Bill Peters is Caterham Group's head of IT. His job sees him working across all areas of the business, which currently boasts multiple sports teams including the Caterham F1 Team, as well as its sportscar portfolio.
With a tight budget to work with, Peters must keep the IT department lean and cost effective. Peters spoke to V3 last year about the company's use of Truphone mobile services, and is also a high-profile customer of Dell.
V3: What does a typical day involve?
Peters: Mainly avoiding users at all costs! Seriously, though, I have responsibility for the strategic direction of Caterham's IT and ensuring that this is in line with business requirements.
I have to make sure we have a plan to deliver the strategy and I also oversee the execution and governance of our day-to-day operations. As if this wasn't enough, I also have to keep an eye on any innovations or disruptive technologies on the horizon that might help with our competitiveness.
I do this for all of the companies in our group including the F1 team, the GP2 team, the Moto2 team, the Automotive business and our newly formed bike company, so I think it's fair to say that no day is typical.
What would be your dream job?
I would like to be the CIO for a Formula 1 and sports car company. Oh, I am!
At the risk of sounding really smug I have to pinch myself every day, getting to make technology work in an environment like F1 is something special.
Alternatively, I would like to do something completely unrelated like wildlife photography or antiques restoration.
Which person do you most admire in the IT industry?
From an overall perspective I think Sir Tim Berners-Lee, but on a more personal level I have been fortunate enough to meet Michael Dell on a couple of occasions.
I really have to admire the fact that he not only created one of the most successful IT companies in the world and more recently took back control of said company because he didn't like the direction it was heading in. At heart he is still a geek (I hope I don't get in trouble for saying that publicly), he just exudes enthusiasm for his products.
I was lucky enough to have him personally demonstrate Dell's new infrastructure in a box product – VRTX – and he really knew his stuff, which is amazing given that he is also running a multi-billion dollar business.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
At this moment in time it is Dell's converged infrastructure products and software tools such as KACE and Quest that are really making a difference for us. As a very lean IT organisation these tools are really helping my team spend less time on keeping the lights on and more time on being innovative.
In the larger scheme of things, internet connectivity in all its guises has had the biggest impact, whether it be enabling email, social networking or cloud computing, there are few lives it doesn't touch. It also has it's challenges, but the benefits far outweigh these.
What's been the highlight of your career so far?
In the past I have been with teams when they have won world championships and I have also been involved in the development of world-beating supercars, but the thing that most stands out for me is when we fired up our first Caterham (then Lotus Racing) F1 car in 2010.
It was 10pm on a Saturday night and the whole company had turned out to witness it. There were a lot of seriously experienced F1 old timers and youngsters alike with a genuine tear in their eye that day, me included!
What was your first job?
My degree was in mechanical and electrical engineering, so obviously I came straight out of university and set up my own company providing telecoms and data services to businesses in and around London.
Part of the business evolved into installing and ultimately developing finance and manufacturing systems, which in turn led to me getting involved in the automotive industry and subsequently the Formula 1 business.
What's your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?
There are a couple of things: first, I get a real buzz when I walk around the business and see how practically every single member of staff is touched by the systems my team delivers. It is very satisfying, even if we do not get a great deal of recognition for it, to see some of the fantastic things being achieved on the tools we deliver, it makes the long hours and dedication all worth it.
The other thing is working with the various IT teams I have built over the years. I have been fortunate enough to start a number of IT operations from scratch and bringing in the right people with the right skills and watching them grow as a team is very rewarding. I have been incredibly lucky with the teams I have built in the past and the current team is no exception, they are a great bunch of incredibly hardworking, dedicated and highly skilled individuals. I hope they don't read this as they will all want pay rises now.
What will be the next big innovation of the coming years?
For our industry it's analytics and 3D printing. We are doing more and more development and simulation in the virtual world so it is imperative that we keep abreast of the latest analytics tools to cope with the huge amounts of data we generate.
We already use 3D printing extensively for models and prototyping, but this technology is going mainstream and is starting to hit the consumer market. It is going to be massive.
What was the last book you read and was it any good?
Broken Homes the latest in a series of books by Ben Aaronovitch. Pure escapism.
Who is your favourite band or musician?
This is tricky because there are so many. More recently it is Faithless but I always come back to Pink Floyd in the end.
Where's your favourite place for escape?
Kenya, it is a truly beautiful country. I would like to retire there.
E-readers or real books?
I buy all my new books for e-readers, but I still enjoy real books
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
The Rolling Stones, I went to their farewell concert in 1981, little did I know they would have a farewell tour every other year since!
O Brother, Where Art Thou? is one of many brilliant Coen brothers films. Closely followed by The Blues Brothers and Life of Brian, they're cult classics.
Windows or Mac OS?
Both, I try to be familiar with as many technologies as I have time for.
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