Leaders in Tech comes to town: how did our first-ever London meet-up go?

Leaders in Tech is a well-established community in Berlin, Denver and many other major cities. However, London wasn’t one of them – until last week. On Wednesday 10th July, we held the inaugural Leaders in Tech meet-up in the capital, kicking off with a red-hot topic: AI and the Future of Business.
The first meet-up took place on a fantastic river cruise that left from Westminster Pier. On board were a mix of London’s brightest CTOs, CIOs, VPs and senior tech figures, along with three influential speakers. Once guests had had a chance to tuck into the more-ish BBQ food on board, it was time for our first speaker to take the floor. 

Imtiaz Adam is Director of Data Science at DLS. He spoke about the The Impact of 5G – and why it will be “a completely different world.” According to Imtiaz, 5G will make machine to machine communication possible and reduce latency, allowing billions of devices to connect with each other as well as human users. Though it will take the technology some time to filter through, Imtiaz predicts that by 2025, the market will be huge.

Next up, was Dr Janet Bastiman, CSO of StoryStream and AI VP at MMC Ventures. Her topic was The Strategy of AI and the practical steps you need to take to apply AI to key areas. Dr. Bastiman talked us through identifying the problem, assessing your data, attracting talent, development, productionisation, and regulation and ethics, providing a very useful guide for any would-be AI implementers.
The last expert was  Daniel Hulme, CEO of Satalia and a serial speaker for the likes of Google and TEDx. In his talk, he explained how AI can only really solve problems when it’s able to adapt. He went on to describe how AI has the power to help companies make the right decisions – and help society to make the right ones too. His vision of dystopian AI future was certainly thought-provoking.

Afterwards, guests relaxed and networked as the boat sailed past some of London’s most iconic landmarks. 
If you’re a senior level technology leader, why not join us for our next meet-up? It’s a chance to connect with fellow technology leaders from both new and established innovative businesses. You can share best practice, discuss up-and-coming advances and generally connect with like-minded individuals. Find out more on our website: /en/communities/meet-ups/
 

Magento Summer Boat Meet-up: a debrief

Despite the dismal weather, our recent Magento Summer Boat meet-up was a big success! Nearly 100 people came to hear fantastic guest speakers discuss the nuts and bolts of this popular open source e-commerce platform as we chugged slowly up the Thames. 
First up, was Joseph McDemott, a senior solutions architect at Klevu (https://www.klevu.com). He talked us through the Modern Search Requirements of an e-commerce website and why a good search function is vital (hint: you have just eight seconds to interest the average site visitor!) Joseph covered personalisation, non-product search and natural language processing, explaining what they mean in practice, why they’re important in search and how a Magento developer can implement them.

Next, we heard from Jonathan Chikly, a Director and Full Stack Developer at YYT development studios (https://yyt.dev/). His subject was building Progressive Web Applications (PWA) with Magento 2. Jonathan began by defining a PWA as a website that’s fast, reliable and engaging – one that feels like a natural app on the device. He went on to present the main PWA frameworks open to developers and a relevant case study, which brought to life the challenges of building a static PWA with Magento 2.
Our third speaker was Arron Moss of Zero 1 (https://www.zero1.co.uk/). His topic? The Industry-Ops Revolution. Drawing on his work with partner company, Steamhaus (https://www.steamhaus.co.uk/), Arron discussed how the businesses had grown along with Magento and how the opportunities had evolved with the transition from Magento 1 to Magento 2.

