What was your first job, and how did you get into IT?
My first job was programming a war gaming system at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. I had to source terrain data for eastern Europe and import it so commanders weren’t driving virtual tanks over seas or flying virtual planes into mountains. As first jobs go, it was pretty interesting.
Planes, trains or automobiles?
Planes or trains. You can work and drink on them!
What sport should be in the Olympics but isn’t?
Squash. Because I love it and it’s a real sport, unlike synchronised swimming.
What is your favourite joke or the one you heard most recently?
Anything a politician says.
In my dreams…
…I opened the batting at Lords with Ian Botham against Australia and scored an Ashes-winning century, with my dad watching.
What was the best business trip or junket you have been on?
My first ever plane journey. DEC flew me to New York, business class on BA (a wonderful first flight but sadly not indicative of normal flying), and that night I was drinking tumblers of Jack Daniels with Robert Palmer, our chairman and chief executive. I was 22 and thought that this working thing was actually OK.
Oranges or bananas?
Bananas. Oranges are too messy and I always end up squirting juice at somebody. Not good manners at all.
...Thought authentication was sexy until I worked for CryptoCard. Actually, I still don’t think it’s sexy, but it is fairly important in the digital world that you know who you are dealing with and can protect the identity of yourself and others.
What would your superpower be?
Playing cricket. For the reason why, read my answer to the dream question above.
What has been your toughest moment at work so far, and how did you resolve the situation?
Having to dismiss people, for whatever reason. You can never get away from the fact that, however justified it is, it’s not just work - it’s people’s lives.
Print or online news?
Online. The iPad is now my main way of receiving the news. Some of the newspaper apps are great, some not so fantastic, but reading it on that is a lot easier than wrestling with a paper copy!
Would you rather draw up the plans, or carry them out?
Draw them up. I started life as a techie and realised how hard it is actually doing stuff. Planning, managing and selling is easier. And I have an overdose of organisation (bossy) genes.
Do you use social media?
I use it to stay in touch with friends who have emigrated. I prefer to pick up the phone, but sharing photos one-to-many has its advantages.
Is it wrong to tell little white lies?
Not when you have kids. Then it is essential.
Will the economic recovery continue?
Normal businesses are, broadly, in OK shape. It all depends on whether those in banking and government manage to destroy confidence to such an extent that everybody stops spending.
What does the channel most need to learn to succeed and grow this year?
Get on the security-as-a-service band wagon. It’s a perfect way to gain annuity, higher-margin, services-based income, and it’s selling now.
Is IT well taught in schools?
It’s getting better, but funding is an issue and until that is solved, IT teaching will always be limited. Look at e-assessment - it could revolutionise teaching, but the IT infrastructure in primary schools just isn’t good enough yet.
If you had your time again, what would be your next choice of career?
Investment banking, then teaching. I would make my millions, then do something useful.
Neil Hollister is chairman and chief executive officer of CryptoCard
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