Flexera's Phil Wilkinson on the IT 'black hole' and sponsoring NI Dev Conf

  • The annual NI Dev Conf event kicks off in Beflast's Riddel Hall in just a few weeks on June 8th, and this year's line-up is going to be huge! An impressive list of 60 speakers from across the NI development community has been announced for the event, with talks ranging from cyber-security and blockchain tech to startup advice, encryption, game development, and more.

    This year also sees several major sponsors stepping in to support the local dev community, and one of this year's platinum sponsors is global software firm Flexera. With its headquarters in Chicago and a sizeable office in Belfast, Flexera offers a range of business solutions to help companies manage their sprawling IT infrastructure and help prevent their money spiralling into a technology 'black hole' through spend optimisation.

    We caught up with Flexera's Phil Wilkinson at the Belfast office to find out more about what the company does and why it's sponsoring NI Dev Conf this year.

    Sync NI: Can you tell me a little about what Flexera does and your role at the company?

    Phil Wilkinson: Flexera is a technology company based in Chicago and help executives succeed at what once seemed impossible: getting clarity into, and full control of, their company’s technology 'black hole.' We provide our worldwide customers with insight, spend optimization, and agility across their IT estates.

    Many of the thousands of companies we help are household brands, and they look to us to point them in the best directions regarding their hardware and software assets. We help them save money, be more secure, take action, and ultimately to leverage their technology investments and get ahead of their competition.

    As the Senior Director of Engineering within the Technology Insights solution area, I have teams in Belfast, Chicago, California, Copenhagen, Bangalore and Guangzhou. Additionally, I’m also the Site Leader for our Belfast office.

    Sync NI: What would you say your typical customer looks like? Who typically benefits from your products and business solutions?

    Phil Wilkinson: The Wall Street Journal recently published an article entitled "Every Company is Now a Tech Company" that points to the fact that, regardless of what a business does, it’s likely to rely heavily on technology. Our customers come from a wide range of industries including finance, technology, retail, education, healthcare, and government. The customers that benefit most from Flexera’s solutions are those that have significant technology estates -- often hundreds or thousands (and sometimes millions) of technology assets across desktop machines, data centres and cloud.

    Sync NI: Flexera is a platinum sponsor this year for NI Dev Conf. How did you first get involved in the conference, and will you be presenting a talk this year?

    Phil Wilkinson: I presented a talk at the first NI Dev Conf in 2017 entitled "Relationship Trouble" (see below), which was a discussion about the power of graph data structures over relational data stores in some relationship-heavy scenarios. I’m proudly Northern Irish, and loved the event for its celebration of local technology talent.

    When a follow-up was announced in 2018, I wanted to make sure that Flexera was on the sponsor list, and here we are again in 2019 as a Platinum sponsor. While I won’t be presenting a talk this year, I believe that the conference would best be served with talks delivered by some of our Belfast team. You will be able to hear Roger Simms, Laura McFadden and Chris Nixon about topics such as testing microservices and implementing API-first design. 

    Sync NI: How important do you think conferences like NI Dev Conf are for the local tech scene and talent development or acquisition?

    Phil Wilkinson: These events are incredibly important because they indicate a 'fly-wheel' effect, whereby the pool of talent relies not only on formal education channels, but rather becomes a self-sustaining and evolving community. It is the community that encourages technical progress and excellence among engineers, and ultimately that's what differentiates Belfast’s talent from those in other locations. Companies such as Flexera don’t come to Belfast just to hire people -- they want to hire great people, and that’s what the community provides.

    Sync NI: Flexera has hosted and sponsored quite a few events, with things like the Flexera Women's Summit, Belfast CodeRetreat, BelfastJS and such. Are events like this part of the company culture, and do you think they help the company?

    Phil Wilkinson: Absolutely. In Belfast, we built our team off the back of the community, and therefore it has always been our desire to contribute back into it. In return, we get to welcome lots of new people into our office and they get to see our brand when they might not have come across us otherwise. Generally, people at Flexera do want to be engaged in community, be it at local meet ups and conferences, trade events or charity events.

    In 2018 we ran our inaugural Flexera Women’s Summit which sought to promote, inspire and encourage the professional development of women in the company. Additionally, we also hosted college visits at our Chicago HQ where students got to see what working within a modern technology company looks like across sales, engineering, marketing, etc. 

    We are not only part of the community, but are actively engaged in thought leadership within the community. For example, Flexera is the industry leader when it comes to Software Licence Optimization, and also produces the widely respected "State of the Cloud Report," which is used by many companies and analysts when making strategic decisions.

    Sync NI: Thanks for your time! What would you say to anyone thinking of attending NI Dev Conf this year?

    Phil Wilkinson: Flexera is delighted to be Platinum sponsor for this year’s NI Dev Conf 2019, and would love for you to come say "hi" to us at our stand on the day. We wish all the speakers the best as they prepare their talks and we know it’s going to be a superb event!

    You can follow Flexera's Belfast office on twitter at @BelfastFlexera and head over to for more information on NI Dev Conf.

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