There was plenty of time for pizza and beer before the fourth speaker of the evening: Boyan Grigorov of The Sofa & Chair Company (https://www.thesofaandchair.co.uk/). Having recently built a new e-commerce website for his company, Boyan provided a unique insight into the challenges of digital transformation for a furniture retail business. As the guests took in brilliant views of London on their trip, Boyan discussed the journey his company had taken to choose a platform and how he’d convinced managers that Magento was the right choice.
The final speaker was Max Pronko, founder of Pronko Consulting (https://www.pronkoconsulting.com/). With 15 years of experience, he was well qualified to talk about Applying Service Oriented Architecture for Magento 2 Development. Max began by explaining how the Magento 2 platform has been moving into a decoupled state where each module is responsible for an individual operation. This allows higher performance, looser coupling and improved code quality. Max then dived into Service Oriented Architecture, showing how it could be applied using an effective example.
As the boat drew into the splendid Victoria Embankment, the Magento community on board had plenty of food for thought. Look out for more exclusive meet-ups on our website: /en/communities/meet-ups/.
 

Klaas Bollhoefer on AI: “It’s a 360°change in how we build software”

In April, Klaas Bollhoefer of Birds on Mars spoke at our Leaders in Tech event in Berlin. His talk, AI Thinking, explored how organisations can learn to stop being afraid of artificial intelligence, and lean into the paradigm shifts necessary to implement AI tools creatively and valuably.
 
We spoke with Klaas to learn about how he came to found Birds on Mars, and what the biggest challenges are for the companies he works, like Deutsche Bahn, Commerzbank, and Lufthansa.
 
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your company, Birds on Mars.
 
I’m founder and managing director of a company called Birds on Mars in Berlin. My cofounder and I, we built Birds on Mars at the beginning of last year. The idea is to help companies develop strategies, structures, teams, and applications at the interconnections of human organisations and artificial intelligence. We want companies to get off their asses and do everything that’s data and AI themselves.
 
It’s not something that you can outsource, so you have to develop new capabilities, create a new understanding – a new foundation – to really get into this topic. In the end, ideally, you might create new value or new business out of it.
 
What made you interested in the intersection of human business organizations and artificial intelligence?
 
We found out that companies really need support, they need guidance, they need a company that doing strategy in this kind of field, bottom-up. The difference is always that we’re not just talking about AI: we know how to do it, as well as strategic work.
 
We know how it needs to be done and that it’s more than technology. You need technology, you need skills, you need to routines, you need new spaces where this new stuff can happen. You might need new processes in your organization, you might need new organisational structures. You might need new partners.
 
What are the major challenges are right now in the work that you’re doing with customers?
 
there are so many paradigms that change or will change with big data and AI. The biggest challenge is always to create the understanding and awareness on the client side that it’s really time to think over existing stuff and time to dig deeper into data and AI.
 
If management and decision-makers are ready, and have the initial understanding, if they say “OK, we got it. Data and AI are the kind of thing we have to care about. We have to understand and find out how can data can help us in our organisation” –  then that’s 80%.
 
I think the biggest threat to AI at the moment is that people feel lost and have this feeling that they just won’t get it. Everybody talks about AI and a lot of people think, “OK, I don’t get it. It’s too difficult, I need a PhD in mathematics to actually get a grip on that.” But that’s just wrong
 
If you really help companies to translate what AI really is and what kind of paradigms are behind AI or behind data and behind cloud (because all of these things are very intertwined and very well connected), then they feel able to decide again. They are capable of taking the next step.
They don’t feel lost and behind. That, I think, is the biggest task.
 
After that, with these changes in paradigms there are a lot of new things that need to be learned. There are things that need to be unlearned, which is normal when you have a kind of paradigm shift.
 
What are some of the things that people need to unlearn once they’ve made the paradigm shift  into thinking correctly about the role of AI and big data in their organizations?
 
One of the biggest shifts is the way we design, build, and operate software. In general, AI is software, but software of a new kind. The way we create this kind of software, the way we develop, but mostly the way we run software that integrates any kind of machine learning, deep learning (we call it AI) piece, that’s the biggest change.
 
At the moment, software gets developed explicitly, so it’s rule-based. If, then — else. You have data, and I take that data, I write a piece of logic and the output is pretty straightforward. I know what the output will be. It’s easy to measure. With machine learning, we turn a lot of stuff upside down. We train software based on data that we know. We train the logic and put that logic on unknown data from the real world. Ideally if what the software and the logic is trained on is similar to what the actual data in the real world looks like, it behaves the way we want.
 
