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)

Understanding Developer Typology

Understanding Developer Typology
Ahead of our June 2018 Leaders in Tech: Baden-Württemberg we speak with 1&1’s Matthias Wittum, Head of the Source Center and Christian Rehn, Software Developer in 1&1’s Customer Selfcare Solutions about their highly developed frameworks and models which are specially designed to examine developer typology. Their frameworks and models are proven to support developer teams, strengthen communication and optimise design decisions.
 
Matthias Wittum explains that whilst working with Christian Rehn, they identified how different developers can be when it comes to reaching a design decision and how this has an impact on development teams. We know that developers are unique problem solvers who draw on different approaches, knowledge, cultures, experience and principles to produce software solutions. Developers naturally approach projects uniquely, and the outcome can play to a particular focus or strength. Of course within a development team this can lead to several solutions being found and so the challenge is often finding one team solution or design route.
 
There are enough personality tests out there, but no tests or frameworks based specifically on developers. We felt that some instruments were needed to enable better production efficiency and to help develop teams according to their orientation and typology, so we started filling the gap. That’s how the Design Types Model for instance, came to fruition. It sets out to define developers’ typology via a relatively straightforward base of questions for each developer to answer. The answers provided help classify their typology and then you can group them accordingly. Using this model makes it easier to gain an impression of whether the tasks, the way of working and the environment are a good fit.
 
Here are three Models which we have formulated to identify developer typology, aid better case arguments to reach design decisions more quickly and to help optimise development teams:

Design Types Model – sets out to identify why software design is individual and often leads to discussions with colleagues.
Design Cards – great interactive tool using a set of predefined cards used to aid technical discussions by using proven arguments.
Design Matrix – helps you to examine technical problems from all perspectives.

Read more about these interactive Models here.
 
Ever since the agile movement, technical decisions are increasingly discussed or reviewed within the team. Collective Code Ownership means that everyone is now jointly responsible for the software and as a result, it is important for developers to be able to argue precisely and comprehensively, to be able to put oneself into the motives of your colleagues. With our models, we want to support exactly this and strengthen communication in development teams.
 
Leaders in Tech
Thanks to those who joined us at our Leaders in Tech: Baden-Württemberg meetup held on 21st June 2018 when Matthias and Christian give a complete overview of the developer typology, as well as the Design Cards and the Design Matrix. As a start, to understand the concepts and the overall context.
 

Austin Business Journal’s Best Places to Work for 2018

Austin Business Journal’s Best Places to Work for 2018
 
Hey y’all! We’re so excited to announce we’ve been recognized as a finalist for Austin Business Journal’s Best Place to Work for 2018!.
Our Finalist placing acknowledges that we go the extra mile for our teams.
 
Being recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Austin is so exciting for us and is credit to our culture and belief that our people are at the heart of our business.
 
Our success is creating a truly inspirational environment for our teams to work in every day. Our offices are designed to encourage collaboration and innovation in the way our team’s approach their work, allowing our dynamic workforce the space they need to be brilliant.
 
We offer an exclusive incentives package to motivate and make sure our people love what they do. We never leave out the fun stuff, with our buzzing calendar of social events everyone can get involved! This is what creates a great place to work and progress, and together helps shape our Austin Fraser DNA.
 
It’s our third year being nominated for this prestigious award and since last year’s nomination, we’ve become even better at listening to our people. We’re committed to improving internal career pathways, building closer relationships in our communities and with our clients, we hope to smash our previous 6th place ranking and come out on top this year.
 
We’ll keep you posted on where we’re ranked when the finalists’ placements are revealed on June 22nd!

Next stop, Dallas: consolidating Austin Fraser’s US presence

Next stop, Dallas: consolidating Austin Fraser’s US presence
We’re delighted to announce our next new office opening in Dallas, Texas, scheduled for October 2018. This move will anchor Austin Fraser deeper in the US market, hot on the heels of our award-winning Austin, Texas office and Denver, at the start of the year.
We’d also like to congratulate Dallas team lead, Alina Brovko, who will relocate from Munich to build the new Dallas team and roll-out our growth plans.  Alina is a brilliant example of the career pathways available at Austin Fraser and our strong ethos of fostering talent from within.
 
