On January 2nd, we all bundled back into the office with a smile, a renewed sense of vigour and a lot of coffee. One person walked in with all that and two polo shirts on. That person was our newest recruit – Julian Horwood.
A former Google-r (as in ’employed by’, rather than simply ‘user of the search engine like the rest of humanity’), Julian has brought with him a wealth of knowledge, experience and indoor gilets. What are they you ask? Well, the same as outdoor ones, except Julian doesn’t take them off when inside.
Aside from the joy his fashion statements have brought us (me), Julian is a walking, talking font of knowledge and the key to further 101 Ways UK growth. As such, I subjected him to a couple of hours’ interrogation to talk aims, apps and amateur acrobatics.
Welcome to 101 Ways Julian! Tell me about your new role as UK Client Partner?
101 Ways’ growth over the last three years has been phenomenal. The teams working on-site with clients and the crew back at HQ are so experienced and good at what they do, the company has grown ‘simply’ by word of mouth, referral and inbound demand. Aspects such as working with clients to shape additional work, mobilising teams and providing commercial oversight has been taken on by the directors as a result. I’ll be absorbing these responsibilities to allow the directors to focus their efforts on new clients and engagements.
I have a philosophical view of my role; it’s a long-game. I believe that if you do the right thing by always acting with integrity, understanding and empathy, and help people achieve what they want to, they will always remember you. If I think about the people who championed a hit-and-run approach, yes they experienced short-term success, but in later years they struggled.
The London crew is well-established and your position has been more emergent – how do you see it fitting in?
It’s both complementary and supportive. Often, when you ask someone to explain something they’ve been doing for a long time, they find it difficult; it’s become their norm and therefore part of an internalised process. Without knowing it, the directors have been operating in the fourth stage of the ‘conscious competence’ learning model. It’s my job to unpick what each of them do, identify the commercially-related parts, shine a light on it and then ramp it up.
Some may think that Google is the top of the ladder – other than the really cool merchandise – what drew you to 101 Ways?
First the people – I already knew Kelly and Zane from ThoughtWorks. The moment I met the rest of the crew and realised they were so well-matched in terms of mindset, collaboration and culture, I knew these were people I could work with and importantly, have a lot of fun.
Secondly, the vision that 101 Ways has and the potential for opportunity is huge. I worked for a firm in the mid-late 90’s that got its product so right and so well-timed that the company took off and for the next several years expanded faster than any of its competitors. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew the signs to look out for and during my talks with management, my spidey senses tingled!
You’ve had a really interesting career trajectory and straddled both sides of the tech ‘fence’, do you think it’s shaped you as a leader?
Absolutely. I started out as a developer and followed the ‘standard’ path to become tech lead, project manager and then head of development. Broadly speaking, I loved it. But I realised I enjoyed working with people and enabling them to do ‘cool things’ with tech more than I did working with the cool tech myself.
I’m fortunate to have worked alongside and learned from industry luminaries like Martin Fowler, Jez Humble, Kief Morris; heavy hitting, transformation gurus who have gone on to write books, speak at conferences etc. The experience and teachings I’ve gained, I’ve been able to apply to clients. My background means I can understand and empathise with the challenges they face because I’ve been there. And the moment you can do that – bingo.
Everyone loves a good quote – LinkedIn is full of them at the moment! Which one resonates with you most?
Nelson Mandela: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine… And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
Brilliant, so how do you envision serving the 101 Ways world?
Our London office is fortunate to be operating in a country with the fifth largest economy globally and in a capital city with the highest concentration of tech companies in the world. 101 Ways has a very innovative business model, continually exploring the networked economy, different link-ups, MVPs and service offerings as it taps into this enormous potential. As such, like the Client Partner role, I think 101 Ways’ trajectory is emergent, it can go so many different ways, all of which I can’t wait to help capitalise on.
Okay, switching it up from the business talk for a moment – tell us a fun fact that no ones knows about you?
I can skateboard on my hands. I learned to walk on my hands aged seven and then got my first skateboard at 15. Out of curiosity, I tried it recently and am pleased to report I can still do it! [Sadly, I did not get a demonstration due to health and safety rules at work].
You’ve climbed (or skated) up the career ladder and are essentially at the top of your game, what keeps you motivated?
If you’ve ever been in a position where everyday you wake up and you’re not learning, it’s exhausting. Honestly, it’s worse than working 24/7 for weeks on end, on a death march project. What I love most is when I’m learning every single day and my brain is stretched. It’s even better when you get to do that with great people around.
What do you like do in your spare time to forget about work?
I’m quite lucky as I love work – perhaps more than play – and so I don’t have a burning desire to forget about it.
That said, fly-fishing on a beautiful river in the country transports me to a whole different world. And if I could sleep by said river in a tree house without modern gadgets, I’d be blissfully happy. So I guess planning such trips and how to finally get that tree house is always an instant distraction.
What do you think the challenges are going to be, both in your role and the wider industry?
We’re going to face some challenges scaling our model because there is so much demand; it’s a very nice problem to have! We have so many opportunities and are quick to pivot, but we need to be careful about which ones to prioritise.
At industry level, the Government’s complete lack of vision around a flexible workforce is an issue; short-sighted views have led to the IR35 taxation legislation. Proposed updates to IR35 are going to pose one or two problems, but there are solutions to most, if not all of the predicted implementations and interpretations of the new rules.
Okay, now onto the quickfire round – in three words, tell me why you’re a good fit for 101 Ways?
Attitude, aptitude and dad jokes.
If you could have invented any app, what would it be? GO!
I’m actually not really interested in inventing any of the money-making apps. I’d want to create a ’killer’ one that helps humanity as a whole. Let’s take all the plastic and detritus on beaches – I’d love to understand and then ‘exploit’ the eco / reward system that will make people pick it up and recycle so we can help save the planet.
Finally, what is the one piece of advice that you wish you’d been told / would pass on to those considering a career in tech?
It may sound trite, but if you can’t wear a t-shirt to work [or a gilet, I offer], think carefully as to whether it’s the right place for you. It’s symbolic; a t-shirt will represent a workplace that is innovative, youthful, flexible, culture-focused and in tune with society. This is in contrast to companies that employ only suit-and-tie developers, they still exist. It says so much.
Welcome to the second in our new series, ‘in the zone’, a collection of conversations with CTO’s within the CTO Zone community. Each week we’ll be discussing the latest trends, insights gained from there experiences, and future predictions for their industry. This week we’d like to welcome Marcin Zasepa, CTO at Homegate AG in Switzerland. Every episode will be approximately 30 minutes