I’ve worked with Scimcon as a Project Lead for around seven years now, but have worked alongside the team there for much longer throughout my career. My role involves a lot of problem solving for customers, bringing the ability to look at complex informatics projects in the early stages and plan where we want to be in the future. Working with Scimcon allows me to get the most out of my practical-minded approach to various informatics projects. There’s a diplomatic element to the role as well, making sure that customer expectations are met and providing business-to-technology translation for our customers. As someone who has worked on both the lab side, the vendor side and now in consultancy, I have experienced the entire project process from planning through to execution.
During my time with the company, I’ve learnt that it is vital to look at the wider picture when delivering informatics consultancy and project leadership for clients. It is not solely about the technology, but the process and the change that we are trying to implement. After working with a variety of laboratory software companies, I’ve learnt the value of change management and giving clear guidance to customers. Overall, I am very fulfilled with my role and feel that each day is varied which keeps things exciting.
I originally did a degree in biochemistry, which led me on to the start of my career working in a pathology lab in the West Midlands for around 5 years. In my mid-twenties, I moved on to a pathology software company and the realm of technology. Throughout my career, I have worked in a variety of IT and lab-oriented roles. For example, I spent 15 years at LabVantage initially as a business analyst, moving upwards to become a Project Manager and then in charge of professional services for the European region. This was what introduced me to Scimcon, as they delivered some consultancy work for a mutual customer at the time. I worked closely with Geoff Parker and David Sanders, on a variety of implementation projects.
One of our biggest projects when I worked for the vendor, and Scimcon was also involved (before I was working directly with them) with a top 5 pharma company, which took several years to complete. There was a huge workforce, with regular site visits taking place most weeks. Scimcon also had 3-4 employees working on the project, along with Co-Founder Trevor De Silva. As a Project Lead, Scimcon strategised with me (as the LIMS vendor) to create a solid project plan. They helped to bridge the gap. Next, we worked for a testing and inspection company in Belgium, and Scimcon contributed in a similar way as before. They acted as an intermediary between vendor and customer, to measure the scale and requirements of the project, which is exactly what I find myself doing now.
During my time working for a vendor prior to Scimcon, I found myself increasingly pulled to the HR side, and was eager to get back into the science and back at the coal face on scientific technology systems. While my work with Scimcon is still very people-focussed, it’s allowed me to balance both my communication skills with my love of science.
The variety of projects we get at Scimcon has kept things interesting. I’ve completed five projects in the last seven years, all of different lengths and requirements, and worked in a variety of new areas that were previously out of my comfort zone. For example, after many years working in life sciences, last year I worked alongside a materials company, in charge of manufacturing batteries and the recycling process. Although I had no experience in this area, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and picked up a lot of new knowledge. With the types of projects we lead, you cannot look at our work as technology: you must look at it as process change. If you take a software into a lab that people have not used before, it is disruptive to them. So the role of the Scimcon lead is not only to be familiar with the software but to manage the change successfully. I have worked with many suppliers of software – from LabVantage Solutions through to Thermo Fisher, Waters, Dotmatics etc – but what is more important is my ability to understand the lab and the people. The software itself is almost incidental.
Working with Scimcon has also shown me the importance of diplomacy when managing projects. I try to maintain a passive approach to problems that arise, working through them in a controlled, systematic way with both client and vendor. Having worked on both the vendor side of lab informatics project management, and seeing the customer standpoint, I have experienced first-hand the value of Scimcon’s consultancy services. For large and complex projects, we mediate between client and customer, drawing out a clear set of tactics and ways to communicate any issues or challenges along the way. I enjoy working collaboratively with each party to create a productive path forward, something which I have enjoyed in my current project with an international biotechnology company.
I’ve been working remotely for many years, long before the Covid-19 pandemic struck, so I was well and truly prepared for the switch. In a sense, the transition towards remote working on a global scale has normalised the way I worked previously, so it is something I am well adjusted to. Since the pandemic, travel has increased slightly but on a periodic basis. I travel on-site to the Netherlands around once per month to visit the customer I’m currently supporting.
Technology improvements in the last few years have also allowed me to better deliver my services from home. It means customers can connect with us a lot more easily, as things are becoming more localised. We can communicate with customers and companies across the world via Teams calls and other virtual conferencing platforms. I’ve found that the expectation with most projects is to travel to site every 3-4 weeks, which in turn saves on travel costs and is better for the environment.
I’m very much into sport, particularly football (a Wolverhampton Wanderers fan through and through). I’ve had a season ticket for the past 30 years, and have been attending the matches since I was a young child. I’m also fond of the NFL, as a supporter of the Miami Dolphins, I make the commute to London every October to watch the games. Across the board, I like most sports-watching and take part myself on occasion. I used to play 5-a-side on a weekly basis, until the pandemic got in the way, and more recently I have taken on badminton to try and stay active outside of work.
Travelling is also hobby of mine, and my wife and I bought a holiday home near Alicante, Spain during the pandemic. We viewed the villa virtually and saw it for the first time in-person when we arrived to collect the keys! The pandemic definitely marked a change in priorities for me – as the world became remote, we were saving on daily expenditures, so decided to invest in a holiday home instead of a swanky car at a time people generally weren’t really driving far. We travel there frequently, and I’ve invested in a keyboard and monitor to ensure I can work remotely from there with ease.
My wife and I love to travel, in the past we’ve visited America, Singapore, Cape Town and more. We went to Thailand at the beginning of the year which was a highlight, and we have a few trips on the horizon including an RV road trip around Canada next month. We’re also planning to go on a cruise around Alaska, so plenty of trips to keep us busy.
My favourite travel destination is Hawaii, as the scenery was beautiful. Japan was also another favourite, and we travelled around the country on the bullet trains which was a fascinating experience. We are very independent when it comes to travelling, maybe that’s the Project Manager in me. I enjoy planning everything down to the T.
I’ve always been really interested in technology, which inevitably led me to the career I’m in now. My passion for tech began as a teenager, when I invested in the early computer models such as the Commodore and Spectrum, and I bought a PC when owning a computer was quite unusual. This passion has grown over time, and I enjoy the seamless experience of modern technology. Devices were less user-friendly back when I was developing an interest in tech, so I would always be fiddling around with settings to get the most out of my system. I usually get frustrated when devices are badly interfaced, which is what sparked my original interest in LIMS – I was a frustrated lab user! Part of what I do is make the technology work for customers, and ensure they get the most out of it. Giving customers the same pleasure that I get out of successfully operating technology is very rewarding.
Naturally, my home is equipped with all kinds of technology and smart devices. For example, we have Sonos speaker systems surrounding our home, and five televisions in total. We also have Amazon Alexa speakers in various rooms throughout the house. Another tech addition is my virtual reality headset, used mainly for gameplay. Ironically, the internet in our Alicante holiday home is faster than the one at our home in Shropshire, which gives me another excuse to travel out there more often.
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