If the data changes in the outside world, our logic will work on that changed data and the output, the result, of what the logic is doing, can be anything. We don’t really know, so we have to monitor all that. We have to monitor what kind of data flows into our machine learning system. We have to monitor the output. We have to apply new metrics. At that point in time, it’s not just the software we have to take care of, this piece of software we are responsible for, but the whole process that changes – the whole environment that this software actually operates in. That’s quite complicated and it is a 360 degree change in how we actually think and build software. That’s the biggest shift, I think.

Developers are now expected to do everything by themselves

For the February edition of Leaders in Tech | Berlin, Austin Fraser invited Andrew Holway, founder of Otter Networks, to speak about the current state of DevOps, the impact of new platforms like Kubernetes, and how technology leaders should think about both infrastructure and knowledge management in their organizations.
 
Andrew’s presentation (which was recorded and will be available subsequently) started with a review of the “old world” and the “new world” of software engineering, from when engineers needed to take care of hardware, networking, and all sorts of complicated operational issues in order to run software online. In an in-between phase, Amazon Web Services has abstracted away many of the annoying and frustrating parts. However, Holway posits that the main user that Amazon creates its tools and services for is a DevOps engineer, and that it’s not reasonable to expect developers to directly consume AWS’ APIs. In the new world, Kubernetes and other automated platforms like it have dramatically reduced the complexity of operational work that DevOps engineers used to handle, virtually eliminating the need for DevOps as a discipline.
 
DevOps is FSCKed by Andrew Holway slides:
https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vRV4B7JSfyukZRFosukMNwQu7rt8KH1nor44CswGF6zBrdkuwueBJvDg6ZPGoqXHH8AbeA7kYx5AD2v/pub
 
The talk sparked many questions and discussions among the 50+ attendees, who ranged from CTOs to team leads to startup founders. For example, one question from the audience concerned how databases are handled. Andrew’s response revealed the larger trends within software engineering: “Even if you’re consuming your database from the cloud provider, you still have to have some knowledge of databases as a developer – most full stack developers have a good understanding of the databases. The role of DBA disappeared some years ago, I haven’t seen one in ages. The role of DevOps engineer is going the same direction as DBA, and these roles are just being pushed into the development team. Developers are expected to do literally everything by themselves.”
 
Dmitry Galkin, a cloud solutions architect at Cloudification.io attended the Leaders in Tech event because he had checked Otter Networks website in advance and was curious to see what the talk would be about. In the end, he had a different perspective than the speaker. Even though he thought it might work for smaller teams, for bigger and more complex organizations, Dimitry said, “I wouldn’t be so sure that DevOps will disappear in the next five years.”
 
Nicholas Wittstruck was also in the audience at the Leaders in Tech event in Berlin, he has been at several Leaders in Tech meetups. Nicholas is the Head of Shop and IT at Bringmeister.de, and his take on Holway’s presentation was that, “It’s important on a strategic level – when it comes to the next project that you work on, you have these things in mind. In this specific case, when it comes to deploying your  infrastructure next, maybe it makes sense to have a look at Kubernetes and do it on GCP [Google Cloud Platform], even though you’re using AWS right now.”
 
As a returning participant to Austin Fraser’s Leaders in Tech event series, Nicholas Wittstruck has some advice for people who are on the fence: “There are two things that I really like about these meetups. The first one is that there are really interesting talks. It’s also about meeting people that are in the tech scene in Berlin. I’m meeting some people again at each meetup, which is nice for networking. You get to know people who have similar problems.”
 
Many thanks to Secret Escapes for hosting this edition of Leaders in Tech | Berlin in their office in Mitte. Don’t miss the next Leaders in Tech event, become a member of our Meetup group. Leaders in Tech brings together CTOs, CIOs, VPs, Heads of IT, and other senior technology leaders to discuss current tech trends and build lasting relationships.

