Senior Spotlight: June 2023
Crimson’s Head of Customer Engagement, Chris O’Brien, interviews senior technologists across the UK. Discover what drives these individuals as we delve into their careers, most exciting projects, and tech predictions for 2023 and beyond. Be inspired by their stories and connect with your IT peers.
Daniel Pass | Chief Technology Officer at Perenna.
Chris: First things first Dan, we’ve known each other for over a decade. And over that time you've obviously had a journey within technology.
So, from there, how did you get where you are today?
Dan: I started when I was very, very young. My first access to a computer was a BBC Micro at school. I was fascinated by it. Eventually I got a Sinclair Spectrum in my very early teens. And then I just became obsessed with the mechanics of it and how it worked.
When I left school, I went to work for a big engineering company called Nortel Networks, first as an Opto-Electronics Engineer. We were designing the transceivers and receivers and the technology that still powers the significant amount of the internet transit of today. Admittedly, most of it has probably been superseded and replaced, but at the time we were at the forefront of technological development.
All the way through, my plan was to do that within an organisation. And an opportunity simply presented itself in my mid-twenties, when I was working for a firm that got hit with one of the first big network-bound viruses called Nimda. No one knew what to do except me, and just like that, I was the IT guy. From there I built my career, eventually becoming a Chief Technology Officer.
Chris: And looking to the future, what’s the next big prediction for 2023 and beyond?
Dan: The heavy commoditization and utilisation of services and information at scale. Whereas previously you needed a much longer ramp of time for something to go from that genesis, now technology is much more accessible and supply chains operate in a smoother fashion.
Chris: Oh, you’re definitely right – and ChatGPT is a good example of this. Last week we used it to quickly write multiple different versions of the same job description, just to give us a different flavour for the tone.
Dan: It's learned enough to be deterministic about the questions asked – but it's got the intelligence of a toddler. Once it does ‘grow up’ we’ll see the true potential of AI.
Chris: I know we’ve jumped to the future but I want to take a step back. What would you say to date is your proudest moment or your biggest achievement career wise?
Dan: There's two answers that come to mind. The first one is, becoming a CTO and getting to continue that career path, because that’s what I always wanted to do.
But it leads to the second one. Over the last 20 years of my career, I’m proudest of the people I’ve met. Whether I promoted them, or taught them something, or gave them encouragement – I've helped give people the same helping hand that incredible people within my career have done for me.
Chris: That's pretty powerful. Because I know some people will mention they were voted for this, or they've got an award for that, so I admire your answer. But on the flipside, what's been your biggest challenge in your career?
Dan: There's also probably two answers to that question.
I got a role at a really interesting startup in early 2020. Though I didn’t end up starting till June because of my handover period. And, unfortunately, by then we were dead in the middle of the first wave of COVID. So after about 8 or 10 weeks, we decided to press pause on it, which was a real shame. But that left me out of a senior leadership position in the middle of a global pandemic. That is the single scariest experience I've had in a long time from a career perspective.
The other challenge then is not doubting yourself. I've done several talks on this in the last year – especially as people have emerged from COVID. We have all developed an element of imposter syndrome. We have seen the world-to-world marketplace change. We have seen technology change. We have seen work culture change, specifically around remote work. The hardest transition is to move to that environment while retaining that all-important human connection.
And actually, we’re all getting re-introduced to this world and going, “am I doing the right thing? Am I doing good? They're telling me I'm doing good, but am I doing good?” It's a very different experience in the working environment.
The toughest conversation as any leader is if someone's having a hard time – but with work being predominantly online now, how do you spot that? It's harder to tell if someone’s going through a tough experience, whether they're doubting their job or whether they have something going on in their personal life. COVID created a mass epidemic of loneliness, and we’re still trying to come out of that.
Tell us about the most interesting project you worked on, or if you've got one that's coming up that you think is really, really cool.
Dan: I can talk about the one that I'm working on right now – I’m building a bank. Perenna, is a brand-new mortgage bank that's launching this year in the UK. We're introducing the UK's first long-term fixed mortgage. It's fascinating, both as a sector and as a product, but also ultimately it’s useful for so many people in the UK who are looking to get on the property ladder.
I can’t go into too much detail – all I can tell you is we’re building a very significant, very important organisation and that's been my coolest project so far.
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