I was born and raised in London, UK and studied Astrophysics at King’s College, London in the mid-80’s. I have always had a love and passion for Mathematics and my career started combining Maths with computers in Banking. Inadvertently I became a software engineer and it has turned into my second passion.
After earning my technical chops in Banking my natural tendency to want to make things from scratch took me into a startup with a college friend and fellow Physicist. We had huge success quite early and completed a successful acquisition by Cognos Inc. in 1997 after 4 years of operations.
I then spent 10 years working for Cognos in both the UK and Canada, forming teams, managing across the Atlantic and creating and implementing enterprise software solutions. I rose through Cognos as a technical lead and a manager, retaining a technical presence and code responsibility in my teams. I parted Cognos as Director of Software Development for their Applications Division based at the corporate headquarters in Ottawa, Canada, where I spent 4 years.
In late 2006, with acquisition by IBM looming, I felt the startup urge again and in early 2007 left Cognos and Canada and returned to the UK to start two new businesses, Dialectyx and Clusters.
I spent three years incubating and growing those businesses and creating IP in the domains of strategy formulation, sales pipeline management, data clustering, advertising campaign optimisation and non-linear segment attribution. I have a third company, HuPa, which is a joint venture with a partner in the UK, to develop and commercialise that IP and hold equity stakes in the subsequent businesses.
In the 2008 funding environment we found it increasingly hard to attract interest in the Dialectyx software proposition, although the consulting offering was popular. As a result we formed a joint venture with OneSource Business Information and Dialectyx now forms their business consulting practice in London. This was a good exit in the environment of the day but did not exploit the software opportunity so I chose not to participate.
Clusters was cash generating from the very first day of operations and has gone from strength to strength. Based on Bankside in London, their client list and reputation continues to grow. They are very profitable and growing even against the recently challenging economic backdrop. I act as technical advisor and am developing further IP to allow Clusters to exploit some adjacent business opportunities, particularly in the area of segment attribution on large databases (see expertise). We believe this could greatly increase Clusters’ revenues and extend the business into areas which are high value and traditionally difficult to tackle.
I joined Empathica in 2010 based in Toronto, Canada as CTO. Empathica provides insights to retail businesses based on direct customer feedback via surveys. We also reach out beyond the immediate customer retail experience into the shoppers’ social network to provide the brands with high value first hand recommendations and insights into how they are perceived in their target markets. We can also take unstructured feedback from social media and analyse its content for meaning and sentiment and interleave it seamlessly into the structured survey feedback. Empathica is growing rapidly in an exciting area of interest which pulls on my strengths as a software manager, a strategic thinker and a statistician.
Over three years I completely re-engineered the technical side of Empathica’s business. We adopted Agile XP, completely refreshed the internal architecture and launched innovative new products which are leading the market. As part of this effort I spearheaded a complete revolution in hiring practices which has led to us assembling one of the best software development teams in Toronto. Doing all that gets you a reputation in the local recruitment market. We also won awards for being a great place to work.
The Empathica software development team are a force to be reckoned with and the products reflect that.
Empathica was acquired in 2013 by Mindshare, now renamed InMoment. I was proud to be part of the team that positioned Empathica’s business for sale and contributed to its attractive position as an acquisition target. I made many friends in the Empathica business and believe we achieved a great deal with limited resources and a huge amount of passion and ingenuity. I look back on this time in my career with great fondness for the people, our clients and the time we spent together.
I am currently CTO at LoyaltyOne, based in Toronto. LoyaltyOne is the worlds leading coalition loyalty provider and part of the Alliance Data Systems family of companies. We run AirMiles, which is Canada’s most recognised brand and has a penetration and reach as a loyalty program completely unrivalled anywhere in the world. In addition we own and operate Precima and BrandLoyalty, between which businesses we generate $1.5Bn of revenue.
I am part of the executive team and lead the technology function at LoyaltyOne. It is a group of passionate, talented and dedicated people. I am deeply involved in a profound cultural shift as we embrace agile working practices along the full length of our value chain. It is a tough, challenging, exciting and life-changing experience for all of us as we learn how to re-invent the technology landscape in our business.
I live in Oakville, ON, Canada. I am married to the wonderful Hua Lin, and we have a sever year old son, Jack.
The Cognos Experience
I produced a collection of products in a variety of Cognos’ domains which won awards and generated new license and maintenance revenue streams. My most successful release generated US$6M of new license revenue in its first full fiscal year. In total during my time at Cognos the products over which I had direct development responsibility contributed to more than US$225M of revenues.
My reputation was as an innovator, a personal boss and an excellent technical engineer and architect. I personally recruited more than 50 people, 75% of whom are still with Cognos post-acquisition by IBM. Retention rates in my teams were between 80 and 100% over a rolling 5 years, which is extremely high in the industry.
I am immensely proud of the teams I built with Cognos and the products we created together – many of which remain in place. I had the best grounding in international professional software development management possible, while retaining cutting edge technical skills. I had the opportunity to manage extremely diverse and talented groups of individuals from all countries, cultures, backgrounds and technical domains in both the UK and Canada.
I have been unable to detach myself from being a hands on developer and I love that, and think it brings a particular flavor to my life as a technical leader. I believe strongly in being proficient in the technologies that I ask my teams to use and in having some relevant and recent experience in living with those choices. I find myself with a string of pet projects as a result which are a platform for me to exercise my creative muscles and learn new technologies.
I love what “the cloud” has done to put scalable software platforms in the reach of entrepreneurs. I love what distributed computing frameworks are doing to databases and algorithm development – something which is particularly close to my heart. I love keeping close to that sort of stuff and I find myself an active member of some online communities as a result.
Here’s my StackOverflow profile…