Lessons from Psychology and Pedagogy for Software Teams

On Wednesday, Feb 13th, 2019, Andrew Holway of Otter Networks will be speaking about the rise of productivity engineering, which aims to reduce the cognitive load that Kubernetes and other fully automated platforms place on software developers. His talk, “DevOps is FSCKED” will cover a lot of ground, including some important concepts from psychology. To help you get up to speed on these, here’s a primer on a few of the ideas that may come up in his talk.
Tacit Knowledge
Tacit or implicit knowledge is a category of expertise or skills that are gained through personal experience that are difficult or impossible to pass on through written or spoken communication. In contrast to formal or explicit knowledge, which can be codified in documentation, codified in books, or shared in discrete units, implicit knowledge tends to be created through experience and relies on context and practice.
Tacit knowledge is best shared or transferred through high-quality social interactions. Formal instructional environments often don’t work as well; something more akin to pair programming allows the learner to observe and practice with someone who already has the knowledge.
How does this relate to DevOps, Kubernetes, and productivity engineering? Holway explains, “To manage all the infrastructure as code, you have to have a dedicated person. It’s hard and annoying, and it requires a ton of tacit knowledge. You end up with a separate person, and you’re back to system administration and developer silos.”
Cognitive Load
The concept of cognitive load commonly refers to the idea that there’s only so much our brains can think about at one time, and if we “overload” the mind with too much, it tends to make more mistakes. In some settings, like in instructional design, it derives from the idea of “working memory” which suggests that short-term memory can hold a limited about of new information that a person can work with.
For developers and in software teams, the cognitive load burden can be thought of as the number of software-related issues or details that a person needs to keep in mind. If developers are also handling system administration-related tasks, the decisions they have to make and the impact of those details create an additional burden on them that wasn’t there before.
Is your interest piqued? Come to the event to find out how Andrew Holway will take these ideas from instructional design and apply them to technology teams.

Andrew Holway on DevOps: Held together with spit and hope

 
Later this month, Andrew Holway of Otter Networks will be speaking at Leaders in Tech | Berlin. His talk “Devops is Fscked” (Meetup), will look at how fully automated platforms such as Kubernetes are making it possible for software developers to utilize cloud services directly and eliminating the need for siloed infrastructure management.
I met up with Andrew to learn about his journey from sailor to supercomputer designer to freelance DevOps engineer to CTO — and now to teaching companies to eliminate their dependency on DevOps.
 
