CTO Sessions: Neil Briscoe, Cloud Gateway

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? "IoT and how it works with home automation."

Name: Neil Briscoe

Company: Cloud Gateway

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: October 2017

Location: London, UK

Neil Briscoe has over 20 years' experience in IT working across a multitude of technical disciplines, and has worked across multiple sectors for many companies including PepsiCo, Asda, Capita, Aviva and the Ministry of Justice where he was responsible for leading architecture and delivery. His innovative approach to secure, hybridised networks has seen him earn the highest of industry recognised accolades. Briscoe continues to drive product development through technical direction for existing, new and future problem spaces.

What was your first job? I was a chemical engineer in the oil and gas industry.

Did you always want to work in IT? Absolutely not! Growing up I wanted to be a forensic scientist.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I got 11 GCSEs and then left school. After that, I went into full-time work. Later on, I got my CCIE certification (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) one of the hardest qualifications to get in the industry.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. So, as I said, I was a chemical engineer in the Oil and Gas industry for around 5 years and then became a field engineer installing software and I realised I had a talent for it. I've worked my way all the way up from installing printers to where I am now.

What type of CTO are you? I am a very hands-on and very tech-focused CTO. I really concentrate on the technical aspect of my job. I have a wide range of skills though as a CTO; from the top level, business strategy stuff right down to the nuts and bolts of how the technology works.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? IoT and how it works with home automation. Also, personal internet technology, for example, the implants that are helping people with diabetes control their blood sugar level. Technology that is affecting people's lives on a daily basis is really exciting.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? It is hard to say if a technology is overhyped. It is very much a personal opinion as something that is really exciting to someone in the know, may seem overhyped to someone who isn't.

What is one unique initiative that you've employed over the last 12 months that you're really proud of? I have told my development team that they have to spend 10% of their time or any free time working on something unrelated to the business, on company time and on company money. We have come up with some great innovations from the initiative and it is a brilliant way of exploring people's creativity.

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? I am working on digital transformation for clients, by reducing the time and complexity of data. The work that we come in and do focuses very much on the operational efficiency of our clients.

What is the biggest issue that you're helping customers with at the moment? The biggest issue that we are helping customers with at the moment is enabling customers to transition from legacy government networks to the cloud. This is with government departments and the NHS. We provide them with security and connectivity to help them run more efficiently.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? We are a company that provides the technology so, in this case, we always make sure the technology fits the business goal or problem. The product will fulfill the need of the customer otherwise we shouldn't work with them as it is a waste of their money and our time.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? No, not really. We work on the product side so, this doesn't really apply to the work we are doing.

What makes an effective tech strategy? An effective tech strategy is one that is realistic, both in terms of scope and timeframe but also one that is creative and innovative. The ability to pivot the strategy is also important because circumstances can change very quickly, and the strategy needs to be able to adapt to this.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? The role of the CTO will be start to become two distinct streams. One that is focused on the wider enterprise goals; more of the businessman than the technical focus. The other side will be just that, the CTO that has a sound knowledge of the technology, how it works and how it fits into the wider system.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Launching Cloud Gateway in just 9 months. The whole thing, from designing the product around a kitchen table, to actually having our first customer in just 9 months.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I would have set up Cloud Gateway sooner and not been afraid of what would have happened had it gone wrong.

What are you reading now? Alice in Chains - Untold Story. It's about the band and the Grunge scene before Nirvana and that sort of thing came along.

Most people don't know that I… I would rather fly aeroplanes!

In my spare time, I like to…Spend time with my chickens.

Ask me to do anything but… Wire a plug, in fact, anything DIY!