Paul Ingles is Chief Technology Officer at RVU (Uswitch, Confused.com), has been a developer at Sky and is a dab hand at renovating old turntables. At our CTO Craft Conference, he’s presenting on day 1 with a session titled Moving Fast. He talks to us about what his session will include, how to create a team culture of innovation and the power of journaling.
Hi Paul, welcome to the CTO Craft Spotlight Q & A. You’re a day 1 speaker at the CTO Craft Con and Chief Technology Officer, RVU (Uswitch, Confused.com). Can you give us a teaser about what you might share with our audience at the conference?
I’m a big believer in experimentation and learning, and being able to move quickly goes hand-in-hand with that. We’re now a larger group, so I’ll also try to share some of the mistakes I’ve made and things I’ve learned along the way.
The conference theme is The Strategic CTO. What methods do you use to ensure that your team’s strategy is aligned with your company’s mission and values?
One of the biggest transformations we had at Uswitch when I joined was shifting towards product teams (or value-stream-oriented teams) away from a more departmental model. And then from that, making sure teams have clear objectives and measurements. I’ve also personally come unstuck whenever I’ve not had that.
Thanks Paul. Can you describe how you balance creating a strategy that is both forward-thinking and adaptable to change?
In general, I think the right balance is to have at least some opinion of the future or a range of plausible futures but a much more detailed view of where you are today. The hard part is then figuring out what the right first few steps are from the starting position. I struggle to think of any strategy with an end-state, so I think all the interesting work is in making positive steps from where you are today.
As a leader, what approaches do you use to create a culture of experimentation and innovation within your team?
We push hard for people to commit code and release it to customers on day 1; it helps demystify how to ship code and any potential for problems. There’s a fair amount of automation that helps with that, but it doesn’t reduce the likelihood to 0, but when that happens, it’s easy to unwind, and you have a supportive team around you to help. It’s a culture I care deeply about.
Completely changing the subject, can you tell us an interesting fact that we don’t know about you?
During lockdown, I renovated an old turntable. I managed to find videos on YouTube of people taking all the pieces apart so I could clean, replace broken parts and solder them back together.
What methods do you use to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of your team’s strategy?
Ultimately there’ll be some measurable organisational benefit for why we’re doing something.
For example, increasing release frequency is more about reducing investment risk- testing smaller changes and then adapting what we do as a result. So that might mean we’re interested in seeing us increase our rate of experiments, reducing our success rate (which is a good thing, to a point), and ultimately grow revenue faster with a lower cost of change. If we’re doing the right things, we should see a change in our input metrics; if not, it’s a prompt to understand whether it’s not working or we misunderstood the connection.
I’m very cynical of things which we can’t connect back to some measurable benefit or consequence; tech strategy for tech strategy’s sake.
How do you prioritise and balance competing business objectives and stakeholder needs?
It’s hard, but with all things, it just comes down to picking something. And if there’s too many, that means turning some things down. Keeping a list of goals/priorities is a surprisingly powerful tool: show the list to anyone and use that to clarify what things, and roughly in which order, you’re thinking about.
In your role, how do you manage your stress levels, productivity and well-being?
I’ve found journaling quite helpful. I bought an A5 bulleted journal, and I’d write the things I needed to do that month, week, or day. At the end of the week, I’d look back and think about things that frustrated me and things I was happy about; even if it’s been a rough week, there’s always something that’s gone well, so it’s important not to let that go.
Finally, can you recommend a book or a podcast that every technology leader should read or listen to either in the space of strategy, development or leadership in general?
Richard Rumelt’s strategy books are really good: Good Strategy/Bad Strategy is very practical, and I just started reading The Crux recently, too, which I’m really enjoying.
To hear more from Paul and other exciting tech leaders, join us at the CTO Craft Con on 23-24th May at the Tobacco Dock in London.
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