You started off in a totally different kind of engineering, on boats, doing rigging and some electronics, but ended up working with supercomputers. How did you start working with DevOps?
I was basically like a fixer, a problem solver. I worked in supercomputing for 5 years where I developed large scale supercomputer platforms for processing data from high-profile academic science projects such as the Large Hadron Collider. I came to Berlin and I started working in commercial sector stuff, and then in Amazon Web Services. I noticed that a lot of what I would build for my clients in AWS was basically only supportable by me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but when I look back on it… the nature of what I do is very complex and there’s generally only one of me. When I leave a situation, there tends to be something that needs to be taken care of. And often that thing cannot be taken care of because only I can take care of it.
This has been a common thread throughout every DevOps job that I’ve done. I’ve put together some solution, but when you’re building it, you’re often learning. That means you’re also generating a bunch of technical debt, just by the very nature of learning.
Most of IT is built out of technical debt. Everybody’s constantly learning about how to do the thing that they’re doing. That’s especially bad in DevOps because everything’s changing so fast. It’s especially bad when you’re consuming services from external partners, such as Amazon Web Services. Everything’s glued together with spit and hope.
Tell me about a previous company or team you worked with where DevOps wasn’t working.
I worked with a company in Berlin… I got hired by the then-CTO. It was a quite complicated system; it had many moving parts. Everything was written in Ruby and every single system was deployed in a different way. Everything! The main website was deployed on some servers in Rackspace. There were some other bits that were deployed onto ECS. Then there were some bits that were deployed in Docker on another platform. And some other bits were using another deployment method and another technology.
All these DevOps engineers that were there during the heyday of the company, they treated it as a massive learning exercise. Nothing was finished, it was all half-done experiments.
The DevOps engineers didn’t ever go back and fix whatever they had done before?
They had four engineers and all of them did whatever they wanted. Then they all went off and worked for other companies.
I’m pretty sure it was the unmanageable infrastructure which killed that company. It was insane, everything was unstable, everything was half-done, it was mind-blowingly bad. It was unmaintainable. This happens a lot. You have these DevOps engineers running amok. I’ve been that person: there’s no oversight, nobody else knows what they’re doing.
When did you realize that DevOps consulting wasn’t solving the actual problem?
The moment I walked out the door, nobody knew what I’d done, nobody understood it. You can write documentation until you’re blue in the face, but the knowledge of how to deal with all of this stuff, I know now is tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is knowledge which is very difficult to share or transfer verbally or written down. This is why documentation in software development is kind of a joke.
A carpenter can’t read a book on carpentry and sit and talk to a million carpenters, and then just make a table. Technical knowledge is tacit, you have to feel the tools in your hands. You can’t just read the documentation and do it.
How does Kubernetes change the relationship between developers and DevOps?
All of the complexity, which DevOps engineers previously had to manage, ceased to exist: in Kubernetes, all of the “Ops” have been “Dev”ed. Everything that I ever tried to achieve as a DevOps engineer is all delivered by Kubernetes out of the box: scalability, reliability, cost-effectiveness.
What is the ideal end of state for software developers using Kubernetes and productivity engineering?
They’ll have ownership of their own domain. They’re autonomous, they can write, they deploy, and manage their own applications. They  don’t need any third parties to do that. I consider that we’ve won when we never hear from people ever again. That’s our goal: to set people up so they don’t need to talk to us again.
 
To learn more about Andrew Holway’s predictions about DevOps and Kubernetes, strategies for transmitting of tacit knowledge, and the growing need for productivity engineering, join Leaders in Tech | Berlin on February 13th, 2019: http://eventbrite.com/e/leaders-in-tech-berlin-devops-is-fscked-tickets-54523716905
 

Austin Fraser supports ConnectTVT digital talent initiative

We are joining forces with ConnectTVT to support the region’s next generation of digital talent. As part of this collaboration we have sponsored five tickets for local schools, colleges and universities in the Reading area at this year’s inaugural Tech for Good conference.
Tech for Good is a headline event for the Festival of Digital Disruption (FoDD), the three-day town-centre tech ‘takeover’ in Reading, running November 21-23.
As a key employer in the Thames Valley, we are working tirelessly to lead the way in investing in digital skills and the wider tech economy in the region. Through our Leaders in Tech programme, we bring together C-suite and senior level executives to explore emerging IT trends, share expert insight and support the growing tech community.
Other investments include the new RDGUK Office Hours initiative, which aims to foster a collaborative ecosystem for local businesses, as well as more education-led programmes such as the recent Reading University Hackathon.
A long-time partner of ConnectTVT, we collaborated with founder Louize Clarke and her team to bring Glug Reading to the region as well as its 50 Game Changers initiative.
Mark Thomas,Technology Regional Manager, commented: “Working with talent in this space, it’s alarming to see the huge skills gaps in technology.  We’ve always championed ConnectTVT’s mission to make sure the Thames Valley maintains its leadership in the tech economy and are huge believers in paying it forward. We’re thrilled to be part of the Festival of Digital Disruption and hope that the next gen come away truly inspired to explore careers in tech.”
Louize Clarke added: “There’s a lot of conversations around investing in the next generation but we really need more investment on the ground to achieve this. We’re lucky to have friends in Austin Fraser who support our vision and genuinely want to connect young people with the opportunities that technology can offer.”

Is the role of CTO broken?

