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11 February 2022

Simon Michie, chief technology officer, Pulsant

Simon Michie, chief technology officer, Pulsant

ho was your childhood hero?

It was definitely my physics teacher at secondary school. We’d watch him carefully waiting for the next lab “accident” – fire, electrocution, you name it. He really knew how to keep the whole room engaged. It is not a technique I employ myself.

What was your big career break?

I’ve always felt very lucky to have landed in the technology sector where my hobby could become my career. Being co-founder of a start-up set me on a new path, although I didn’t specifically recognise it as a “break” at the time. I learned a lot of hard lessons during that experience which have served me well in every job I have done since, whether it has been managerial or technical.

I had to overcome a few setbacks and solve quite demanding problems early on in my career which has been immensely helpful and stood me in good stead right up to the present. You quickly accumulate a cache of experience without always realising. The key is to keep updating it.

For me, the work I’m doing now at Pulsant to develop a UK edge computing platform is arguably another huge opportunity. I’m privileged to be part of something unique and market-leading that will not only enable positive change - chances like this don’t happen often.

If you had to work in a different industry, which one would you choose?

When I was 16 my careers tutor somewhat bafflingly told me I ought to be a programmer or a DJ. I love collecting vintage jazz and R&B from the 1920s to the 1950s and regularly DJ at period dance events, which is great fun and provides a hugely enjoyable contrast with the day job. Having now ticked those two career recommendations off, I’d choose space science or oceanography – both fields where there is true exploration still to be done.

For the time-being however, my exploratory ambitions are in the cloud and its limitless potential, especially as we enter the era of the edge. As a boy, I loved reading science fiction books set in the future. It fired my imagination about what might be possible and now as an adult, it’s exciting to see fiction becoming fact. This is a dramatic shift that will have far-reaching implications for the way businesses operate and will improve the quality of life for millions of people living in “the regions” outside the main metropolitan areas.

What would you do with £1m?

Use half to briefly set up a venue to support live jazz musicians and invite all my friends. Then I would invest the other half so I could do it for longer.

If money was no object, where would you live?

I would continue where I live now – London – which I love for its cultural diversity and nightlife. If you love jazz it’s the place to be in the UK.

Although I’m deeply attached to London it does dominate the world I work in, to an undesirable degree. The capital and its immediate hinterland are where the major cloud providers, their partners and ecosystems are all based.

It makes it unnecessarily hard for businesses outside the South East to gain high-speed access to the cloud. And this metropolitan bias also renders it difficult for those organisations to get the kind of highly expert advice and technical know-how they need to become truly data-driven.

The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?

Both great, but if you force me to make a choice, I’d choose the Stones for using the African American blues pioneers as their inspiration and then creating a unique and very British sound.

Which law would you most like to change?

The EU Withdrawal Act. Yes, really.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

I would say it’s “do what makes you happy”. I have three decades of experience in the technology sector now, so I must be enjoying it. I started off in sales and have run consulting, operational and development teams. I’ve founded successful businesses and learned from mistakes.

It’s always important to listen to advice, regardless of your role. Even though I have plenty of experience now as CTO and at director level, I am always open to advice from people I respect. I may set out a clear vision and build a team with what I want in terms of motivation, expertise and organisational abilities, but it’s important to me that I have access to advice. That often comes best from people with no skin in the game, who are free to be frank, drawing on their own experience.

What’s the strangest question you’ve been asked?

This one.