Having played a role in numerous high-profile IT initiatives including the creation of Europe's first on-demand digital video platform and BBC Worldwide's digital distribution strategy, Macmillan Science and Education director of technology, ventures David McNally can justifiably be described as a highly experienced player in the technology industry.
Since taking hold of the IT reins at Macmillan Science and Education, McNally has spearheaded the creation and implementation of several new and innovative digital projects, including the publisher's "Campus Digital" initiative.
McNally is one of several IT leaders to sit in the V3 Hot Seat, following on from Glyndebourne Opera House head of IT Richard Wells and London South Bank University CIO David Swayne.
V3: What part of your current job do you enjoy the most?
McNally: Knowing that what we do changes people's lives; whether that's designing great education products that improve student outcomes, or simply using technology to change how something is done.
I've recently been working with the CEO of Maths Doctor, an online maths tutoring company owned by Macmillan. I've been developing the product roadmap to ensure the focus is on effective outcomes for students. It's rare that in this industry you really feel like you're making a difference.
What would be your dream job?
I'd love to build a truly global adaptive learning platform that transforms K12 and higher education. Macmillan has many of the necessary components in companies like Sapling Learning and Prep-U, but there's still a lot of work to be done.
Outside of technology though, my real passion is playing the piano. I'd love be good enough to play in a piano bar professionally.
Which mobile phone and tablet do you use?
I'm an Apple man so I have an iMac, Macbook Air, iPhone and iPad.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
Last year we carried out a major restructure by introducing Campus Digital, a social platform based on Jive.
The platform allows staff to create profile pages, list their areas of expertise, write blogs, comment on other employees' blogs, and acts as a central repository for key company documents.
It has totally transformed the way we communicate. In large companies, corporate knowledge is often locked up in emails and exchange servers - Jive allows people to discover information regardless of where they're physically located within the company.
What's been the highlight of your career so far?
In 1999 I joined venture capital firm Ant Factory as CTO. The network of exceptional people I met there has been a terrific help in my career since.
While at Ant Factory we sold Acequote for a nine times multiple, just five weeks after making our investment. This deal created the last dotcom millionaires in the UK. It was a very exciting time.
What keeps you awake at night?
The risk of missed opportunities. We're right in the middle of a revolution in education and we need to seize the opportunity or miss it.
I often question whether we're going far enough in the context of what's going on in the industry. For example, are we doing enough in adaptive learning?
I also know that we need to push even harder to use data to optimise the learning outcomes of our students. It's key for us.
What was the last book you read and was it any good?
The Principles of piano practice, by Chang. A free online book that has been absolutely transformational and accelerated my learning by five to 10 times.
Who is your favourite band or musician?
Runrig - a Scottish folk rock band that separated a few years ago. Their music is very high energy and uplifting.
Where's your favourite holiday destination or place for escape?
Spain. My partner and I try and get out there every few years. Sun, great food and wine, and relaxation. What more can you want?
E-readers or real books?
I do have a Kindle and of course my iPad but I still read ‘real books'. For me, it's about convenience - I read books at home but use my iPad or kindle when travelling.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Beatles. It's amazing what you can do with a few simple chords.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Peter Jackson did a brilliant job of bringing Middle Earth to life.
Did you always grow up wanting to work in IT?
No. I wanted to be a nuclear physicist but computer science came more naturally to me.
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