Are the financial benefits of becoming a tech contractor upsetting the traditional career progression and creating a shortage at the top?
This challenging question has prompted numerous conversations within our Leaders in Tech communities.
When we ask this question of engineers  –  particularly those with more experience in smaller companies  – they imagine a sort of ‘super Tech Lead’: a very senior engineer who is going to lead the technical direction of an organisation.
So what exactly does a CTO do all day?
Answers to that question from current CTOs have included:

Working with commercial stakeholders (CEO, board, investors), to identify the commercial roadmap over ‘x’ months.
Working with product owners and business analysts to develop a realistic product roadmap that supports the commercial roadmap.
Identifying a tech roadmap aligned with product and commercial roadmaps.
Negotiating when you realise the commercial or product roadmaps are unrealistic because of technical constraints. Note: negotiate, not “tell others it can’t be done”. Negotiation skills are critical.
Figuring out how to structure teams, line reporting, process and cadence within the technical team.
Getting the balance between feature development, BAU and technical debt/bug quashing right for the commercial and product culture within the business.
Keeping up to date with changes in law that have impact on technical roadmaps.
Preparation and negotiation of budgets to be spent on tech staff – salary budgets often have to be treated differently to others.
Preparation and negotiation of budgets around technical operations such as hardware, service fees (data centre, cloud, etc.), software licensing, patent licensing where appropriate, etc.
Validating all of the above with senior management and board members, mostly using the language they are most fluent in: finance. You will spend a lot of time building spreadsheets and slide decks, and you’ll ideally need to do basic interpretation of a balance sheet to keep up.
Communicating the above with shareholders and future investors whilst giving yourself enough margin to not get fired if it doesn’t pan out.
Setting cultural tone for the technical team. All of the below contribute to that, but ultimately you are going to set the example. The kind of behaviour you choose to reward is what the team will eventually value.

Notice, there isn’t much engineering going on here. Depending on what’s going on within your company, it’s unlikely you’re going to be spending too much time working on product, and it’s worth expanding on that:
In very small companies, you are going to have to work on the product directly. In larger companies you won’t have time to work on the product directly.
Leaders in Tech | Berlin
Join us on Thursday 18th October for the next instalment of Leaders in Tech | Berlin, a community for CTOs, CIOs, VPs, Heads of IT and other senior technology leaders to get together and discuss current tech trends.

Jason Franklin-Stokes – interim CTO with 30 years of successfully creating, building and growing technology start-ups in Germany, France, UK and US – will be discussing why the CTO role is dead! (or at least dying out). Are businesses demanding faster time to markets and user centricity? Is this shifting a focus from Tech to Product. Why do companies need a CTO? Or even a head of IT? If the CPO is the role that everything rotates around then surely the CTO is dead?
If you are a senior level technology leader, this is an opportunity for you to meet with fellow technology leaders from established and/or innovative businesses. To share in best practises, discuss up and coming advances in technology/methodologies & generally connect with like minded individuals with similar interests/challenges.

Leaders in Tech | Reading: Does size matter? Big Data Deconstructed

 
Leaders in Tech | Reading: Does size matter? Big Data Deconstructed
 
On the 13th September we hosted one of our most successful events today in which we discussed the benefits and trends of AI, Big Data and Machine Learning.
We discussed how to draw much deeper insights into our data, understand what motivates our customers and what slows down our production lines.
We identified that businesses leveraging big data and machine learning, can expect to see a marked improvement in their KPIs. For those not yet using big data, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing if the benefits are worth the cost and effort.
Adding machine learning and cognitive interactions to traditional business processes and applications will enable greatly improved user experience and productivity.
 

 
We were very lucky to have some excellent speakers on the night – covering a very diverse scope of topics:
Riki Dolby, Director of Engineering at InfoSum spoke about how data-driven business intelligence delivers tangible business value and competitive advantage.
Jon Stanesby, Director of Product Strategy at Oracle covered key points around what A.I. can teach us and what our knowledge can in turn effect A.I.

