Scott Findlater - CIO - Anord Mardix

Mathew Mallet

Chief Digital Information Officer

UK Space Agency

Mathew Mallet – CIO Interview Series

Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself

I am the Chief Digital Information Officer at the UK Space Agency, as well as the Chief Operating Officer & Non-Executive Director at Cancer Central, plus Board Advisor to a few start-ups. I live in Silverstone, Northampton shire with my two beautiful daughters just around the corner from the racetrack and for those Formula F1 fans, yes it gets busy with typically 200,000 people in attendance, but it’s the classic car weekends and motorbikes that are the noisiest.

What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?

Eclectic springs to mind. I knew leaving college 30 years ago that ‘computers’ were the future and while working in banking, I applied for any job that appeared in that discipline (usually one or two a month). When achieved, I soon realized if I wanted to move up through management, but it didn’t matter how many extra hours I put in or how hard I worked, opportunities were limited because I did not have a university degree. I decided the route was to keep moving companies.

This means I’ve now worked across multiple sectors and done most technology roles; from operations, to constructing & managing mid-range and mainframes, to building secure telecoms and data networks, delivering desktop roll outs, oh and some coding too.

I feel fortunate to have spent roughly 15 years working for some of the most recognized brand names in the world, leveraging the latest technologies and making billions for shareholders, but I wasn’t satisfied. I knew something was missing. An unexpected call from a recruiter called Steve, said, “have you heard of Government Digital Services and have you considered working in the Public Sector?” Steve started me down a path I never expected, with opportunities to work with likeminded individuals and support the ethos of greater good. This has been a far greater reward.

Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?

No, I never thought it would be possible but like any child, I did once want to be an astronaut. However, I didn’t come from the right background. CxO lofty positions were for upper middle-class kids who could afford to go to university, had connections, and already had their opportunities mapped out.

Being driven, always learning and a willingness to fail, get up and try again, have been my fundamental drivers. I take every opportunity to challenge the status quo and create better chances for diversity with those around me, so together we can help boost the wider UK economy.

We are truly in the digital age, and this has created more opportunities, across the spectrum than even my younger self could have imagined.

Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?

My parents in particular my father, I watched how hard he worked to give my mother and I everything he never had. In the early stages in my career, I found mentors within the organizations I worked for who would help me. I now know how valuable and crucial this is and I openly offer mentoring to those working around me.

How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?

Rapid growth of digital and data utilization, cyber security, data protection and the rise of environmental, social and governance (ESG) will ensure the presence of a technologist in every board room to define a strategy and help guide and advise their peers.
Looking forward to 5-10 years becoming an integral part of the board they will ultimately become the likely successor to the CEO of many businesses.

What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?

First and foremost, adaptable, and approachable, no two days will be the same, expect the unexpected, and be ready to face the unknown, be indomitable.

Pay attention to your EQ and be an excellent listener, always ask, never assume, that they or you know the full answer.

Be passionate. Enjoy your work or the greater goal your work achieves.

Empathy: If you learn to walk in their shoes and understand the challenges, not only does it build trust and a common bond. It enables you to see the bigger picture and create situations where everyone benefits.

How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?

I love the digital age. Access to information has never been easier, I connect with peers through social and digital channels, work worldwide through video conferencing and attend in person events, to understand wider social and business challenges. I listen to podcasts and Ted talks whilst out walking, undertaking personal development and the flexibility of learning new skills at a time that suits me.

But most importantly I listen and attempt to always stay objective and true to my values; integrity, honesty and being ethical.

What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?

Wow tough question.

Opportunities in Space are still quite new, and I believe we are on the verge of a whole new economy that by 2050 will cover every industry that exists on Earth. From garbage disposal, removing dead satellites and space debris, through to in space construction, mining and farming.

If I had to pick one area, as a technologist, then the increased use of 3D printers I believe will have the biggest impact. The largest 3D printer is already being used to build the main fuselage of a space rocket. I believe the creation of small satellites, via 3D Printers will become common and ability for future astronauts to build and replace parts in space will become the new norm.

If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?

Understand your role is not all about technology, it is about people. Yes leveraging technology to transform your organization is part of your role, however, digital transformation is not taking existing paper based processes and making them electronic. That’s all we have really seen during the pandemic.

Your role is promoting an outcome focused approach and a culture focused on innovation where all staff are allowed to make mistakes, learn, adapt, evolve. Fostering growth, ultimately promoting business wider transformation and an evolving target operating model based on OKR’s rather than KPI’s. This is the way we have always done it, is a phrase best left in the past.

Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?

I feel very fortunate to have been in situations that I now realize most will never get the chance to experience. Recognition is important to me however many of my achievements cannot be made public. This makes my dream of one day receiving a Queens Honor rather difficult, so I continue to strive to positively shape and impact as many lives for the better. Leaving a lasting positive legacy is my ultimate goal.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

That we all treat this world and the people in it with more respect and the equality that we all deserve, no matter race, creed, class, or religion. To only consume what we need and put back more than we take and to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves, fairly.

A big thank you to Mathew Mallet from UK Space Agency for sharing his journey to date.

https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/uk-space-agency

 

If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.

 

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