Gordon Cullum - Technology Director
Gordon, can you describe your role at Axiologik?
By trade, I’m an enterprise architect and CTO, but within Axiologik I’m the Technology Director, so I’m accountable for building out the services that compliment our delivery management capabilities, including technology design, implementation and engineering. Day-to-day I also run the UK Health Security Agency account, overseeing the Test and Trace engagement for which we provide architecture, delivery and product management services.
What is your favourite part of your role as Technology Director?
My favourite part of the role is the opportunity to be creative – whether that’s making something using a new technology, or using existing technology in a new way to solve a problem. I think my hands-on architecture experience gives me a unique leadership perspective because I understand the challenges the team are up against.
What projects are you currently engaged with?
I’m currently leading the UK Health Security Agency engagement, which began back in September 2020. Originally, I was brought into the leadership team of the strategic trace programme as an individual consultant, but in October 2021 Axiologik were asked to take ownership of the entire portfolio of products and services that make up trace operations.
The original trace programme was a network of solutions that had come together fairly organically in order to get us through the first summer of the pandemic, but by September 2020, NHS Digital were looking to streamline these solutions into a singular, comprehensive programme.
As a result of being built as a real-time pandemic response, my colleagues and I inherited quite a lot of ‘organic mess’ which took some time to unravel. In deconstructing the existing setup, we were able to create a network of platform components that would form the ‘blueprint’ for how to approach building population-scale critical digital services later down the line – including containment and the integration with the testing and vaccination infrastructures.
What is your favourite project to date and why?
One that immediately comes to mind is working on “The Spine'' back in the mid 2000’s. Myself, Ben, Rob and Adrian (the Axiologik founders) were all part of the team responsible for the original incarnation of things like the Summary Care Record, electronic prescriptions and other digital healthcare services which we all take for granted now. Knowing that the work has touched so many lives is a big part of why I’m so proud of it.
Another favourite that comes to mind is working on the London Eye. We were building computer systems and software from scratch so that everything from the tills, to the website, to the access controls being used by the ticket scanners could be held in one single system. I’m not sure if it’s the case anymore, but at the time the wheel only stopped once per year for maintenance, which was our only opportunity to go into County Hall and start ripping out terminals – which thankfully, was a success!
"I like getting my teeth into a strange-shaped problem and finding a design solution."
Gordon Cullum - Technology Director
Can you describe what your dream project / client looks like?
Ultimately, the dream project is something that’s big enough to be really complex, and interesting enough that it allows us to be creative with our solution. That usually means some kind of big data problem.
Something I’d like to have a go at improving would be traffic management. Imagine if Google Maps didn’t just automatically select the next exit in order to avoid an accident ahead, but instead calculated the number of cars on the road, how many would be taking the same diversion, and fed this back into the traffic light control system to reconfigure priorities? Then imagine connecting that to the public transport network, so that you knew where the balance of flows is across the entire system and everyone got to their respective destinations with some kind of predictability. It would be game-changing for the entire population.
If you weren’t doing your current role, what would you be doing?
When I was younger I had aspirations to become a Park Ranger – looking after some land and living in a log cabin with a border collie for company. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that it’s probably considerably harder than I’d imagined!
I really like building things, so if I was going to move careers it would almost definitely have some kind of building element. Looking at some of my personal projects from over the years, I built a home automation unit that allows me to open my garage door and driveway gate using voice control, which always seems to be a hit when people visit. Perhaps that might be something I could commercialise, although I’m not sure I’d ever make any money!
What’s your favourite thing to do on a day off?
Probably doing some DIY! Whether that’s taking something apart and putting it back together, or building something brand new. At the moment, I’m waiting for a load of wood to arrive so I can build myself a custom desk at home, and after that I’ll be completely rebuilding my kitchen, too.
You’re stranded on a desert island, what three items can’t you live without?
I’m tempted to say my phone. It’s your personal computer in your pocket isn't it? In one item you’ve got a combination of entertainment, contact, and connection to the world.
But instead, I’ll take some kind of power tool so that I can build things on the island – perhaps a drill might be the best option? Assuming I have power of course… so item two should probably be a generator, and the third item would be a box of screws so that I can build myself a nice shelter!