Ross Verrall, Senior Developer at Nvidia discussed the concept of demystifying the Deep Learning that is sweeping across multiple industries and is shaping the reality of day to day businesses
Ray Noppe, CTO at Advinia helped shed light on the impact of AI on the lives of people suffering with Dementia. This thought provoking talk gave a different perspective on the use of A.I. in day to day care.
As part of this we were able to entertain a huge number of Leaders in Tech with a four course wine and canapé tasting that proved an overwhelming success.
 

 
Thanks again to our speakers and all who attended our Leaders in Tech meet up held at our Reading HQ. We very much look forward to seeing you at our next event!

London Magento Users Group – F*&k Ups!

 
In our September instalment of London Magento Users Group, we will be hosting a F*&k Ups! Night. We will have speakers get up in front of a room full of strangers to share their own professional f*&k up. The stories of the business that crashed and burned, the partnership deal that went sour, the product that had to be recalled, we want them to tell all.
Agenda for the evening, as follows:
18:30 – 19:15 Arrive, network, eat and drink!
19:15 – 19:25 Introduction from Emma Gilder, Co-Organiser, Austin Fraser
19:30 – 19:50 Tom Robertshaw, Ecommerce Evangelist, Space 48
“Over the last 10 years, I’ve gone from being a Comp Science student to a developer, to an agency owner, to an ecommerce evangelist. This has given me the opportunity to fuck up in a range of roles and responsibilities! All that practice means I’ve now gotten the hang of how to royally screw up a situation. So whether you want to overwrite production DBs, get removed from client Christmas card lists, or offer two for one hot tubs to all your client’s customers, come and learn from the best in the business.”
19:55 – 20:15 Speaker to be announced shortly…..
20:20 – 21:00 Network and drink some more!
We are the proud sponsors of the London Magento Meetup and co-organisers for the last 6 years. We’re here to listen, advise, and ultimately, to help organisations perform better.
Get your free ticket here: https://www.meetup.com/magento-london/events/254207661/

Leaders in Tech | Reading: Does size matter? Big Data Deconstructed

 
We’re very excited to bring you the third instalment of Leaders in Tech | Reading.
Why is Big Data a game changer?
It allows companies to draw much deeper insights, understand what motivates customers and highlights what slows down production lines. It allows businesses simultaneously to deliver highly personalised experiences to millions of customers.
Businesses leveraging big data and machine learning often see a marked improvement in their KPIs. For those not yet using big data, the biggest barrier is simply not knowing if the benefits are worth the cost and effort.
Adding machine learning and cognitive interactions to traditional business processes and applications enables greatly improved user experience and productivity.
As you evaluate your strategy, gather and use as much data as possible to build a deep understanding in four areas:

Your customers
Your competitors
The external factors that impact you
Your own product(s)


Meet your speakers
Jon Stanesby | Director, Product Strategy, AI Apps, Oracle
Jon has 18 years’ experience working in Customer Experience, Marketing & CRM and now leads Product Management and Strategy for the Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications team, focusing on AI capabilities for Customer Experience. Jon has worked with some of the largest brands in Europe including John Lewis, B&Q, Lufthansa and Philips to drive value from their data to transform and personalise the customer experience. Jon has worked in Science and Technology his whole career and endeavours to honour the scientific method in his work – often referencing these in his written and presented material.
Presentation | What AI has taught me about data, and what data has taught me about AI
Big data is dead, long live big data! AI is the latest tool in the mix to aid almost all parts of a business. From supply chain to consumer personalisation – AI is being proposed as the must have technology to adopt in the next two years. But, what does it really take to develop AI for business problems? And what data needs to be connected to make AI work? Should you be wrangling data and employing an army of data scientists now in order to get ahead? Jon will discuss these, and other common challenges in this dawn of AI maturity, and help you prepare for moving forward into this new era.
Ross Verrall | EMEAI Services Lead for Artificial Intelligence and Enterprise Solutions, NVIDIA
Ross Verrall heads up NVIDIA’s Artificial Intelligence platforms which provide a complete ecosystem for tackling the world’s biggest challenges. He is a problem solver with a strong passion for understanding leading edge technologies and ensuring it can be successfully leverage to achieve both business and societal gains. Ross feels incredibly lucky to be a part of NVIDIA at this exciting time to help usher in the benefits of the emerging Artificial Intelligence solutions.
Presentation | How? What? How‽
AI sounds great, but put simply how does it work? Ok, got the how, but what can it do today, not in 10 years? Wow, didn’t know that! How do I get started?
Riki Dolby | Engineering Director | InfoSum
Riki is an experienced senior executive, with a proven track record of growing and maturing organisations at the same time as successfully delivering highly innovative products and solutions.
Presentation | Connecting the customer data dots in a dangerous world
Data-driven business intelligence delivers tangible business value and competitive advantage. Second-party data partnerships can significantly enhance the opportunities to build this intelligence. Riki will explore how to maximise the commercial value of data while dealing with the challenges of business trust, control over data and end-customer privacy. In particular how, for the first time, decentralised customer data platforms are enabling businesses to collaborate over big data using business models that were not previously possible.
 

