Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazer: John Campbell


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  • Name: John Campbell

    Role: Principal consultant, digital trust and cyber security, PA Consulting

    What are you currently working on?

    I am currently working with a major UK financial institution that plays a key role in global financial markets after their £28bn acquisition of another company, to assist in the development of group-wide policies and standards to orchestrate technology and cyber resilience across the various divisions and regulated entities in the group.

    What does your typical day look like?

    With my current client my typical day involves liaising with my counterparts and supporting executives in their organisation. I attend their Architecture Review Boards with their subject matter experts to present and discuss approaches in the various aspects of technology and cyber resilience that we are developing as standards across their group. I also liaise with their technical teams to discuss the granularity of our approaches.

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    What stood out with PA Consulting in comparison to other organisations was the fact that this was not just a technology company but an end-to-end innovation company with a genuinely collaborative culture. What also caught my attention was the discussions I had with the partners. I’ve had a few conversations with leaders of organisations when looking for the next stage in my career and the latitude and depth of expertise and experience the partners referred to as a consequence of working at PA was simply incomparable. Lastly, the client base and their projects offered an opportunity that was quite unique and very enticing.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    I always loved computers as a child. When the other kids at primary school brought in their favourite children’s books to read in the golden hour, I had textbooks on how to use my Commodore 64 to code. I did however originally study Finance with a heavy lean towards financial markets at Queens University and was subsequently working in Capital Markets in the banking industry in the IFSC in Dublin, training as an Accountant. However, I always ended up in projects involving technology to automate tasks such as using AS400 links and visual basic. It didn’t take long to take what now seems like an inevitable pivot and I ended up returning to Queens to study a Masters in Computer Science.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    One, is the ability to use creative thinking with technology and tools to solve complex problems. Secondly, it’s the diverse characters and personalities that I get to work and collaborate with.

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    Having been on a trajectory for what would have seemed like a traditional career in Banking and Accountancy, I can safely say I find cyber security much more dynamic, captivating and impactful in society. I would encourage anyone giving consideration to this type of career to go for it. Belfast and Northern Ireland are well regarded internationally, and we should have confidence in being amongst the very best globally. We are well-placed to avail of rubbing shoulders with talented people in this industry.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    In a digital, always-on, connected world, cyber security is ever more front and centre as a requirement of digital transformation and modern society. Whether we are all aware of it or not, it is now ingrained in our everyday lives. This in itself is recognised within PA Consulting and their Safer Society Global Shift.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    I can’t say one specific person to be honest, but I can say that my interest was sparked in my hometown as a child when, before computer shops existed, the local furniture and toy shop had a Commodore 64 in one corner of the toy section. Typing code into the computer to repeat my name across the screen, that just ignited my imagination!

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    In recent years, it would have to be cloud computing and the levelling that has provided to small ingenious companies vs the large-scale corporations that benefitted from economies of scale. In cyber security in particular, it would be the advent of Artificial Intelligence for cyber defences. I’d frequently use an analogy that cyber security involved three types of wares. Software, Hardware and Wetware. Software and Hardware operate with a latency of milliseconds, Wetware, i.e., the humans that are involved in cyber defence can operate with a latency of minutes, hours, days or even weeks and months. AI for automated responses mitigates that latency from what I would refer to as the Wetware involved.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    Easy, my mobile phone, but don’t tell my kids that!

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