CTO Sessions: Paul Gampe, Console Connect

What makes an effective tech strategy? “Revenue. One of my great mentors always told me that anybody can come up with a great idea but very few know how to take it to market.”

Headshot of Paul Gampe, CTO at Console Connect
Console Connect

Name: Paul Gampe

Company: Console Connect, by PCCW Global

Job title: CTO

Date started current role: November 2017

Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

One of the founders of Console Connect, Paul Gampe led the company from a venture-backed start up with $65m in funding, through to its successful acquisition by PCCW Global, a multi-national telecommunications provider. Combining Console Connect’s large-scale software automation capability with one of the largest networks in the world has seen Gampe lead the charge in connectivity innovation. Gampe has held a number of leadership roles across several domains with a remit to develop software applications focused on self-service application. He’s been responsible for infusing this element of software DNA as well as an agile mindset across the organisation, embracing new ways of working and implementing cultural change.

What was your first job? I was a pizza delivery guy!

Did you always want to work in IT? At the age of six, I developed Perthes disease. The treatment at the time was to put you in frog-leg plaster, and so I was immobilised for three years in a wheelchair. As a child, I was scared that I would spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and so I thought at least I can type, which meant I can always work in computing. I think that is where the idea started.

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? I have a Bachelor of Information Technology from the University of Queensland.

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. I was a picker and packer at a store while I was at university, and I got busted for using their computers to do my assignment. In my defence, I did fix a bug in the application in the process! But that’s actually how I got my first paying job outside of university, at an accounting software company, because I fixed a bug for them. After a few years there, my family and I moved to Tokyo, and I stumbled upon a role working with the first internet service provider in Japan. So, while I’ve mostly been a software developer and engineer, I did end up running the first ISP in Japan in the mid-late 90s. It was at this ISP that I learnt what shaped the rest of my career. Virtual communities, or social networks as they are called today, are transformative in their ability to build value. Whether it is the open source community I have been a part of for many years, or the global network community, both have contributed immensely to our society. I have been drawn to opportunities that leverage this network effect which creates value for all participants.

What type of CTO are you? I believe that management is a discipline and a responsibility, and you must do it properly – I think this stems from my days as an Army Cadet! I also feel responsible for representing a technical community to a business and remaining hands-on. Due to this, I am passionate and committed to understanding exactly how technology adds value, and I’m not comfortable being removed from the actual capability to do so     .

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? The one Console Connect is building! To put the power of building your own global network into the hands of every enterprise or every user is incredibly exciting.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? I think the ability to truly benefit from machine learning is much further away than people realise, especially in terms of it being generally available and valuable to everybody. I'm also frustrated with the general amount of VC money being pushed into cybersecurity products that don’t really solve any problems. Cyber security is a complex problem domain, and I feel as an industry we are overloading our security experts with alert fatigue. We need tools that can remediate the threat, not just tell you about it.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of?  The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). We've taken this broad spectrum of completely independent lines of business, and somehow managed to put them all into one application, which has been an immense achievement. We have up to 300 developers around the world, and being able to coalesce a community of development around a single platform has been difficult. But we're getting there, and the Scaled Agile Framework is allowing us to do that.

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? The Scaled Agile Framework is the tool that we use to drive digital transformation. And the way that we balance user experience with revenue is by making product design a first-class citizen at Console Connect. The Head of Design reports directly to me and they influence every single pixel on every application that we develop. Often in an organisation, design can be subservient to development, but by making it a first-class citizen and having a great team of designers, we're always putting the user experience at the forefront of anything that we do. In fact, we design the experience before we even develop it and operate in a model where high-fidelity wireframes are delivered before we even code.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? When you start pushing everything out to a cloud, businesses no longer have a fixed perimeter. We used to be able to look at a firewall in a data centre and say, “if I unplug that port, I know that nobody can attack me”. But now, with applications spilling out all over the internet and into different clouds, the perimeter is lost. We’re helping organisations maintain control of their connectivity so that they can control the perimeter around their data.

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? The Scaled Agile Framework has a core competency called Lean Portfolio Management. We use Lean Portfolio Management to structure the way our enterprise prioritises work, measures success and builds our architectural runway. A multi-stakeholder team means that revenue generation, customer experience and technology all have a seat at the table.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? It’s often a balancing act between what the market perceives as a product and what the technical community is excited about. Console Connect has this amazing technical ability to connect clouds, but a lot of businesses still don’t understand why they need this capability. We often need to balance this education with technical innovation.

What makes an effective tech strategy? Revenue. One of my great mentors always told me that anybody can come up with a great idea but very few know how to take it to market.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? I believe that the role of the CIO will start to transform into the CTO. It’s an arrogant misconception that CTOs create technology, while CIOs are only consumers of it. They are informed advisors on what technology to use, and as more companies go through this digital transformation journey, technology is no longer a tool. It's a strategic competitive advantage.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Building the Engineering Services and Operations team over twelve years at Red Hat was a fantastic opportunity for me. Being part of the community that helped define a business model for enterprise open-source software.    

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? I don’t think I would have done anything differently. Especially in the pandemic – we've all been through that experience of feeling disconnected and isolated. I had the luxury of establishing the Scaled Agile Framework ahead of the pandemic, which included planning events, ceremonies, and daily stand ups with the team. This meant that we had my technologists in constant contact with their global community, which provided them with psychological safety. I think that was the best thing I've done in the last two years of my life.

What are you reading now? A book on Neurolinguistic Programming so that I can create a positive frame of dialogue with my teenage children.

Most people don't know that I… lived in Japan and practiced Judo for a large part of my life. I was awarded a brown belt in high school.

In my spare time, I like to…Learn Liberty horsemanship.

Ask me to do anything but… Eat Japanese natto!