 
… and exclusive wine tasting
To make the evening that extra bit special we’re partnering with Reading’s Tasting House who will be showcasing some interesting and unusual wines throughout the evening. Catering for all tastes the varieties available to try will range from indulgent bubbles, crisp whites, velvety reds and some unexpected dessert wines. From beginners to aspiring sommeliers, you’ll leave inspired and informed as the Tasting House’s Manager, Jack Overbury, will introduce each selection. The wine will also be thoughtfully paired with a selection of snacks and nibbles.
A little bit more about us…
Leaders in Tech is a global community that started in Munich. It has now spread to Berlin and Reading and we will soon be launching it in the US.
This is a community for CTOs, CIOs, VPs, Heads of IT and other senior technology leaders to get together and discuss current tech trends.
If you are a senior technology leader, this is an opportunity for you to meet with fellow technology leaders from established and/or innovative businesses. To share best practices, discuss up and coming advances in technology/methodologies & generally connect with like-minded individuals with similar interests and challenges.
How to find us…
We are located in Thames Tower, directly opposite Reading train station. If you are arriving by car, you’ll be best off parking in the adjacent NCP car park (https://www.ncp.co.uk/find-a-car-park/car-parks/reading-garrard-street/), or The Oracle. (https://www.theoracle.com/visitor-info/parking)

Leaders in Tech Berlin: Liberating Structures and Unleashing Innovation

‘Leaders in Tech’ is a group of senior execs and thought leaders who get together to discuss current tech trends, share knowledge, learn new things and network. We have created thriving local communities in Munich, Stuttgart, Berlin and Reading, UK.
Our Berlin launch event was held at VW Digital Labs on 23rd November 2017. Eric Heymann, Vice President Engineering at FlixMobility Tech GmbH (FlixBus), gave an interactive presentation on the journey to a fully independent, agile team. 
Our next ’Leaders in Tech’ event on the 30th August will focus on Liberating Structures and Unleashing Innovation.
As a leader of so-called self-organised teams, you may be struggling to find the right balance between giving directions and letting the team find their own ways.
We all rely on tools and frameworks that help us to do a better job in our day to day, which in our case consists of leading complex team dynamics that cannot be influenced in a “command and control” management style.
So how do we deal with that?
The Liberating Structures framework provides you with 33 new tools you can rely on in case you want to allow a group of people the freedom to facilitate their own collaboration.
Join Thomas Strecker, Branch Manager at Codecentric AG and Marcel Wolf a leading trainer and coach in exploring the Liberating Structure concept.
Starting with key terminology and “design patterns”, we will be conducting a guided interactive ‘Liberating Structure Experiment’ to further understand best practices and key overall benefits to the business.
If you would like to find out more about maximising the productivity of you team, discuss this and other current trends with your peers, and expand your network, then register for the upcoming ‘Leaders in Tech’ Meetup —-> https://www.meetup.com/Leaders-in-Tech-Berlin/events/253124682/