Human Resources

Typical 24: Pete Craghill, Thomsons Online Benefits

Pete Craghill

 Job title: CTO

 Company: Thomsons Online Benefits

 Location [city, country]: London, UK

 Years’ experience: 21 Years



1.         What time do you reach the office each day?  
It depends on the day. Usually between 8am and 9.15am but there’s no particular rhyme or reason to my arrival. I hate routine so generally I get in when I need to.


2.         Is your job varied?
Extremely. I spend roughly a quarter of my time on new business, sales and account management, and am also involved in the deeply technical side of our business, developing our benefits software known as Darwin. The largest part of my time though is spent with the developer team, managing and coordinating people.

3.         Is your job creative?
Very much so. It’s all about problem solving and finding solutions for the product. I look a lot at user experience and how this can be improved. For too long enterprise software has lagged behind its consumer cousin in its intuitiveness and usability. This needs to change and it’s an area we intend to lead the way in.  
It’s also important to think creatively about sales presentations and what the right triggers are for your audience. There’s a common misconception that software engineering is a completely structured, pure science but it’s actually very creative.

4.         What do you spend the majority of your time doing?
Talking to the team. I spend 50-60% of my time with the senior and technical teams but I believe in spending time with everyone, from grads upwards. It’s important to understand what’s going on and the problems people are encountering throughout the development process.

5.         Do you personalise your desk?
I’m rarely at my desk – you could call it personalisation but in reality it’s mess.

6.         Would you describe yourself as creative?
Yes. I couldn’t do this job if I wasn’t. I’ve always taken a creative approach to things – I don’t like to follow the norm.

7.         Do you have any quirky daily rituals?
No. I don’t really believe in rituals or routine. For me personally they’re a road to unhappiness.

8.         Do you tend to work on your own or with colleagues?
With colleagues. My role is consultative so I discuss most things, although tend to make decisions quickly. If I’m working to a deadline I may work alone, but this definitely isn’t my preference. I’ve known a lot of my colleagues for over five years and some for over 20. You build a lot of trust over this time and I value their opinions.

9.         How many hours on average do you work a day?
I probably never turn off. I start work the moment I leave house and usually take a few calls on my way in. I then start looking at e-mails on the train – so from about 7.30am onwards. I get home around 8pm and will normally do a few bits and pieces there. I probably work around 16 hours a day but will rarely work weekends.

10.      Roughly how much time do you spend each day on email? Taking calls? In meetings?
I’m constantly on e-mail and spend roughly three to four hours in meetings and taking calls although this varies. I’d love to spend less time on these activities – but they’re a necessity.

11.      Do you use social media much for work?
I don’t but I know I should as I believe it’s a great way to get information out there. I’ve started a couple of blogs before – it’s finding the time to finish them that I struggle with.

12.      What do you enjoy most about your work?
The people. The team is relentless in its hard-work and enthusiasm and I feel lucky to work with such talented individuals. The work can be tough and it’s always fast-paced but this and the people I work with keep me stimulated.

13.      What type of music (if any) do you listen to at work?
I don’t listen to any music at work. I just don’t get the chance.

14.      What do you do for lunch?
Nine times out of ten I’ll lunch with somebody. We’ll normally go out for a sandwich – sometimes to discuss work, sometimes just for a catch-up.

15.      Do you socialise with work colleagues?
Yes – often. We go out as a team regularly or just spontaneously after work. Thomsons has a lot of social activities but they’re not forced. I count my colleagues as my friends.

16.      Are there any tasks (through your career) you’ve been especially glad to get rid of?
Administrative tasks – things like approving expenses and holidays which don’t add value. In most cases they have to be done but I’m glad to be rid of them.

17.      What is your last task of your day?
I check my calendar and see what I have on for the next day. I’m slightly ‘last-minute’ so have to check that I haven’t forgotten anything. What I have on also determines the time I set my alarm for the next morning.

18.      How do you like to relax after work?
My working week is pretty full-on but at the weekend I like to spend time with my family. I’m also a bit of a video game addict so like to get a quick fix - even if it’s just for 20 minutes. I also read a lot – from technical books to novels. I’ll read rather than watch TV.

19.      Do you keep checking email through the evening?

20.      Do you take work projects home with you?
Yes and on holiday. It’s not that I don’t find the work environment productive – it’s just a question of finding the time to get things done.  

21.      What would you say to your 20-year old self?
Enjoy the fun. I didn’t take life too seriously until my mid-twenties. I travelled a lot and did other things, which gave me a different perspective.
Work is not the be all and end all. Enjoy your twenties because you have to get serious at some point if you’re to be successful in your career. I wasn’t a straight A student and, although I trained as a developer, I didn’t take the traditional path. I sold telephone systems and provided tele-support before returning to software engineering in my late-twenties. It certainly wasn’t the quickest route but it gave me a wider view and a more diverse skillset.

22.      If you could try out any job for a day, what would you choose?
Motor racing. I went go-carting regularly as a kid and still have this as a hobby, which I’m now introducing my own son to.

23.      What device did you use to answer these questions?
A Galaxy S6

24.      Do you use your own personal device for work?
No. I use a business device for work, although I do also use other devices.


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