What has been your personal highlight of 2020?
In a work context, it's been working with a group of people who have risen to the challenges Covid presented, both for us and for our customers across the education system. We've seen such an amazing response from people, often while juggling many challenges at home, as we all wrestled our way through the situation. Being more selfish though, it's been getting the time to get out running and recovering a decent level of fitness.
Which three celebrities would you invite to a Zoom party?
Lewis Hamilton (local-born legend in my part of rural England) as I would love a glimpse of how celebrity life mixes so effectively with the supreme athletic and engineering discipline of his sport.
Michelle Obama - in the hope of hearing more about life inside the White House, and perhaps even some unfettered views on the current situation in US politics.
Brian Cox - it just has to be interesting to talk to anyone who is a rock musician turned physicist. Especially one who uses their celebrity to inspire children and adults alike and make science come to life.
What has been your guiltiest lockdown pleasure?
Spending much more time with my family. My children's life slowed right down as schools closed and all their sports and hobbies came crashing to a halt, and for my wife and I, our own work and travel patterns changed overnight. So why is this a ‘guilty' pleasure? Because I know it would have been better for all if normality had carried on, but it has been amazing for all of us to be forced into a situation that let us reflect a little on what the simple joys in life really are.
Which tech figurehead has inspired you most this year, and why?
Elon Musk - unpredictable and outspoken as he often is, I can't help but be inspired by his relentless refusal to let others tell him what can't be done. The first time I saw the Falcon rocket go into orbit then execute a landing on a tiny floating platform at sea, I remembered those who years earlier kept explaining why he would never make it work. He continues to dream the seemingly impossible, and strive to make it reality. That is inspirational.
What piece of technology, or app, have you not been able to do without during the pandemic?
The webcam! It's not a piece of technology I liked before COVID, but something I rely on every day now. I've learned to appreciate video as a tool that provides a more human sense of connection than voice alone - especially for groups who cannot easily get together with any frequency (for example when operating internationally).
If you could be anyone else for a week, who would you be and what would you do?
It's tempting to say one of my cats, who seem to spend 17 hours a day sleeping with tough choices about when to eat and which sunny spot to move to for their next nap. More seriously, I would love to be Bill Gates for a week, to get involved in some of the amazing work he and Melinda do through their foundation and see what kind of prioritisation decisions you have to make across the range of world-changing investments they are considering.
Do you miss face-to-face events?
Yes. While I admire the amazing way everyone has adapted to working and collaborating remotely, it doesn't replace the energy and enthusiasm you draw from a large event, nor all the little things we pick up from myriad real-world connections, coincidental meet-ups and chats over coffee.
How will COVID leave its mark on the way the channel operates long term?
I think we are all learning that the unexpected can happen, that when we try we can often do things that we previously thought impossible and that there are different models for working with each other that don't require constant travel and other inefficiencies that sap the time from our lives.
I hope that as we leave COVID behind, we can glean some good from these experiences to carry forward, use technology to bring us together in ways we hadn't valued before, free up time for the personal connections we all need and lessen our impact on the environment in the process.