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Mark Holford

Mark Holford trained as a solicitor and worked in two practices before joining Thomas Miller as a claims executive and underwriter in 1978. He worked closely with the company’s IT Director to develop applications using pc and minicomputer technology. He helped to build Thomas Miller’s reputation as a leader in the use of IT in insurance.  He was the first person in his firm outside the IT department with a pc on his desk. He used Borland software to build spreadsheets for the company where he worked for 36 years. He can, says his wife, spot when the results of a calculation are wrong rather than just trust the technology. He is constantly searching for new applications for IT.

Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson is perhaps best known to those in IT as the co-founder of Ovum, one of the foremost analysts of the industry, that subsumed another familiar name, Holway, and still produces reports, now as part of Datamonitor. 

Tim describes himself as a researcher, a role he has been carrying out since becoming a science correspondent in 1963, producing material on key technologies, markets and issues in various media, through the nationals press and his own brands like Ovum, Point Topic, and Look Multimedia.? His pioneering work includes some of the first publications on packet switching, expert systems, video cassettes and the use and applications for data communications across 17 European countries.?

Tim comes from a line of ancestors involved in technology and media and his father wrote a report recommending the installation of a computer in the design department of Roll Royce in 1953. 

Dr Angus Cheong

In the early 2000s, Angus Cheong saw the potential to use real-time structured and unstructured data analysis to improve the quality of insight from data mining. Angus was a lecturer focused on developing techniques to take public opinion research beyond conventional surveys and polling and after 13 years in academe, he left university life to set up a consultancy focused on data analysis for industry and government using advanced techniques such as AI and machine learning. 

In 2017, this became uMax Data Technology. Angus is still the company’s chief executive, and the business now has offices in Hong Kong and Singapore and clients across Asia. He calls their approach “DiVo” (data in value out) in contrast to many previous “GiGo” systems (garbage in, garbage out).  

a portrait photograph of a woman with bobbed curly hair wearing a white blouse

Dr Rebecca Harding

Entrepreneurs want to change things all the time. So says Dr Rebecca Harding, economist and serial entrepreneur. Rebecca’s career has certainly involved breaking traditions and rattling cages. “I’ve always been a self starter who knows my own mind and has a clear sense of direction in my education and career,” she says.

When her comprehensive school did not offer A’ level German she joined lessons at the local boys’ grammar. Participating in drama clubs and student productions has also helped her throughout her professional life, she says. At Sussex University Rebecca gained a BA in Economics with German. The interdisciplinary nature of the course has proved very helpful in business life, she says. “It enabled me to study politics, philosophy, economics, sociology and international relations.”

 After taking a doctorate in Technology and HR, she began working in academe, which she describes as “a brilliant training for entrepreneurship because academics spend their time generating ideas and thinking of ways to solve problems.” At London Business School, Rebecca ran the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor — a survey of entrepreneurship worldwide. It helped her understand the power of data in helping people and driving success.

 In 2007, Rebecca founded her first company, Delta Economics, and began analysing why people start businesses and the challenges they face achieving growth. Her research showed that their motivation “is more about solving problems and innovating than making money.” It led to her second start-up, Coriolis Technologies, formed in 2017 to provide trade and trade finance data and analytics for the trade finance sector.

“Global trade is worth $21 trillion a year and the value of trade finance is between $15tn and $17tn: 90 per cent of it is still paper-based,” she says. “Digitising global trade is a huge opportunity.”

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.

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.”

Professor Sir Ian Diamond

Professor Sir Ian Diamond first encountered a computer as a student at the London School of Economics the mid-1970s. He learnt Fortran and submitted programs on punched cards. “But we never actually used computers to analyse data,” he says.

Computers are now crucial to Sir Ian’s role as the UK’s national statistician, and principal adviser to the UK Statistics Authority and the Government. The task involves using the latest AI, machine learning and textual analysis to tackle some of the thorniest current social and economic challenges.

From the beginning, Sir Ian was interested in the application of statistics to social science, demographics and survey data. Statistics have had a bad press, he says, but when they are rigorous and well put together they are increasingly reliable and powerful. For example, they have recently helped discover how the coronavirus is impacting people disproportionately in different ethnic groups.

After an MSc at the LSE, Sir Ian took a PhD at St Andrews, where he received “outstanding supervision” looking at the problem of relatively high drop-out rates among Scottish students compared with their English counterparts.

His career has included being chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council and vice chancellor of the University of Aberdeen. In 2019, he did not take much persuasion to apply for the post of national statistician.

“It has been a total thrill every day since,” he says. “We need to produce data that the public can trust, and to reflect the economy and society at a time when it is changing very quickly.”

Massive technology change has made it possible to think increasingly radically about all kinds of data, and to produce ever more timely and accurate statistics. But it is really important to have a social theory about what you are doing, says Sir Ian. And to communicate properly, explaining assumptions and ensuring that people can understand the level of uncertainty and margin for error.

For those interested in studying statistics, there can be no better career, he says, and the UK has some of the world’s strongest institutions.

Ann Moffatt

Ann Moffatt found “sums” easy as a child at school in post war London and would have gone to Oxbridge had it not been a time when the boys in the family had first call on education.  Nevertheless, by reading every book she could find, she got a job in IT and went on to defy the male stereotype of the industry: combining a friendly manner with incisive expertise that commanded respect at the highest levels.

Ann was Dame Stephanie Shirley’s first lieutenant at Freelance Programmers before being headhunted to Australia, to sort out a mega-project gone wrong.  She is a Fellow of both the Australian Computer Society and the British Computer Society. In 2002, Ann was inducted into the Australian ICT Hall of Fame and in 2011, into the Pearcey Hall of Fame, for lifetime achievement in the ICT industries. The University of Southern Queensland awarded her an Honorary Doctorate, in May 2006 and Microsoft list her as one of 12 Australian Innovators.

Pamela Cook

The youngest of six children, Pamela Cook was born in a Birmingham slum with no electricity or indoor sanitation. But the family was re-housed when she was three and she describes her childhood as very happy.

Her lack of enjoyment at school and the need to earn money from her early teens, gave her an understanding of the working world and a will to survive. But she also inherited her parents’ strong sense of moral ethics, making her determined to try to do good in the world.

Pamela has achieved that goal as CEO of Infoshare, a data technology company which creates accurate single views, for example, of people, places, addresses and objects. When she took the helm in 2010 she re-mortgaged her house to fund a major company restructure. Since then, she has tried to re-shape the business to use its technology and position to benefit vulnerable people, from children at risk and victims of crime to those likely to be most badly affected by Covid-19.

“What I have discovered is being able to make a real impact on people’s lives,” she says, whether they are at risk, need early intervention or are trying to disguise their true identities.

Pamela is also a magistrate in Thames Valley, and sits on the Cabinet Office SME Panel, fighting for the rights and fair treatment of small businesses in the UK. She is a popular speaker on successful information sharing, protecting citizens and the implication of legislation on data sharing and analysis.

She was named the Female Entrepreneur of the Year in the 2019 Enterprise Awards, and listed on the 2020 DataIQ 100 people in data, and on the 2020 Global Top 100 Data Visionaries.