On the lighter side of things, we caught up with Node4’s Tom Needs, to find out what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
My most memorable achievement was very early on in my career when I led the development of a ‘virtual children’s centre’ for the NSPCC. It was a website designed to be a go-to place for children in need of advice and support. Seventeen years later I found myself working with the NSPCC once again, hosting its Childline website and contact centre. If those systems go down – children’s lives are at risk – so it’s imperative that they don’t.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
Before I undertook my IT degree, I really wasn’t that interested in technology. However, it was during my degree that I started to really understand and get excited about the impact technology can have on businesses and the life of humans. It was this that really initiated my passion and interest in taking up a career in IT.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
Although I don’t have a particular style, I do have three key values I’ve learned over the years that I like to adhere to:
1. Treat people how you wish to be treated – I thank my Gran for that one
2. As a leader, you serve your people rather than vice versa – I thank Branson for that
3. Seek first to understand before being understood – I thank Steven Covey for that one
What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2018 and why?
Without a doubt – Augmented Reality. I just think the potential here is endless in almost every sector.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Automation and AI are the two essential major investment areas in the IT industry. These are vital in assisting IT service providers to scale, increase the quality of customer experience and future-proof customer’s environments.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside of the office?
Stress affects people in different ways. I have been guilty of not being entirely present when at home – probably too much phone ‘twitching’ so putting my phone out of reach is a good place to start. I am a keen runner and that helps clear my head, and I’ve also started playing tennis again which prevents me thinking about work at all as I charge around the court trying to get balls back over the net. Most importantly, spending time with my family and friends is the ultimate antidote to having a job, which I have often described as being like a full contact sport.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
I believe I’ve made some great choices throughout my career. I have typically chosen jobs where the culture of the organisations have matched my own values, where I have liked the people I have worked with and for, and where there is an opportunity for me to have a direct impact. That said, there are numerous conversations with people I would have had differently. There are some that I look back on and wince (sorry if you were ever on the receiving end of one of those), but I guess with experience, you get better at that sort of stuff.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in Europe?
My current role is very focused on the UK market. In previous roles, I have learned that there are significant cultural differences between us and our neighbours which really need to be understood – don’t assume anything.
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?
The last year, I think, has cemented my view that even though I work in the infrastructure side of the IT industry, it is the multitude of software across all the platforms that will be the banana skin in service delivery.
What advice would you offer somebody aspiring to obtain C-level position in your industry?
Focus on making your team a success rather than seeking your own personal success. The latter always follows the former. Also, this is such an incestuous industry – so don’t ever forget that, you will inevitably cross paths with people again.