CTO Sessions: Julie Gibb, Sim Local

What type of CTO are you? “My mantra is to lead by example, and I encourage boldness, continuous learning, and the satisfaction of personal achievement on the job.”

Sim Local

Name: Julie Gibb

Company: Sim Local

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: August 2017

Location: Dublin, Ireland

Julie Gibb joined Sim Local as Chief Technology Officer in 2017, at a pivotal point in the company’s technology journey. She leads a team responsible for the technology services that underpin Sim Local’s retail business and retail channels across the globe. Gibb has played a crucial role in the development of the next generation UNITE platform, which leverages Sim Local’s retail business insights and cloud native to offer a digital eSIM technology solution for various enterprises.

What was your first job? I worked as a Project Manager at Nortel Networks straight out of university in 1995, where I was responsible for the phased expansion of International Operators fixed line networks across Europe. My first graduate role was a great introduction to the world of working within a multinational and taught me about working with multi-cultural teams across geographies. I was lucky to have entered the telecoms sector at a time of deregulation and was exposed to US operators expanding into Europe as well as a fast paced, results focused working environment. Those formative years gave me the foundations of a work ethic that still drives me today.

Did you always want to work in IT? Effectively yes. I researched different degree courses when I was at school and kept finding myself drawn to technology orientated degrees and I eventually settled on one that combined technology acumen with a business acumen. We had an early model Apple computer at home when I was a child and I used to spend hours typing in programming code just to see a little stick man run across the screen and throw a javelin when I hit the enter button. The anticipation of the magic the computer screen was going to deliver to me was more thrilling than the actual result!

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I studied at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland and graduated in 1995 with a B.A (Mod) in Management Science and Industrial Systems Studies. After graduating, I delved into the working world whilst also completing a qualification in Project Management. A number of years later I decided to go to night school to complete an MBA from University College Dublin Smurfit School of Business.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. Since starting my career in telecommunications over 20 years ago, I knew I had found my calling. I have worked for a variety of companies, from Telefonica, to Meteor and Nortel, and have been immersed in the telecoms evolution, which has been a fascinating journey. The speed with which innovation has occurred, new companies have emerged and taken the lead, coupled with seeing the resulting influences on the ordinary person’s day to day life has been a joy to be a part of. The early part of my career was steeped in multi nationals, which allowed me to act boldly with a support structure around me.

Later in my career I worked with local communication service providers in Ireland. The population of Ireland is small compared to most in Europe, and local service providers tend to be smaller than in the U.K. or Spain, so you get to see how the whole business needs to work together in order to succeed. In larger organisations you often only get exposure to your own division which makes it hard to understand how the company engine needs to have cogs that work in unison to become a well-oiled machine. That insight has been of huge benefit to me in my current role as CTO of Sim Local, where leading technology innovation and being successful in innovation depends on the sum of all parts working together.

What type of CTO are you? I’ve always been a performance and results driven manager, and that didn’t change when I stepped into my new role as CTO at Sim Local. I’m a passionate leader and enjoy working with a talented team delivering business and technology advances. Working in technology means you need to be able to embrace change and I try to embed this style into my team’s way of working. Being agile, trying new ideas and failing fast are at the heart of what we do. My mantra is to lead by example, and I encourage boldness, continuous learning, and the satisfaction of personal achievement on the job.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? In terms of emerging technology, I really am most excited about the rise of eSIM over the coming years, which has already started to revolutionise the mobile and telecoms industry. This digital disruption will offer new business opportunities for mobile network operators (MNOs) and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), as well as a new world of choice for consumers.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? Artificial Intelligence is a curiosity for me. I respect the depth of scientific thought behind Artificial Intelligence innovation and the concept of making machines think. I can see the place it holds in areas such as robotics, however I have yet to be convinced that its use in marketing, online advertising and sales engagement, particularly for social media and search engines has a societal benefit. 

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? Personally, I’m really proud of the UNITE platform we created. We worked on it for many years and developed it to provide the core capability mobile operators need to offer eSIM services to their customers. We wanted to create a platform for operators and partners worldwide, which allows customers to purchase, activate, download, and install eSIM subscriptions onto their mobile devices. The platform uses the latest in web technologies in conjunction with a cloud & microservices architecture to bring a best-in-class capability into an operator’s eSIM ecosystem – this solves a problem for operators who are time and, or resource constrained where we can deliver to them a complete eSIM solution in just a matter of weeks.

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? eSIM technology is an industry-wide digital disruption. The technology allows the customer to install many eSIM profiles in their device and select between these subscriptions at will via a software menu (although only one profile can be active at any given time). This changes the relationship between the customer and operator in that they may no longer have a long-term relationship with just one mobile provider. With Dual SIM technology, many customers will have both a primary and one or more secondary subscriptions, possibly from a variety of operators. It is these additional secondary subscriptions that represent the new revenue opportunities for operators – and business risk for those operators that choose not to engage. Sim Local recognised this early and began work to protect its future and prepare for an eSIM world. A number of years later, via a multimillion Euro investment, we developed an eSIM platform called UNITE. We not only solved the problem of getting eSIM profiles in the hands of the customer directly, but are also able to provide our technology to telecoms operators as a complete eSIM solution.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? We are helping our customers shift from a physical SIM card to a digital eSIM download. eSIM has been a silent revolution but MNOs really need to be prepared as this technology looks to disrupt their day-to-day business. We believe eSIM will be a standard feature for most smartphone devices worldwide by 2023.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? At Sim Local we are very clear about our strategic direction and business goals. Keeping one eye on where we want to be as a company allows me as the CTO to set the direction of our technology strategy. Sim Local is both technology and business led. The wider business strategy needs to ensure investment in the direction of where our technology needs to be in the near and long-term future. At the end of the day for any company, investment in technology needs to provide a return.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? The benefit of being an entrepreneurially minded company means we can be agile about reacting to the opportunities that present themselves. We have a very strong and closely knit team at Sim Local and aligning our product and service strategy with technology is part of our DNA. It’s part of our daily conversations. Given eSIM technology is new, and the disruption is industry wide, having a technology strategy that can allow our products and services team react to the opportunities that might arise is one of our core strengths.

What makes an effective tech strategy? There are many components to what makes an effective tech strategy, but I believe it needs to centre on how we deliver the end-to-end product to customers. It’s not just merely focusing on the tech behind the product, it needs to be multi-functional.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I believe that no two CTO roles are the same, therefore, the role is constantly changing, especially as new technologies develop. All businesses are trying to keep up with the constant digital transformation that is happening around us. As CTOs we will certainly have to keep finding solutions to innovate and stay ahead of the curve in order to be strategic in the way we operate and deliver products to our customers.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Being able to recognise the opportunity within innovation and steering strategic decisions to make best use of innovation comes with the experience of seeing technologies come and go and being able to recognise the ones that will pass the test of time.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Taken a gap year in my twenties, but I will aspire to do so in my retirement years! I might give the bungee jump a miss though.

What are you reading now? The New Solution Selling by Keith Eades and Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie.

Most people don't know that I… jumped out of an aeroplane for a charity event. Not something I plan to repeat – ever!

In my spare time, I like to…cook, ski & sail with family and friends.

Ask me to do anything but… Hmmm, I’m struggling with this one as I generally give everything a go before ruling it out. I have refused to swim in the Dead Sea a second time, too salty!