There has been some controversy around the use of AI and as it continues to develop, I’m sure we are likely to see growing fears around such technologies. But the truth is that machines cannot think like humans and so our focus should instead be on the incredible and previously impossible, things that they are going to allow us to do by using brute force to analyse data in a matter of seconds, rather than months or even years.

What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment for your industry?

The question every company using data storage should be asking is ‘how do we make an intelligent decision based on the data that we have and create an action based on the outcome’. To achieve this, we need a storage platform that can be integrated seamlessly into a continuous workflow that doesn’t just act as a storage ‘dump’.

Organisations adopting AI and ML technology to improve business efficiencies first need to be thinking about investing in an intelligent storage solution. The backend storage platform for masses amounts of data needs to have tentacles that can reach into all aspects of the infrastructure. That way, when data is received in one area, a notification can be sent to action it in other areas of the business workflow.

How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?

I absolutely love my music, my family and I aim to go to at least one festival every year, but it’s not just a hobby outside of work. I like to DJ for myself in my little office at the end of the garden as well, it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing for years.

If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?

If I’m being honest, I can actually look back happily at my career in the knowledge that there isn’t anything I would have done differently. I love the IT industry for its fast pace and constant evolution.

What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?

I’m sure it’s no surprise that one of the biggest current challenges for organisations is compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Now, organisations’ storage processes must be entirely transparent, ensuring that specific data can not only be found and deleted on demand, but also regularly kept up to date so that data is never retained longer than necessary. The problem is that data protection policies in the UK haven’t been reviewed since 1998 and so the data that businesses hold is likely to be messy and difficult to pinpoint.

What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?

My job role has changed quite dramatically over the last few months, as I have had to refine my expertise in GDPR so I am able to provide the best advice to my customers.

First, companies must understand how GDPR affects them specifically and what they need to do, for example – do they know where all data is, is it searchable, does the IT team have the correct instructions and expertise to begin processing it? Then you can move onto the tech – do you have the right storage solution for the amount of data you hold? Is there an easy and efficient method to searching your data – i.e. can it be tagged and easily retrieved?

Make no mistake, GDPR is complex and there is no easy or quick fix to get there.

What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?

There are no gender or race barriers, for example, in the IT industry – we are a diverse bunch. It’s all about imagination and understanding technological challenges. I was lazy at first and now I’m running the global team for a Silicon Valley company – an achievement I never dreamed of at school! Now, the best piece of advice I could give is to work hard first, play hard second.

In the end, once you have the foundational knowledge, it’s simply about working hard and having an inquisitive mind.