Steve Watt is chief information officer at the University of St Andrews, where he is responsible for IT Services and the department's 75 staff. He is also a member of the university's Senior Management Team.
In his 19 years in the IT sector, Watt has worked primarily in the Higher Education sector in a variety of roles including network analyst and IT manager. He also worked in the private sector for manufacturing firm Low & Bonar in both Europe and North America, where he was responsible for the co-ordination and delivery of corporate IT provision at around 52 locations, and has worked as a consultant across a range of industries.
Watt is a European Engineer, Chartered Engineer, Chartered IT Professional and a Fellow of the British Computer Society (BCS).
Watt's V3 Hot Seat follows those from Ocado director of technology Paul Clarke, Netflix chief cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft and General Electric global technology director William Ruh.
V3: What does your typical day involve?
Watt: I think working in IT in any senior role there is no such thing as a typical day. However common to most are lots of meetings, lots of emails, lots of phone calls, lots of coffee – and as often as I can a lunchtime walk along the pier by the East Sands in St Andrews. You can’t beat it. I’m very lucky to work in such a beautiful town, full of history, in an organisation that celebrates its 600th anniversary this year.
What would be your dream job?
I’m really passionate about raising the aspirations of others to achieve and reach their potential. I think being able to teach young people about the industry I love would be hugely rewarding and something I’d love to do.
Which mobile phone and tablet do you currently use?
I use a Blackberry Torch 9800 and an iPad 3. I am currently considering moving to a Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone as the screen size would make the device more useful for me and the functionality looks great. I’m constantly reading reviews of devices.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
Definitely the smartphone. I don’t know how I managed without one. However I would also say the network, as the internet has truly changed the way we work and our ability to interact.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Becoming a chief information officer has definitely been the highlight of my career to date. Having moved through a number of progressively more senior IT posts, it was a massive sense of achievement to become a CIO. The breadth of the role ensures that no two days are the same and it does allow me to meet some amazing people.
What was your first job?
I worked for the University of Abertay, Dundee, as a network and desktop support analyst. Much of the initial focus of the role was moving the organisation from a VMS-based mainframe to a client server environment. Also as this was the early days of the internet I spent a lot of time rolling out TCP/IP to desktop clients and showing people how powerful the early Netscape web browser was.
What’s your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?
I really like the fast pace of change. As I mentioned earlier, every day is different and you constantly need to reskill if you are going to keep up with the latest technologies. It’s probably one of the most dynamic areas to work in and the impact IT now has on everyday life has immeasurably changed society. I spend a lot of my own time reading and researching.
What will be the next big innovation of the coming years?
The next big innovation is likely to be the further integration of all the devices we currently use in our everyday lives so they can all communicate with each other. The idea of smart cities and smart homes really appeals to me as the associated social benefits could be significant, especially when you look at areas such as telehealth and telemedicine.
What keeps you awake at night?
The very nature of the job and the multitude of ongoing activities does often make it difficult to have a full night sleep. Some of the current challenges I have include data management and security along with some very large change projects, which always have their challenges.
What was the last book you read and was it any good?
It was a book about penguins. It’s called Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter and Holger Rathgeber. This book is a fable about responding to change in an ever-changing world. I am responsible for change management at the University. I gave a copy to the members of a change management group I’ve established, who all really enjoyed it.
Where’s your favourite place for escape?
I’ve been lucky enough to have travelled fairly extensively both through work and holidays. However, having seen a lot of what the world has to offer I still love spending any free time I have in the Scottish countryside. My favourite places are the Angus Glens or the areas around Loch Lomond.
E-readers or real books?
I have a Kindle HD and really enjoy using this, primarily as I can get content quickly, however I still really like real books. I’ve a full bookcase in my office and several full bookcases at home.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
It has to be the Beatles. Their story is amazing, especially when you consider their beginnings.
Dead Poets Society. This film is about inspiring the young, in this case through poetry. I’m absolutely passionate about inspiring the younger generation to believe in themselves and really make a difference. This film for me highlights some very good characteristics of leadership and I’ve watched it many times.
Windows or Mac OS?
I’ve used both, however I still always resort back to a Windows device as it’s familiar and I can do what I want to do without thinking.
If you want to volunteer for V3's Hot Seat, or want to suggest an IT leader you think should take part, please email Alastair Stevenson for more details.
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