Get To Know: Kevin Lee, CDO, Consumer BT Group

Get To Know: Kevin Lee, CDO, Consumer BT Group

On the lighter side of things, we ask the industry experts what makes them tick…

Kevin Lee, CDO, Consumer BT Group

What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?

In October 2023, we launched a new EE following two years of hard work behind the scenes, which involved transforming the business on multiple levels. There’s the IT and platform side of things, where we’ve implemented and got the very best from our tech and emphasised evolving our digital at BT Group culture for our colleagues. We didn’t just rebrand EE, we built the platforms needed to help reposition it as a completely consumer-focused brand, open to anyone with or without our connectivity services, which we hope our customers enjoy using every day.

What first made you think of a career in technology?

‘Technology is the answer, but what was the question?’ I’ve always been fascinated with solving problems and that’s a quote that’s stuck with me throughout my career. I’ve never thought of technology as an end in itself – I think it’s a necessity. You can build the best tech in the world but if doesn’t solve a problem for the customer, what’s the point? Customer adoption is key, and throughout my life I’ve always wanted to solve problems for others, and that I think, more than anything else, led me to a career in tech.

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

I always want to help my team maintain a 360-business view and lead by context to best set us up to identify solutions. That puts an emphasis on accountability, transparency and vulnerability, which are principles we all use within digital at BT Group to cultivate a high-performing team culture. While management philosophies tend to evolve, these principles remain constant.

What do you think has emerged as the technology trend of 2023 and why?

It’s hard to miss the importance and growth that AI has seen this year, and we’ll see more businesses moving to an AI-first approach. With data-driven approaches, we’ve seen privacy, security and governance all come to the forefront, bringing interesting challenges around its safe and ethical use. At BT Group, our mission is to connect for good, so we’re hard at work building the capabilities we need to put the next generation of AI technologies to work to support our customers and colleagues alike.

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

Platforms and people. I don’t believe you can achieve what you want to with your tech if you don’t invest in your people. You need platforms that help modernise your tech stacks to respond to a rapidly evolving landscape of technology, but these won’t happen if you don’t have the next-level talent in your business to drive this change. I think it’s so important to give opportunities to colleagues to take them on that journey with you.

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

I make sure I build the time in my day for resetting and reflecting. I reset my mind by prioritising my thoughts each morning; I have to take that time out of each day to refocus my mind and properly set myself up for the day ahead. The end of the day is when I reflect on how the day has gone, through daily prayer I remind myself to be grateful for each day no matter how the day has gone.

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

When I was starting out in my career, the general feeling was that you always had to make linear moves, moves that would take you directly up the ladder. I’ve seen now how positive it can be to make sideways moves and have a ‘squiggly career’. Things have changed, and I see different perspectives when it comes to career progression. More than anything, I think it’s important to follow your passions and not be afraid to move in whatever direction that takes you. It’s something I’ll always encourage people to do when they are thinking about their future.

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

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had a career that’s taken me around the world. I’ve worked in tech roles that have taken me from the US to Asia, and now to Europe. Looking back at these experiences, I think it’s so important to be respectful of the culture and of course local regulations. I think that’s one of the key differences in Europe; we’re very highly regulated here and there are so many things in place to protect the customer. It’s a differentiator that helps us, as technologists to be better at what we do.

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 role of a CDO isn’t changing dramatically, but of course, accountabilities change over time. Due to a rapidly evolving tech landscape which involves the growth of AI, the role will require more strategic decision-making. As a CDO, the decisions you make today can help define the next five years of the company.

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

With the emergence of new tech, today’s and yesterday’s C-Level are different. However, while the roles have changed, the underpinning principles of what makes a good leader are the same. I think you need to be intellectually curious at all times, accept feedback from all levels, maintain authentic and inclusive leadership and be outcome-focused always.

An ethos I’ve always stuck by involves never putting too much focus on what the position or job title might be; rather I’ve always concentrated on what my ultimate goal and passion is, which is creating solutions with tech to solve problems for customers.

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