Colleague spotlight: meet Martin King, our Chief Technology Officer
Our Chief Technology Officer, Martin King, is passionate about IT and the impact it can have on delivering value and services that benefit a business. Here, we catch up with Martin to talk about his work at AdviserPlus, as well as the voluntary work he does to promote his passion outside of his day job.
I joined the company on 1st May last year so we were already in the middle of the first COVID lockdown. It’s quite strange because most people I work with, or speak to daily, I’ve never met in person! Colleagues joke about not recognising me without my big white headphones on when we return to the office because I have them on all day on video conference calls, so that’s how they know me!
Tell us a little bit about your background?
My career in IT started through a Technical Support apprenticeship. I never went to University to study IT, and this is something I speak a lot about in my voluntary roles; formal qualifications or higher education aren’t for everyone, there are often alternative career paths into doing something you enjoy. After my apprenticeship, I joined Chester Zoo as a 19-year old contract IT Support Technician, and 14 years later I was still there, heading up their IT team. From there, I joined Moneypenny as their Head of IT, and then The Football Pools as their CTO.
When I joined AdviserPlus, the Business Systems team was at a real key point in product development and infrastructure transformation, which I found incredibly exciting. I could see that the products had incredible potential to deliver digital HR transformation for clients and I felt as though it would be a real challenge to lead a team through that. I wasn’t able to meet all of the team during my interview because I was obviously unable to visit the premises, but the culture and passion for what we do, from everyone within the business, comes through loud and clear on each video call.
What does your job entail and what do you enjoy most about it?
There’s no such thing as a typical day as most of what I do is based around supporting the team to deliver against agreed deliverables. My role also requires rapid prioritisation of tasks that arise, and balancing a mixture of strategic thinking, short-term and long-term, to get things done and ensure that our clients have the very best experience when using our products and services. The most satisfying thing for me is working as part of a team to come up with solutions – someone comes to us with a problem and we pull great minds together to come up with exciting ways to solve them. Technology is key to our business and making sure that communication happens at the right time and with the right people is also key to my role.
What the biggest challenge at the moment, both personally and for the HR industry?
One of the biggest challenges for me personally, is remote working and leading my teams through the challenges that arise. I’ve spent years working in teams, seeing body language and using communication skills effectively, and so managing remotely, making sure that everyone in my team is OK, happy and focussed is really important.
And actually, that is why I’m so passionate about the empower® product we’ve developed at AdviserPlus because it’s been designed to help organisations address the same challenge by giving managers the tools they need to manage their teams effectively while working remotely.
Everything has moved over to more of a self-serve model because people have been forced into by the pandemic. Technology is often a catalyst for change, but people need support and guidance to ensure its successful adoption. We don’t want to remove the human interaction. The technology in empower® is based upon our years of experience in dealing with complex HR processes and so it guides users through processes in an informative and efficient way, but with experienced and knowledgeable teams ready to provide support, advice and guidance when needed.
It’s not about having fewer conversations, it’s about moving the conversations further up the value curve, using sophisticated technology to support more straightforward people management matters and drawing upon knowledgeable people where they can add the most value.
What is your biggest professional accomplishment to date?
I’ve been involved in the British Computer Society (BCS) for the past seven years and have been Chair of the local branch for the last three, so I was really proud to become a Chartered Fellow of the Society a couple of years ago. Within our local branch, we run monthly events for free and have had some fantastic speakers from Microsoft, GCHQ and the like. It’s a great society to be part of. I’m extremely passionate about working in the field of IT, and being involved with the BCS enables me to continually push myself and my team to learn about new technologies and products, and then apply this to everyday business scenarios. I’m more than happy to call myself an IT geek!
If you weren’t working at AdviserPlus, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would have loved to have followed in my father’s footsteps and been a professional footballer. Both my dad and my uncle played for Tranmere Rovers in the (1960s/70s). I just wasn’t good enough and ended up playing hockey instead! I do still enjoy the occasional game of football though.
Tell us an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?
I’ve stroked Larry the cat – Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office at 10 Downing Street! Two years ago, I was really honoured to go there to support the work I do with Cyber Girls First. It’s a small community interest company that works with girls aged 11-14, across the country, to get them interested in STEM topics and encourage them to take up these subjects before they reach the age when they have to choose their two-year GCSE subjects. Females make up 50% of the UK population, but only about 12% of the IT / coding and cyber workforce is comprised of women, so it’s a cause I feel really passionate about – demystifying the idea that only boys can succeed in IT and to point out that CEOs of companies around the country are desperate to recruit women in to their IT departments.