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Dr Juliet Webster

Uninspired by her teachers, Dr Juliet Webster left school to take a secretarial course. She also signed up for A’level sociology — a subject not then on the school curriculum.

It was the beginning of a lengthy and prolific academic career studying the gender dynamics of job automation, digital labour, and how employment has evolved since technology began to appear in the workplace.

“What drew me in was the sociology of industrial relations and the Marxist theory of capital,” she says. “I was really interested in the lessons for the twentieth century from the early introduction of machinery.”

Topics she has examined in her many academic papers include virtual work, the gig economy, equal pay, people skills and social sustainability. She is particularly interested in how technology has impacted women’s lives.

Juliet’s career has also spanned practical action in NGOs, and policy making, including for the European Commission Directorate General for Employment. She currently has her own consultancy in London,Work & Equality Research, and is Adviser for the Gender and ICT Programme, IN3, at the Open University of Catalonia.

Juliet does not discourage young women from careers in technologies such as computer science. But she is concerned about the current trend towards flexible working, which includes an increase in short-term contracts, content farming and offshoring. “These practices blur the boundaries between work and home life, and can erode pay and conditions,” she says.

Iain Johnston and Chris Hurst

Iain Johnston and Chris Hurst are the top team of Blackwired, which brings a military philosophy to defending nations and enterprises against threats from the Dark Web. Chris brings a lifelong interest in computers and lessons learned as CSIO in BT, while Iain contributes the experience of a military career more recently applied to Cyber.

In this interview they describe the fundamentals of the Dark Web and the activities within its industrial complex before moving on to illustrate its significance to the critical activities of commerce and Government. The interview illustrates, with examples, the potency of the threat from the Dark Web and what the emerging industry of cyber countermeasures can do to protect us all.

Mandy Chessell CBE II

In her second interview for Archives of IT, Mandy talks about the interests she developed in the later stages of her career with IBM. That includes AI technology and wider issues of women in the industry and management styles. She has been appointed as the president of the Institute of Engineering Design for a two year term and reflects on the importance of product design in engineering. Although Mandy refers to her post IBM life as “retirement”, she has set up a new business to focus on the application of the Egeria project for open industry standards in metadata and talks about its significance in a world of increasing data-dependent operations in most aspects of our lives.

David Tebbutt

It was scoring 100 per cent on a computer aptitude test at NCR that attracted a restless young David Tebbutt to computing in 1965. The industry proved rich in opportunity, taking him from programming, systems analysis and training, through project and data processing management, to business and technology writing and editing.

At NCR, David’s first machine, had 2.4k bytes of memory for working data, the program and running all peripherals. As the technology developed he helped a wide range of companies implement their IT systems. In 1975 he joined ICL as a leadership skills trainer, a role which took him to diverse assignments in Trinidad, Nigeria and Poland.

David had always enjoyed writing but his family and teachers discouraged him from taking it up professionally, believing it was not a good career choice. The chance to prove them wrong came with the emerging world of personal computers.

For Personal Computer World, David reviewed launch models of breakthrough devices such as the IBM PC and Osborne 1 and interviewed industry luminaries including Steve Jobs.  As editor, he covered a seminal period, spanning the development of the industry from kit microcomputers to the IBM PC  via Tandy TRS-80 and Commodore Pet.

Unable to resist the pull back into the IT industry, in 1981 David co-founded Caxton Software, where he published and developed PC business productivity applications such as BrainStorm, a program he had developed to organise his own work while at PCW. It is still on sale in the US.

David has long been interested in environmental issues, inspired by books such as E F Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful. He worked on an ambitious sustainability initiative at the Science Museum from 2003-2006, and was launch editor of Blue & Green Tomorrow magazine in 2010.

As a writer, David has also covered topics such as ageing, leisure and happiness. He is currently ghost-writing a book about the future. But he doesn’t believe in the “singularity — the idea that AI will eventually control us.

Ben Wood

As a graduate trainee at Vodafone in 1985, Ben Wood little realised the significance of the industry he was joining. “Who would have thought the mobile phone would become the most prolific electronics device on the planet?” he says.

In 2020, Ben set up the Mobile Phone Museum, which has hundreds of handsets ranging from the earliest devices to collectors’ gems such as the Huawei KFC phone, emblazoned in red and engraved with an image of Colonel Sanders.

Although currently virtual, the aim is for the museum to have a physical pop-up exhibition by 2025, in time for the 40-year anniversary of the first mobile phone call made in the UK.

Ben is also chief analyst and chief marketing officer at CCS Insight, a consultancy focused on connected technology, which he has helped grow from three people in the UK to a global team of 30.

Ben was not hugely academic at school, but flourished at university, especially during a year’s work placement at Texas Instruments in the south of France. “I had a luggable laptop, desktop computer and an email address, which was quite exciting at the time,” he says, “a trigger for making tech part of my life.”

Working for an American multinational proved a “wonderful immersion” in the way IT was evolving. It also taught him how to build empathy with people and maximise business relationship. He worked his way up through the industry until, in 2001, he became the youngest ever research VP at Gartner.

Still a consultant, Ben has never lost his love of gadgetry, and changes his phone every three to five weeks. This keeps him up-to-date with the latest in foldable phones, wrap-around screens, 5G, and connectivity with smart-watches, smart-glasses and headphones. He even wears a ring that functions as a credit card.

Such devices will play an increasing role in healthcare over the next few years, he says, perhaps measuring blood sugar and body temperature as well as heart-rate and sleep patterns.

In 2020, Ben set up the Mobile Phone Museum, which has hundreds of handsets ranging from the earliest devices to collectors’ gems such as the Huawei KFC phone, emblazoned in red and engraved with an image of Colonel Sanders.

Although currently virtual, the aim is for the museum to have a physical pop-up exhibition by 2025, in time for the 40-year anniversary of the first mobile phone call made in the UK.

Ben is also chief analyst and chief marketing officer at CCS Insight, a consultancy focused on connected technology, which he has helped grow from three people in the UK to a global team of 30.

Malcolm Penn

Malcolm Penn could have been a rock star but turned out a market researcher, analyst and authority on the electronics industry.

R&B music subsidised his electronic engineering degree sandwich course of four years with Vickers Aircraft in Weybridge and Wisley, where he worked on the VC10 programme, testing one plane almost to destruction, and Venner Electronics in south west London. He spent 14 years with ITT Semiconductors and ITT Europe, where he learned his trade in chip design, product marketing,  manufacturing and as a chip user.

He set up the US market research company Dataquest in Europe, before forming his own market research company, Future Horizons, to explain what the numbers mean. He has trenchant views on Intel and ARM, which are well worth hearing.

Sean Coutts

As a boy, Sean Coutts enjoyed designing and building things, and dreamed of becoming an architect. Instead, as co-founder and director of technology at Graphium technologies, he is creating a company which transforms unstructured research data into visual insight.

After studying materials science at university, and a few years working in accounting and project management, Sean went back to university to do an MSc in computer science. Then, keen to found his own business, he signed up for Entrepreneur course at the Alacrity Foundation — an organisation set up to support talented young graduates turn their ideas into commercial reality.

Since completing the course, Graphium has raised £250,000 seed funding — enough to last 18 months to two years without making any sales, “but we hope to start selling by mid-2022.” Alacrity has a stake along with the founders, who have 13 per cent each.  Sean hopes Graphium will eventually be acquired. “That would be our preferred route,” he says. “It fits with our values as a company — we are more interested in the process than creating a Microsoft or a Google.”

He sees himself as serial entrepreneur. “This is the first time, but none of us wants it to be the last.”

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