CTO Sessions: Michael Paye, Netwrix

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? “I am very excited by the continued efforts of certain large organisations to be more open and support cross-platform capabilities.”


Name: Michael Paye

Company: Netwrix

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: January 2016

Location: United Kingdom

Michael Paye is CTO at Netwrix. He leads up the technology team for the Netwrix business and its Research & Development department, helping form the company’s data security work with clients such as the NHS, Airbus and Virgin. Paye’s technology background is predominately focused on the Microsoft stack, as well as cloud technologies. Prior to Netwrix, he was leading the research and development team at Concept Searching.

What was your first job? I started at a fairly small company with a wide variety of responsibilities from direct line support up to product architecture. It exposed me to a huge number of technologies, taught me to assume nothing, and gave me a great deal of experience in knowing how to handle pressured situations.

Did you always want to work in IT? For as long as I can remember. I have always loved solving problems, so product development felt like a very natural fit.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I was initially taking a MEng Computer Science degree but in my third year dropped back to a BSc to take a job full time as a software developer. My family were supportive, but I’m sure it worried them! Ultimately, I found that my work was exposing me to far more knowledge than my degree and wanted to get moving faster with my career.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I progressed from software developer to my first CTO role after a couple of years at the company. Being able to get involved with such a variety of work has always been what appealed to me most about the role. In parallel I had founded my own company in a completely separate vertical with two friends – while perhaps not ideally timed it did provide a great amount of challenge to learn from. Both companies were acquired within 6 months of each other a couple of years later which has allowed me to focus my energy on one organisation, Netwrix.

What type of CTO are you? It is really important for me to be as involved in the full spectrum of the business lifecycle as possible. Taking what customers need into both our day to day and the vision of the future of our products. How involved I am in the front-line implementation varies week by week but it’s a great way to understand the challenges faced by our teams in delivering our products.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? I am very excited by the continued efforts of certain large organisations to be more open and support cross-platform capabilities. When you compare the complexities and closed nature of software development 20 years ago to the capabilities now it really is worlds apart.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? The noise and stretched definition of buzzwords like machine learning / artificial intelligence can be very dangerous to organisations. The technologies themselves have amazing use cases and can deliver fantastic results when employed correctly - but they are not a silver bullet to every use case.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? We have launched an employee led values programme inside the company. This exercise has been a fantastic way of promoting cross-team communication and collaboration. It’s also really helped in promoting reflection on how we do things today and how we can do better for the future.

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? My role within the organisation is more product focused. We do have a fantastic customer success team who are constantly striving to find ways to improve both our customer experience and internal processes.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Trying to do more with less. Delivering more functionality while making the implementation and use easier for the consumer.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? Collaboration is key. It’s very easy to only consider what your team requires rather than how a choice could benefit multiple teams simultaneously. This quickly leads to a disconnected set of systems and a loss of productivity. Understanding the wider picture and making all teams feel valued leads to a far better end result.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Generally, no. It’s really important to consistently listen to people’s concerns and feedback – not for knee-jerk reactions but so that any issues in technology strategy can be steered in the right direction.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Starting from an understanding of not just where the market is but where the market is going, building a clear direction for the business to align to, and embracing change, which should be handled pragmatically not feared.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? Technology usage is only going to grow and with that the role will undoubtably become more complex to ensure that it aligns with business goals. To keep up, it will be more common to see multiple CTO roles with alignment to key areas.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Upon taking on my first CTO role, I focused our efforts on a full enterprise re-write while expanding out feature set. Having seen numerous re-writes fail it was incredibly rewarding to see the benefits of our efforts and it is a testament to my team that the re-write was a success.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I should have taken more risks earlier on – the quote “perfection is the enemy of progress” now really resonates with me. Part of the challenge, and fun, of the role is knowing when to hold back and when to take the risk.

What are you reading now? Mostly articles/blogs on cloud development/architecture. Outside of that I do like a good (or sometimes not so good!) spy/legal novel.

Most people don't know that I… love to cook – outside of technology it’s probably the thing that I’m most passionate about.

In my spare time, I like to…Travel and skydive as much as possible, but in the last year I have had my first child so with that and COVID my spare time is mostly focused on home, family, and cycling!

Ask me to do anything but… Sing, no-one needs that trauma.