What was your first job, and how did you get into IT?
My first ever job was at the famous London department store Harrods at the start of a year out before college – in the end I did 13 stints as a student to pay off my overdraft. But my first proper job was when I worked as a graduate trainee at Pye Telecom, which I loved. I think what draws you to a particular sector is enjoying the work and the challenges associated with it. I wanted to work in an industry that had fantastic opportunities and IT was perfect for this.
What is your most overused word?
Definitely “pedal”. Anyone who knows me would agree with this. I use the word a lot and to me it means put effort into something and get a move on. I’m always happy to give help, but someone needs to actually pedal to get things moving.
Are you a cat person or a dog person?
Very much a dog person! In fact we have a slightly famous dog (pictured below).
You may have seen him in the BBC2 idents or in The Golden Compass.
Why do you think there is a skills shortage?
What can be done about it? In the long term, more needs to be done to raise the standard of educational achievement for kids in the first five years at schools, and secondary education needs to reinforce these skills.
But in the short term, I believe businesses should be building good links with schools and colleges to foster talent. At 8x8, we’ve run a grad programme for five years and have seen really bright, talented young people come through our doors. However, just because there is a skill shortage in the industry, your company doesn’t have to have one. Ensuring the business is a nice place to work is a great way to attract the best talent.
Do you have a favourite motivational quote?
No, but I do have some phrases that I think sum up my approach to work. For instance, “you get out what you put in” and “no matter how irritated you are, count to 10 and calm down”.
What should government be doing to help UK businesses grow?
Government should be improving access to high-speed internet. It also needs to tackle the skills gap, which apprenticeships aren’t combating effectively. The gap between school leavers and the workplace is quite stark at the moment. Promoting closer collaboration between employers and schools would help prepare school leavers for the world of work and supply businesses with fresh, innovative talent.
What are the characteristics of the perfect channel partner?
Obviously, you want them to be reliable, pay on time and be nice people. But it’s such an important relationship that you need more than just that. An ideal partner will have a strong trajectory and momentum and will share common objectives with 8x8. A win-win mentality is vital and there needs to be the understanding that it’s a joint enterprise.
What is your dream holiday destination?
There are two places that are my idea of a fantastic holiday. I love going skiing. As a family we go to St Anton in Austria. It’s impossible to think about work when you’re skiing, so it makes an ideal break. In the summer, Paxos is a great place to unwind. It’s a tiny Greek island that you can only get to by boat. There isn’t much connectivity and everything is very relaxed.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I’ll have to answer this question with a slight change. If I had my time again, but also had (much) more ability, I would be a pro golfer. There was a period when I thought it could have been an option, but reality kicked in and I wasn’t anywhere good enough.
What was the first record you bought?
It’s too far back in the mists of time to be sure, but probably something awful by Wings. A lot of the stuff I listen to now is from a time warp, and I have most of the back catalogue of The Clash, The Ramones, The Doors and Hendrix.
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