From a Computing GCSE to being Deputy Director

“Life is like a large pond, you are surrounded by lilypads and depending on your capabilities and circumstances you have to pick the next one to step onto.”

When I was younger, growing up in Wigan I was mainly interested in three things: football, computers and radio control cars. At school, I decided to study A Levels in maths, physics and chemistry and then went off to study chemistry at the University of Leeds with no fixed idea of what I wanted to do or where I was going afterwards.

After a period of unemployment, I was lucky enough to get a job as a Research Chemist with Crosfield, a Unilever company at the time. This involved working with Crosfield silica to remove protein from beer, essentially increasing the shelf-life of the product. To me, this was great, I was a beer scientist at the age of 21! I enjoyed the challenge of working on new formulations and eventually discovered a way of improving the shelf-life of beer using 50-70% less material than previous methods. At first, the brewers we worked with did not seem to buy in to the idea so the sales staff invited me out with them to explain the process to our customers. That was my first taste of sales and I really enjoyed it so I started to try to go out with the sales team as much as I could.

My next ‘career leap’ was in to telesales and this turned out to be a terrible idea as it really did not suit the way I liked to work and how I liked to develop customer relationships and insight. From there, I went to work for Dionex in a regional sales role with a remit for selling chromatography columns that separate chemical components. It was this position that helped me to recognise that I was actually quite good at sales and learned an important point:

“people do not just buy kit, they buy answers to the problems they want to solve.”

This led me back to my interest in computing where I taught myself how to use a macro-based scripting process that increased the efficiency of the sales process, helping me to match solutions to customer problems.

After several years in London, I re-located back to the North West and found a job with the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) project managing an e-Science programme that looked at the application of web-based computing technology for solving real-life industrial problems. It was at this point that I decided it would be useful to return to education and studied part-time at Manchester Metropolitan University towards an MBA. It was great to be able to examine problems I encountered at work in an academic context. I focused on methods for lowering the barriers to innovation for industrial engagement which meant that, naturally, my job role changed from project management to industrial liaison where I helped understand the user requirements for a new data catalogue system at the Diamond Light Source.

My MBA also helped me to understand the essential technical elements of my role such as licensing and commercial requirements. These skills were utilised heavily during my next position as a Business Development Manager, where I worked to develop strategic industry partnerships for computational modelling research.

Four years ago, I joined the newly established STFC Hartree Centre as Head of Business Development with responsibility for a team that encouraged collaboration between industrial and research partners to extract value from big data, HPC and cognitive technologies for societal and economic benefits.

For me the best thing about the Hartree Centre is working with clients to understand how to integrate technology in to their organisations, ensuring that it works in the best way for them.

Clearly they thought I was doing something right because 18 months ago I was promoted to the Hartree Centre’s Deputy Director, which means I am more involved in strategic decision-making, stakeholder and project management and still get to dabble in some of the business development projects and partnerships I cultivated in the early days. It’s been a real pleasure to watch the centre grow from a small team of people in its infancy to a 50-strong department that has become one of the jewels in both STFC’s crown and a key asset to the Sci-Tech Daresbury campus and the North West. My experience as a deputy director has also provided me with exciting new challenges and opportunities for development in a rewarding position at the very forefront of digital transformation.

My advice to anyone would be to make the most of the opportunities available to you, recognise what you enjoy and what you’re good at and never stop learning or challenging yourself throughout your career.

Good luck!

Michael Gleaves
Deputy Director, STFC Hartree Centre

 

Michael was invited to participate in a panel discussion on academic career development at the Business of Science Conference which was held in Manchester on 18 May 2017. Other panellists included:

Bringing big data to life | TechUK’s Big Data in Action Roadshow comes to Manchester

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-information-exchange-image9317559
http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-information-exchange-image9317559

Last week, the Hartree Centre sponsored TechUK’s Big Data in Action Roadshow in Manchester, held as part of a series of events across the UK to demonstrate the tools and technologies available for businesses to use, explore and get value from their data. Read on to find out how the day unfolded. Continue reading “Bringing big data to life | TechUK’s Big Data in Action Roadshow comes to Manchester”

Creating a cognitive eco-system – day one of the Hartree Hack

Twitter Learn create compete

This week sees the Hartree Centre run its first hackathon event at Daresbury. A three day event which brings together developers, designers and companies from a range of sectors all with the aim of creating the next big thing in web or mobile-based applications using IBM Watson APIs.

Duncan Sime introducing the Hartree Centre at the Hartree Hack
Duncan Sime introducing the Hartree Centre at the Hartree Hack

I’m a football fan. A Manchester United supporter for 40 odd years. The football was so poor last night (although we did win 3-1, I prefer a match that lifts you out of your seat), that I ended up having the “what are you doing tomorrow?” conversation with my significant other mid-way through the first half of the match.  Continue reading “Creating a cognitive eco-system – day one of the Hartree Hack”

Creating the UK’s first cognitive hospital at Alder Hey

Last week we announced our ground-breaking, multi-year collaborative research programme with Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust to create the UK’s first cognitive hospital.

Iain Hennessey. Credit: Alder Hey
Iain Hennessey. Credit: Alder Hey

Iain Hennessey is Alder Hey’s Clinical Director for Innovation and balances his role as a part time paediatric surgeon with the desire to constantly push the boundaries of what’s possible.

In this Hartree Insights – the blog, Iain talks about what the cognitive hospital project hopes to achieve using the power of IBM Watson technology.

Meet the man responsible for creating the hospital of the future. Continue reading “Creating the UK’s first cognitive hospital at Alder Hey”

7 reasons to attend the Hartree Hackathon on IBM Watson (18-20 May)

Twitter Learn create compete

Cognitive technologies are transforming how we understand, learn and make use of big data.

From the 18-20 May 2016, we’re holding our first Hartree hackathon event, with our partners at IBM Watson. Continue reading “7 reasons to attend the Hartree Hackathon on IBM Watson (18-20 May)”

Introducing the Hartree Centre Chemistry and Materials Programme

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-brain-interface-blue-binary-code-digitally-generated-image42555041
http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-brain-interface-blue-binary-code-digitally-generated-image42555041

In civil and mechanical engineering, the design process is done almost entirely by computer (think about the way bridges are designed). A long-held goal in radical chemical and materials product design is to shift from an ad-hoc, labour intensive and expensive process towards a more robust and adaptive computer aided paradigm.

Continue reading “Introducing the Hartree Centre Chemistry and Materials Programme”

Not just ‘big’ – bringing big data into line

What’s in a name? When it comes to taming big data, it’s easy to just see the challenge as being one of scale – just as the name implies. But as a non-specialist working in this area, I quickly discovered that it’s more complicated than that. And I’d like to use this post to explain why that’s the case.

Continue reading “Not just ‘big’ – bringing big data into line”

Why big data and cognitive computing are perfect partners

Welcome to our new Hartree Centre blog.

Our first few posts aim to shine a light on what’s happening here at Hartree and how this relates both to wider trends in cutting-edge computing and to the key challenges and opportunities facing UK industry today. It’s a chance for us to get to know each other a little better… so please do let us know what you think and what you’d like to hear from us about.

Let’s begin. If you’re fairly new to the world of big data, high performance computing and cognitive technologies then we hope that this is the place to start. So where better to kick off than with that ‘fashionable’ concept of big data… Continue reading “Why big data and cognitive computing are perfect partners”