How we evolve on the ground
As the fourth biggest technology market in the US, outside New York, LA and Chicago, and a concentration of established Austin Fraser clients located in the city, Dallas was the obvious choice for our third US office. With its flourishing start-up ecosystem of incubators, tech meet-ups and a strong Fortune 500 presence, it holds real potential for Austin Fraser. With our Austin team just three hours away too, it will allow for deeper collaboration, ensuring our networks and talent pools are harnessed for client success.
As with previous locations, it’s important to us that we are embedded in the local community. Our approach is about adapting and integrating, while staying true to our Austin Fraser DNA. We invest heavily in communities, creating longer-term relationships while developing an exceptional pool as well as new career opportunities internally.
 
International growth
This past 18 months has seen Austin Fraser double our global locations, with offices in Berlin, Denver and Dallas.  We scale our international teams with home-grown talent, while building a strong local talent pipeline.
As Alina explains “We’re seeing a lot of our clients with hubs across the US so for this market, it makes sense for us to support as many of those as we can, as we extend Austin Fraser’s presence.  Our business is about how we can help our clients grow. Being on hand, to build real connections and relationships really means that we can specialise as well as play an active part in the tech community here.”
Further expansion plans in the UK, Europe and the US are in place and we’ll look forward to sharing these later this year.

How do you implement AI?

How do you implement AI?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is able to improve business and customer facing processes, automate repetitive data tasks, ease workload from staff and ultimately improve efficiency. Dr Janet Bastiman, Chief Science Officer at StoryStream, returns to help demystify how to implement an AI strategy into your business.
How does a business start using AI?
It’s not a magic wand, it’s a tool, you will need to ask yourselves – “what problem do I want to solve?” and make sure you have the data that defines that problem. This could be inwards facing, focusing on your internal systems or even outwards facing and helping improve the relationship between you and your customers.
At StoryStream, we use AI to solve many problems within StoryStream. From classification of images and text through to predictive analytics. Wherever we can identify a way of using AI to make things more efficient for us or more beneficial for our customers then we apply it.
What to know before implementing an AI strategy:
Information on AI varies from hugely accessible through to cutting edge research and everything in between so you need to know more about the solution you are trying to gain. From there talk to experts, attend meetup groups and the community. This is often a way to gain great insight into tried and tested AI systems. We’ve recently released a high level infographic for AI in marketing to help demystify some of the concepts. If you know what problems you want to address then it’s easier to get clear advice.
Questions your business should consider before implementing an AI solution:

What is the scope of the project that AI can perform?
Is the problem well defined?
Do you have all the data needed?
Would AI ultimately increase efficiency or drive profit?

 
To drill deeper you then need to consider whether you need a dedicated in house team, consultancy or third party service to assist you in deploying the AI system. If this managing in hour is an option for you, consider what training your staff may require, paying close attention to the new GDPR regulations and how you are collecting, storing and processing personal data. Never lose sight of the risks and benefits and of course how you keep all stakeholder informed.
 
Test, pilot, learn, improve…
A great way to introduce an AI system is to start with a small, defined project within your businesses where you can get a fast return on investment as a gateway to a larger project. More than likely, you and your teams will have much to learning from these and to get right for next time.
How do you know if AI will benefit your company?
The first is in automating repetitive processes to ease the workload of existing employees, think of labelling large amounts of data, finding similar profiles or even extracting important parts of text from large documents. This is all about efficiency and ultimately driving profit.
The second is to use the data you have to do new things, things that wouldn’t be possible with your human workforce. Whether this is discovering correlations in data that you may not have known where there or providing a service to people who cannot otherwise access a human operative.
With technology rapidly changing the right time to invest in AI is now. Because it’s changing so rapidly, the sooner you start seeing the benefits the better. This isn’t one of the large scale IT investments that we saw in the last century, think of AI as plugins to drive your business. With a third party service you can be up and running very quickly. Even an in house team should be able to get you something within a few months (depending on the complexity of the problem). Make sure you have the data you need and the problems clear and any partnerships are with companies who can update you with the latest AI techniques as appropriate.
The more coordinated your systems are the easier it will be to acquire the data to drive any AI solution and also act on the results.
Watch our Leaders in Tech: Reading Meet up page for further events.
 
 

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?

