Tell us about yourself
I’m from Liverpool and was born a few streets away from the famous Anfield ground of Liverpool Football Club. My wife Karen is also from Liverpool and most of our family are still there. We love to spend time with our nieces and nephews, and we have plenty of them – three nephews, four nieces and two god children. At the time I was growing up, the age of the personal computer was in its dawn. I remember fiddling with a Z80 computer kit with one of my uncles and then helping build the first computer in my secondary school. Because of that experience and the excitement it created for me, I like to inspire my nieces and nephews to try things out. We build robots and remote control UAVs (often referred to as drones by some) together, and then write the code to make them work and do things. It’s wonderful to see as their personalities develop.
When we aren’t with our family, my wife and I like to cook. I can make a mean loaf and an awesome pizza dough (according to my nieces and nephews) and my wife prepares lovely sauces.
What do you do at Polycom?
I joined Polycom in 2010 to look after the healthcare market and be the subject matter expert for all things collaboration in healthcare. I’ve known and worked with Polycom and its predecessor since the ‘90s in a similar role. Not long after joining, I was asked to take on the rest of the public sector markets, and so I also accepted the responsibility for government and education sectors. For me, it’s a very rewarding position to be in – I work in technology (you know by now I’m a geek at heart). It is quite rewarding to be able to witness the positive effect video has on education, and I can help nurture the development of new technology that will meet future challenges.
Leading the programmes for government, healthcare and education sectors for Polycom means I need to be thinking ahead of the curve all the time. I am responsible for the strategy and delivery of the company objectives right across Europe, Middle East and Africa. I could be talking with surgeons in the Middle East in the morning, adult educators in Denmark in the afternoon, and in between with my colleagues wherever they are. Video collaboration means I can do my job and remain sane – I avoid travel unless it’s absolutely necessary! It’s not unusual for a Polycom employee to have more than ten video meetings per week, often with multiple people in their homes or offices!
What was your experience of education?
I had a happy time in my early years in school. I went to a Catholic infant, junior and secondary school. But when I reflect on how children are educated now compared to then, I do wish things had been different. I suppose it wasn’t until I reached secondary school (mine was an all-boys school) that I really began learning. I recall my maths teacher asking if there was anyone in the class who would like to help him put together the new computer that had just been delivered. I was the only volunteer and so began my passion for technology. Those were great years and I felt very lucky to be working with microprocessors – something I had only previously read about.
But it wasn’t until I reached sixth form to study for my A levels that I got really inspired. As a teenager in the era of the new Windows PC operating system and the introduction of a brand new concept called Macintosh from a company called Apple, my passion for electronics and computing was ignited. My computer science teacher at the time – Mr. Brereton – did anything he could to encourage learning. I remember him having to send one of my projects to Liverpool University to be marked because he felt he didn’t understand how it all fitted together.
Well done Mr. Brereton – it was down to you and my Mum & Dad who bought me my first computer, which helped me get to where I am today.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing education?
Access to education is the biggest challenge. There is no doubt that today we can deliver education, as required, to even the most remote part of the world. Collaboration technology is the enabler that has already been in existence for a long time. Taking the first step is often hard and therefore driving the adoption of the enabler technology across the institution and its staff takes time.
What are you hoping to take away from the debate?
When I join the debate on Thursday, 24th September, I am expecting to learn more about the challenges educators are facing, and how I might help Polycom create ideas or solutions that can address some of them. I feel like I’m constantly learning when I meet with our customers, and the EFF debates are a fantastic way to hear first-hand what is going on around the planet – what concerns education leaders, education ministries, educators, and – most importantly – the students themselves. I’m also expecting to take away a clearer understanding of the sustainable development goals the UN has ratified with the world powers.
Complete the sentence.. If I could change one thing it would be….
If I could change one thing it would be the cultural understanding in our young generation. We live in an unprecedented time in the history of connected societies. We now know a lot more about most of the 7000 spoken languages in the world, the 193 countries and their societies, and yet we don’t tolerate each other enough. If cultural exchange became the norm in the education of our young citizens right from the early years of their learning, I feel we could generate a society that is more tolerant of the needs of others. I think the schools in Europe do a pretty good job in this respect already, but the rest of the world needs to catch up.