Mark Burton: New Chief Technology Officer
We are pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Burton. Mark joins the team as Chief Technology Officer to lead NorthRow's technical strategy, design and architecture. Mark has a wealth of experience of working with and leading software development teams globally. To get to know Mark a little better, I sat down with him to ask questions on the challenges of software development, what he will bring to the team that clients will love and what the future holds at NorthRow. Here’s what he had to say.
Where have you worked previously and in what capacity?
Let’s start at the beginning. My career kicked off with the NEC Corporation, a large international Japanese information technology and electronics firm. I worked for the UK GSM Research and Development Centre, working on ‘mobile terminals’ or what most people call nowadays; ‘Mobile Phones’.
Initially starting as a junior engineer in the digital signal processing software team I progressed through the ranks during the 10 years I spent with the company. As my skills and experience developed, I progressed to managing multiple teams of developers which was something I found I really enjoyed.
Working closely with the Japanese side of the business, from our base in Reading, we released some very exciting software for handsets, which ultimately led to the first 3G phones, and the first dual mode phones, which were both GSM and 3G enabled.
I then moved to a smaller Finnish company called GeoSentric in the role of Director of Software. At the time, phone “apps” were just beginning to take off and the company was building out a social networking platform called GyPSii which we launched as early iPhone, Android, Symbian and BlackBerry phone applications and we scaled to 1M users.
I still remember the first iPhone that came into the office for the developers to use, it was like nothing that had gone before it and everybody was fighting to get a chance to play with it first. The first iPhone product disrupted the whole industry and some of the big device manufacturers like Nokia and Blackberry never managed to catch up and compete, the rest as they say, is now history.
What was your previous role?
I worked previously for the well known UK company Yell who provide digital marketing products to SMEs. Most people associate Yell with the iconic Yellow Pages books, but many people don’t realise that this business underwent a huge digital transformation over the past 10 years which saw the company change its products and business models from being based on old paper directories, through to being fully digital and online. That’s quite an achievement for any business!
I spent the first part of my tenure in the role of Head of Mobile Technology running app development teams. We created some innovative phone apps, some for consumers and some to support Yell’s sales force in collecting data about customers. Over that time the phone platforms consolidated leaving the two main platforms we have today in the market, namely iOS and Android.
During the second half of my tenure I moved to the role of Head of Software Engineering where I ran web development teams that worked on Yell’s digital products and customer portals, especially the high traffic Yell.com site. We created many modern digital customer applications and experiences. During this time one of the most exciting projects I worked on was a technology transformation, moving Yell’s systems to the cloud which will complete Yell’s internal transformation to a modern digital tech company.
What made you choose Software Engineering as a career?
I first saw a ZX80 computer when at primary school. At the time it was totally revolutionary. I was completely fascinated by this small device, what it could do and how it could be programmed for a limitless number of tasks.
Being lucky enough to have grown up alongside the evolution of digital technology, from early personal computing to the current day, where technology can turn on your oven remotely and speed up previously laborious tasks is a privilege. Knowing that there is still so much that can be delivered to improve customer experiences, productivity and now fraud is a real motivator.
What will you bring to NorthRow?
I hope to bring a strong team oriented engineering ethos. For me, having a shared and positive ethos is very important in any engineering team as this is a key part of a tech company’s culture. It’s important to shape the workday experience of each employee and maintain their engagement and motivation to deliver against the company goals. Each member of the team needs to find challenge and enjoyment in equal measure in their daily work and be given regular opportunities to grow on both a personal and professional level. This is particularly important when being part of a fast growing company such as NorthRow who place product innovation through software technologies high on the agenda.
What technology companies do you admire?
The companies I most admire? There are three that stand out head-and-shoulders above the others: Amazon, Apple and Google. They relentlessly innovate to improve products and customer experience and they are not afraid to take risks with innovation.
For me, Google and Amazon’s Quantum computing initiatives are very interesting indeed, especially as I have a background in physics. Google claimed recently that their quantum computer had achieved “quantum supremacy” for the first time, surpassing the performance of conventional devices. The technology giant’s ‘Sycamore quantum’ processor was able to perform a specific task in 200 seconds that would take the world’s best supercomputer 10,000 years to complete.
How will quantum computing affect compliance?
Quantum computers will be able to compute solutions to very complex problems that today’s technology can’t. When it comes to everyday algorithms, security and compliance controls, quantum computers will be able to brute force break encryption codes and could completely turn these industries on their head.
We are likely to see a new generation of security and compliance technology emerging once there is greater adoption of quantum computing and data encryption will need new and improved technologies to resist future quantum attacks.
Although Quantum computing seems far-off, it isn’t really. In 2016, IBM added a small quantum computer to the cloud, followed soon after by other cloud vendors. This early democratisation of quantum computing is allowing many companies to start investigating how they can use this kind of technology for their advantage. Its going to be awhile before we start to see this becoming a ubiquitous technology however.
What made you want to join the NorthRow team and what are you most looking forward to in your role?
Being part of such a forward thinking company with a high growth opportunity is extremely exciting. But for me as a software engineer, the opportunity to work on scaling both the technology and team as we grow will provide great reward.
Something interesting we should know about you?
Not sure you need to know this but I used to live in Melbourne, Australia for a while when working for NEC. It was a great place to work and managed to fit in a great deal of sightseeing and other outdoor activities during that time.
Random fact – while travelling by plane from Melbourne to Sydney I sat near the iconic Australian neighbour’s character ‘Toadie’ from Neighbours (actors name Ryan Moloney).