What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
The tech landscape is changing rapidly and having an AI system in place will certainly help improve efficiency, but what exactly is AI? Dr Janet Bastiman, Chief Science Officer at StoryStream explains:
 
So what is AI and what are its capabilities?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is intelligence gained by the use of a machine rather than human or animal. It is fundamentally a computer program that appears to make an intelligent decision based on its inputs.  Around since the 1950s, these systems were originally completely programmed by humans, but more recently they have been given the freedom to learn what inputs should result in which decisions, called ‘machine learning’. A subset of this is ‘deep learning’, where the data is far more abstracted and progresses through many layers in a manner inspired by the human brain. New innovations in computer science is challenging and enhancing the ways we work and live.
Image recognition or creation, diagnostics of disease, translation of text into multiple languages etc have all been mastered by some AI systems. AI is excellent at solving tasks that might otherwise be thought too difficult or time consuming and this is where businesses are seeing the biggest benefits and returns.
The nature in which we currently create AI means that it can be very good at a single task, but struggles to cope when the nature of the task is changed to something unrelated. 
 
What does AI mean for businesses?
There are many tangible opportunities to use AI in business today. It’s all about creating better efficiency! The first opportunity is in automating repetitive processes to ease the workload of existing employees, think of labelling large amounts of data, finding similar profiles or even extracting important parts of text from large documents. The second is to use the data you have to do new things, things that wouldn’t be possible with your human workforce.  Whether this is discovering correlations or trends in data that you may not have known were there, or providing a service to people who cannot otherwise access a human operative. There’s endless opportunities to get excited about.
 
What is Leaders in Tech?
It’s a group of managers and thought leaders who regularly get together to discuss current tech trends, share knowledge, learn new things and network. Watch our Leaders in Tech: Reading meetup page for future events.
 

It is important to move with the times, but robots are not taking over completely!

It is important to move with the times, but robots are not taking over completely!
Iain McCulley, Senior Consultant, Controls & Automation specialist at Austin Fraser shares his view on the impact of Artificial Intelligence and advancement of technology in the workplace.
I have read a variety of articles on the advancement of automation and Artificial Intelligence and there is a wide variety of opinions, which is to be expected with anything that could have such a big impact on peoples day to day lives and careers.
In particular, there seems to be a lot of people concerned about the impact on jobs and humans losing out to robots in the workplace. In my opinion, this provides a perfect opportunity for us to review the opportunities we are offering to aspiring engineers. In particular, I believe there is a responsibility for our educational system to provide opportunities to develop a career within automation, while companies should also be thinking about apprenticeship schemes and how we can provide a platform for aspiring engineers to pursue a career within the industry.
We also have plenty of warning about how automation is developing and the direction we are heading, so for those in the industry already, there is plenty of time to upskill and consider all of the exciting jobs that will be created.
There is also a number of great examples of how humans and robots are working together already to advance efficiency and increase productivity, so rather than it being all doom and gloom, I personally think it is a great opportunity for us to embrace the development of automation and consider how we can play our part in the exciting growth of the industry.
As a business within manufacturing, I would also be considering how we could advance our knowledge of automation and ensure we have the right personnel in place to move with the times.
We have a Leaders in Tech: Reading event taking place on 3rd May for anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into the workings of AI and it’s capabilities to improve efficiency and generate return. It’s free to register, book your place here.

Meet AF’s new German Tech Director, Ashley Dunbar

Meet AF’s new German Tech Director
We’re very proud to announce that Ashley Dunbar is our new German Technology Director. He’s been with the company over nine years and was promoted in February earlier this year to UK Technology Director. His wealth of experience in the Technology sector will help us deliver a first class service to our clients and candidates, as well as driving the growth and development of our teams.
 
“Continually developing my skills and taking on new challenges is something I relish so when the opportunity arose to gain international experience I knew it was the right move for me”, says Ashley Dunbar, German Technology Director. “Having built up the UK Technology business I was confident I had the knowledge and track record to take German Technology to the next level. I’m a few weeks into my role and I’m really impressed with all my new colleagues and believe the opportunity here is vast and the future really excites me. The vision for our German business is what initially enticed me. Making it a reality by moving into new territories and truly delivering performances which have a global impact is why I’m here.”
 
“None of this would have happened without my family who have supported me every step of the way. For all of us, relocating to Germany and a great city like Munich is a once in a lifetime opportunity that we couldn’t let pass us by.”
 
Pete Hart, CEO comments, “Ash’s ambition has always been evident, so it is was no surprise when he put himself forward for international opportunities. Relocating his family to Munich is yet again evidence of his commitment to Austin Fraser.”
 
We are confident that Ashley will thrive in his new role, and we’d like you to join us in wishing him the best of luck on this adventure as he relocates to Munich with his family.