Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazer: Rob McConnell

  • Name: Rob McConnell

    Role: Board Level Director and Head of Advanced Solutions, Expleo Group

    What does a typical day look like?

    I’m happy to report that there’s no such thing as a “typical day” for me.  I’m fortunate in this respect, as given the scope of my role, every day brings new areas of focus and routine is not on the cards. I’ve been back in the office now for almost a year as we have been launching new aerospace engineering functions at Expleo. This has allowed me to be more connected with colleagues on a local level, as typically I interact with clients and teams globally either virtually or through business travel.

    I like to drop my kids at the school bus and then set off on my usual commute from the Antrim Coast down into Titanic Quarter where Expleo is based. My role is global and I spend a lot of time on calls, but also like to interact with colleagues face-to-face, so I have the best of both worlds.

    What are you currently working on?

    Too many things to describe succinctly here! But I’ll summarise some of the main areas that my work revolves around. 

    For the most part, I’m working on large business opportunities for the company. This can be across many different customer sectors and technologies, which is always interesting and challenging at the same time. Another very motivating part of my role is centred around the innovation and partnerships arena - thinking about doing things differently or establishing new avenues that solve client challenges.

    A key project we have been working hard on is the development of a new technology platform to support our global services delivery. X Platform brings the best of what we have to offer across our Group all into one place, making us better able to provide the best solutions for our clients. This has been an exciting project to work on and traversed many teams in different geographies around the world. 

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    I have been with Expleo now for 15 years, so I almost can’t remember the answer to this particular question! Just joking, I joined as there was a unique opportunity at the time to create something new from the ground up. Formerly SQS, we were new to the NI region: no clients and no capability. There was a lot to do in terms of creating a brand, building a high performing management team, developing capabilities and establishing a customer base. Thankfully it was the right decision for me. We have grown significantly through that time and made a huge impact, not just locally but globally too across many of the regions that we operate in. The building blocks we put in place have enabled us to grow significantly over recent years.

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

    To be honest, like many young people, I did not know at the time what I really wanted to do and was more than fortunate to fall into the industry after leaving university. I did always have an interest in technology and computing and how it was evolving. However, I did not necessarily plan on going into the industry, probably like many, because I was not well informed on the possibilities and potential.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    I really like the fact that I get to interact and work with so many diverse people and cultures around the world each day. I also enjoy having the freedom to play to my strengths in technology leadership - to be creative and innovative. I guess I have become known for these traits and driving new initiatives across our Group, which have progressed our offerings and value to clients. Most of all, I like to be able to make a difference.

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

    With its exponential growth, the IT/digital industry has grabbed the spotlight over many years. It’s a domain that has seen phenomenal evolution. It offers very diverse positions and opportunities. So, you don’t necessarily have to be a coder to succeed, there are so many other roles that will benefit from varying talents and skillsets. I’d say that anyone considering it should try and reach out to as many people as possible in the industry and get a feel for the types of roles and opportunities involved. Don’t just assume it’s right for you, but certainly have a serious look and do your homework. It can be a very rewarding career choice.

    How do you see technology impacting on our lives?

    There is no one who can say technology has not categorically changed how we live. It now touches every aspect of our being. Software has proliferated into pretty much anything you can think of. Even my toothbrush is now app-enabled!

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    I was not inspired to work in this field as such, more I think inspirations have developed for me the more I have worked in the industry. People, and in particular other technology leaders, have stood out and inspired me further to evolve. I like to follow and learn from the habits of other leaders, picking up snippets of how they think and behave, how they solve challenges. Equally, you also see how things should not be done – leaders don’t always make the right choices.

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

    Oh, that’s not so straightforward as there are so many that are important in their own right.  However, the one that stands out for me is the continued rapid advancement of mobility, including electrification and autonomous technologies, which of course are underpinned by a number of interconnected technological advances in data, internet of things, artificial intelligence and machine learning, etc. This is a fascinating domain that is evolving at a serious pace. To think we are now in an age where driverless cars are navigating themselves around big cities and even pulling over to a safe spot for the police is mind-blowing technological and cultural progress.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    I am trying hard not to give you an easy answer (i.e. ‘my mobile phone’)! I think I will take it deeper than just a device. Having built a new modern home recently, I am a bit hooked on renewables and the supporting tech.

    I therefore can’t do without ‘myenergi app’, which tells me exactly how the house is performing and actually has influenced our daily habits and how we live. At this time of year, we are generally running at 100% green energy in daylight hours. The reality is, in the absence of smart meter technology, I have more data and insights on my energy generation and consumption than my energy provider. With the rising energy costs, that qualifies as a gadget I can't live without right now!

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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