Axiologik Skills Spotlight: Gordon Cullum, Technology Director

Each month we'll be sharing insight into the roles, skill set and experience belonging to members of the Axiologik team. This month, we (virtually) sat down with and spoke to Axiologik's Technology Director, Gordon Cullum who joined the team recently in September 2020.

1. What is your job role?

My role at Axiologik since joining in September 2020 is Technology Director. I was brought into the team to create and embed our technology services and practices. Axiologik has hitherto featured mostly in the programme management space with its clients, that is, working in Senior Digital Delivery roles. This is also largely due to the experience we’ve obtained from working on large programmes, and rescue programmes.

I have a slightly different background to the rest of the team, whilst I’ve worked with all of these guys before within those programmes, I worked on the technical side orchestrating the technology strategy and architecture.

That said, the current role I’m working in for a client is as the Digital Delivery Lead for Strategic Tracing for NHS Test and Trace which is a general leadership and delivery management role.

2. What are your responsibilities?

I’m accountable for the end-to-end delivery of the Integrated Contact Tracing Solution, which is a part of the NHS strategic landscape that allows us to do all the work that we’re doing with contact tracing people during this pandemic. The system has a life beyond that, as it will become a strategic platform for the Department of Health for future large-scale public health management.

In my role at Axiologik, I am building out the technical services that we offer to our clients, so largely focusing around enterprise systems, architectures, technology strategy and data architecture. We plan to build a small team of technology and architecture specialists who can work within these value-added roles client-side. That might be, for example reviewing their strategy, executing delivery architecture, or setting up an architecture practice.

3. What do you enjoy most about your role?

The freedom to be able to make a difference with the skills I’ve developed over the years. I’m a technologist at heart, and it puts me in a position where I have the knowledge, skills and experience that not many people, in the grand scheme of things, have. The ability to put these to use to make a difference somewhere motivates me. I feel more fulfilled, when in roles within the NHS, the Home Office and other government departments such as the Department of Health; the feeling of doing something of significance that has a positive impact on people's lives.

4. What skills set is required for your role?

Skills and experience are two different things. One of the skills that I have is the ability to constantly learn and keep up with a field that is moving at a pace that other industries simply don’t see. For example, the skills you learn in programming and design this year are out of date next year. My most enhanced skill would be the ability to look at problems slightly askance and see angles and solutions for them, whilst then contantly being able to learn new solutions from the tool box of things that are out there and being able to apply them.

The experience side is probably more important when it comes to the large, significant programmes, because that’s more about having been there and having the battle scars of what really goes wrong. It’s all very well and great having a solution, but that’s only 10% of the battle. Other areas of it include politics, organising teams, general leadership and managing the emotions as you go through it, such as disappointment, fear, success - all of these things come from experience. Things are never as they appear when they first start.

5. What would you say are your most enhanced skills?

I would normally say, learning all the new technology. I like finding out and learning new things - I still really enjoy that. You wouldn’t believe what I have in my house, I’ve automated half of it, just because I can! There’s no real reason to have Alexa talk to me when I leave my front gate other than because I wanted to try it. That sort of tickles my fancy in terms of creativity.

More recently, in the last four to five years, I’ve become far more interested in general people leadership. Not in a, ‘because I’ve had to do it’ way, it’s genuinely quite interesting to me, to learn about psychology and behaviour, what makes teams tick and the different types of individuals you find within different teams.

I think in the early days of my career, I shied away from all of those skills; I’d actively sought out roles that had no people management or responsibility whatsoever. Though in the last few years, I’ve actually come to quite enjoy it. There are, of course, not-so-great sides of it; such as when you’ve got to let go of people, which isn’t fun at all. Though for most of it, recently it has become quite fun for me.

6. How have you developed your skills set?

My recent experience of where I’ve really changed direction in my skills and career, probably happened over the last six to seven years before I joined Axiologik. My biggest learning and my biggest success were two separate things.

My greatest learning was when I set up the cyber security operations practice, before joining Axiologik and ultimately we had to shut it down. Fundamentally, the lessons there were around expectation management with the board, business case progression, being too optimistic, and ultimately it became too expensive for the board’s tastes.

It would have been a success had we had longer to do it, so there’s lots of learnings in there about managing board expectations and optimism vs pessimism to get a thing off the ground. There’s some practical lessons about sales teams too which can be brought on board with new future initiatives. As I mentioned earlier, there are some less fun things that I had to do, such as letting go of a whole division. I had to personally give them their letters which was particularly devastating. It was a rollercoaster, a hell of a ride, I learnt a lot.

On a more successful note, I, together with Manish, a fellow Director at Axiologik, spearheaded the graduate scheme. We refined the training plan, the assessment centres and how we were going to be rolling into the general business population. That was incredibly rewarding to be working with young people and setting up their careers.

7. With this in mind, share a project you’ve worked on where your skills have helped to develop successful results for the client.

I’d like to think I’m making a difference now, but we haven’t yet achieved our outcome, so our outcome won’t really be realised until the pandemic is over. We’ve procured a solution, delivered the first slices of the production system itself, and we’ll be looking to add some significant value to that platform over the next four to five weeks.

Now we are into the new year I think we’ll see some significant changes in the way that testing and tracing works across the estate and the positive impact it will have.

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If you would like to hear more about the team at Axiologik or to book some time to discuss your transformation project with us, please contact Dom.Carter@Axiologik.com or 07789 211111.

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