Simon Fishley, IT director at Luno, has always loved technology but “fell into IT by accident”.
“I did an undergraduate degree in law and psychology and then had the chance to start a computer company in 1999, and I’ve never looked back,” he said.
“Over the course of my career, I’ve done pretty much every IT job or task you can imagine, and these days I spend most of my time leading a team of people who are much smarter than me, delivering IT services and support to Luno.”
TechCentral asked Fishley a few questions as part of its IT Leadership Series.
What does your company do?
Luno is a crypto investment app that allows you to buy, store and explore crypto securely. We’re committed to putting the power of cryptocurrency in everyone’s hands sensibly and responsibly. Since 2013, we’ve helped millions of people around the world invest safely in crypto.
What do you see as the IT leader’s top priorities in 2024?
I expect the focus on cybersecurity to continue to dominate C-suite conversations into 2024 and beyond. Coupled with that, remote work will probably face more challenges as some companies double down on bringing staff back to the office, while others accept it is here to stay. Flexible remote working will become a major selling point to attract talent. IT execs will need to focus on “zero trust” tools and services to secure their remote workforces.
AI hype will likely settle down as some dominant players and technologies consolidate their positions in the market. Mergers and acquisitions of AI tech companies will probably accelerate as companies look to gain an advantage over their competitors.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
There are so many inspirational business leaders to choose from but someone I really admire is Matthew Prince, founder and CEO of Cloudflare. I admire the business he has built over the last 20 years and his dedication to seeing it succeed. But mostly I admire his approach to leadership and management. He believes in being very transparent with his staff and his customers, and he is not a fan of hierarchy or titles, preferring people to be measured by performance.
How do you attract and retain talent?
Luno has a reputation as a great place to work (very true) and we like to emphasise this when we interview potential new hires. We try to make interviews enjoyable, too. We want to know what the candidate is like as a person, and how they might fit into our multicultural and multinational team. We have a fairly sophisticated tech stack but we don’t set out to hire someone who has worked with all of our tools – we can teach that. Rather, we set out to find people who are obsessed with doing a great job, having fun doing it and always pushing the boundaries of what great IT service looks like.
I firmly believe in creating an environment where everyone on my team feels like they belong there and play a part in our success. With a strong sense of belonging and purpose, retention largely takes care of itself. One of my team members recently said to me that in the three-plus years they have worked in the team, never once have they woken up and dreaded going to work or struggled to get motivated for the day. That is someone who is going to think twice before looking for another job.
If you could go back and give your 18-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Simple: “Buy more Bitcoin.”.
But more practically, take more risks when you are young. Being in my late 40s now, the idea of embarking on something new is daunting because of my commitments and responsibilities now: what could go wrong and what I could stand to lose? But when I was 23, I owned a car and a computer and not much else, and the consequences of trying and failing were fewer (and much easier to recover from). But the upside of trying and succeeding was so much greater.
What’s your favourite productivity hack?
I am a firm believer in eliminating distractions when I am doing deep work. Stolen Focus, by Johan Hari, was instrumental in allowing me to review my digital hygiene and recognise what it was that was making it difficult for me to be truly productive.
I also actively avoid having too many meetings. I don’t believe they add value in most cases, and often find a Slack chat or two-minute Huddle will suffice. I will reject a meeting invitation that does not have a defined agenda, desired outcomes and identified responsible decision maker for the meeting.
What occupation (other than your own) would you like to try?
I’ve always loved woodwork. My grandfather was an accomplished woodworker and I took it at school until I was told I had to do electronics because I was in the “A” class. I’ve always admired people who can craft things out of this most beautiful of materials and I enjoy working with my hands and doing things that have a visible impact. So much of my work is virtual and often does not manifest in physical form.
Where do you see the technology industry in the next three to five years?
While not an existential threat to the traditional IT role, I do think our industry is going to see a rapid rate of change in how IT services are delivered to the end user. With conversational AI and chatbot functionality becoming commoditised, along with more and smarter automation and orchestration, a lot of first-line support work is going to be handled without human intervention.
This poses a training challenge for IT leaders in that this type of support is often where new entrants into the IT industry cut their teeth and gain experience before moving into more senior roles and specialising.
What is one book you’d recommend to our audience and why?
The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman. MBAs are often used as filters for hiring but are unapproachable to so many due to the exorbitant cost of completing one. This book distils so many of the things that you would learn.
- Read more articles in TechCentral’s IT Leadership Series