Paul Clarke is the director of technology for online shopping site Ocado.
As an online-only retailer the firm has a large technology base of some 340 workers, of which around half are based in its central offices, overseen by Clarke. The firm also develops much of its own code in-house and has its own datacentres.
Clarke graduated with a degree in physics from Oxford, and was one of the founders of a firm called Torus Systems, which helped contribute for some IBM systems.
Clarke’s Hot Seat is the latest from V3, following on from a host of leading industry figures ranging from government chief operating officer Stephen Kelly to Hotels.com chief technology officer Stuart Silberg.
V3: What does your day to day role involve?
Clarke: As director of technology at Ocado, I am responsible for both the day-to-day management of Ocado technology and for driving its future evolution.
This is a division with currently over 340 developers and IT specialists, that is set to grow to over 450 during the coming year and which has many challenging development projects on the boil. Managing this growth and staying in touch with our key technical initiatives means that I inevitably spend most of my time in meetings.
What would be your dream job (apart from your current role, of course)?
I would love to be a successful full-time inventor.
Which mobile phone and tablet do you currently use?
I have recently switched to a Galaxy Note II as my work mobile, which is fantastic, and of course I have a trusty iPad.
Which person do you most admire in the IT industry?
I think it would have to be Sergey [Brin] and Larry [Page] because of the impact Google has had on almost every part of our lives, and the level of technical vision and daring they demonstrate.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
The cloud in all its various guises. This is because it blurs the boundaries between work, home and being on the move.
What's been the highlight of your career so far?
I certainly love my current role, but I do have a special affection for the Cambridge startup Torus Systems, of which I was one of the founders. On the back of the launch of the IBM PC and inspired by the Apple Lisa, we developed a WIMP style forerunner to Windows that became the network operating system for IBM's Token Passing Ring. Hundreds of thousands of lines of hand-written assembler code - those were the days.
What was your first job?
After studying physics at Oxford, I joined a computer consultancy called Scicon in 1980 that was a wholly owned subsidiary of BP and which spawned many other such consultancies during the 1980s. There I worked on a number of mathematical simulation and military projects before leaving to set up Torus Systems.
What's your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?
For me it's the creativity, the people, the pace, the rate of change, the sense of the possible, the thrill of seeing a piece of code run for the first time.
What will be the next big innovation of the coming years?
If we can sort out the open standards and frameworks, then I am very excited about the opportunities around areas such as machine to machine communication, the internet of things and wearable computing.
What was the last book you read and was it any good?
Finding time for reading is a challenge but I'm currently reading Switch: How to change things when change is hard, which is very thought provoking.
Who is your favourite band or musician?
I would have to say Genesis, especially when skiing or driving fast along country roads.
Where's your favourite holiday destination?
When the sun is shining it's very hard to beat Hope Cove in Devon, but when I get a chance to go my passion is definitely skiing.
Ereaders or real books?
For me it's probably ereaders but I don't hold strong views on it - it's horses for courses.
Twitter, Facebook or Google+?
At Ocado we use Google+ for hangouts, for internal communication and for building communities. In terms of personal use, I'm not a fan of social media.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Definitely The Beatles!
Probably the frustrated inventor in me would say The Dam Busters but otherwise The Blues Brothers. I also have a real soft spot for vampire and zombie movies.
On-premise or cloud?
The breadth and depth of technology at Ocado is very unusual, especially since we develop almost all of it in-house. We run our own datacentres and the low latency real-time nature of many of our systems means those will probably be on-premise for the foreseeable future. However for things like big data storage, elastic compute, Hadoop arrays and international expansion, we are increasingly looking to the cloud.
What's holding back women from entering the IT profession?
This is a subject I feel very passionately about. Obviously there are many factors but I think the lack of imagination regarding the way ICT is taught in most schools has a lot to do with this, which is why Ocado is supporting the Computing At School initiative in its drive to replace the teaching of ICT with computer science. Making the subject accessible and engaging to boys and girls is a key outcome of this.
How can we get more school children interested in IT careers?
I completely agree with Eric Schmidt that we need to be teaching our kids to programme so that they can write applications rather than just being taught how to use them. In my view, programming is an invaluable "meta skill" that unlocks so many doors and is likely to be useful, even if they don't enter the IT industry.
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