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Technology Survey Event Birmingham - Photos & Blog

Are we all hackers now?

On Wednesday 26th November 173 technologists from around the Midlands gathered at Millennium Point inside the fantastic Think Tank in Birmingham to hear the headline results from the 2015 Harvey Nash Technology Survey and explore this very question.  Panel members were:

Ed Tucker - Head of Cyber Security, HMRC

Fred Warren - Connected Digital Services, Microsoft

Nick Holzherr - Founder/CEO, Whisk.com

View photos from the event here:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/21283461@N06/sets/72157649139106929/

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In just the 3rd year of publication, our Technology Survey has quickly become our largest survey in history and was completed by 3,323 technologists from over 40 different countries. 

In the week before the run up to the Birmingham event, we had held previous similar events in Edinburgh, Dublin and London and it was clear that the Survey and debate around "We Are All Hackers Now" was generating a lot of opinion and interest.

As guests arrived and started chatting over drinks in the interactive technology museum, it was obvious that this event was also going to be a big talking point and there was already a buzz in the room. 

At 6:00pm people took their seats and it was my pleasure to take to the stage to welcome everyone and open the evening.

I firstly set the scene of the evening and explained the "We Are All Hackers Now" title.  I challenged people to raise their hands if they were a Hacker.  Around 11 people in the audience did this, accompanied with a few gasps heard from the audience.   I then explained how the word has changed over the years, how people's mind sets' have changed and how 'Hacking' now means something totally different to what our lovely media would have us believe.

10 years ago a Hacker was a 'baddie'.  Someone evil who lurked in the dark web, breaking into the networks of banks for financial gains, hacking into our personal private things, disrupting the websites of corporate organisations, holding Governments to ransom and playing a part in pretty serious Cyber Warfare.

But now, something has changed.  A Hacker is now someone who builds new systems or products with new software and hardware; explores the boundaries of current software, systems or products with a view to making them better.  Someone who attends Hacking events or 'Hackathons' with a view to knowledge sharing with like-minded other people, learning new programming languages, tinkering with things to produce something outstanding and competing against other Hackers to show off their skills, or sense of humour.  Hacking together a new idea to launch a brand new tech company or start up has become the new way to start a business.

The Hacker is now someone who is respected and in big demand in the market.

I then offered my thoughts that with the ubiquitous advancements of technology and how easy it has become to use, set up, change, re-route, configure and 'play with' - the general public have all become Hackers also.  Who hasn't set up home networks? Configured home WiFi hubs? Have SMART homes and appliances and can actually change, Hack or reconfigure software to make it do things that we want?

More worryingly, our children are doing this.  They seem to know more about this than us.  Even my 6 year old son, Alfie, can fully use an iPad; turn on, set up and use the laptop; scrape his favourite WWE (American wrestling) off YouTube and store in a file.  He is aware that technology is a normal part of his life, just like his mountain bike is.  There is no learning curve with him and technology.  There is no fear.  It is natural and it's only going to grow with him.

So.....that was my challenge to the audience......WE ARE ALL HACKERS NOW.

The results of our survey. 

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This year's major headlines were very positive........Tech budgets are up, new projects are being started, a race for innovation is on, using Tech to make money is the priority, there seems to be a new openness using Open Source technologies and successful technologists are logical, self-reliant and adaptable to change.  All good stuff.

The Technology community is now more mobile than ever, with 30% of respondents working in technology jobs, in countries that are outside of their country of birth.  That is on average 1 in 4 in every technology team in the UK is a skilled technology migrant.  In London this rises to half of an average technology team is a skilled technology migrate.  We are now at a critical stage in the eyes of the public and the politicians around the whole immigration topic and I am not going to use this blog to debate the left, the right, the middle and Europe - but whose technology project could survive if 1 in 4, or more worryingly half of your tech team left your business?  Not many I'd wager.

What are people looking for now in their role?  Work/life balance.  Simple as that.  Nearly 70% of respondents told us that that if they were to look for a new role, work/life balance is now the most important factor.  Our thoughts around this are as follows.  The recession hit us hard.  Very hard.  Many people lost their jobs, were made redundant, companies folded, projects were canned and people in the technology community suffered.  If you were lucky enough to keep your job, you had to work extremely hard as budgets were stripped and everyone in the leadership chain was leaned on to produce more for less.  It was a stressful and uncertain time and most just kept their head down, worked late into the night, at weekends, travelled around the country for weeks on end or even agreed to be posted in other countries, missing out on essential family time.

Now times are better; the economy seems to be lifting, tech budgets are up, confidence is back, new tech companies are flowering and there is a drive to recruit or maybe even re-recruit technology talent.  As a result, people want to get back to the all-important work/life balance that they once had.  To do a fair days work, for a fair days pay.  To see the kids in the morning and in the evening - when they are actually awake!  To do the school run once in a while.  To get back to a place of work that is actually commutable and be able to leave early once in a while to hit the gym, work from home or attend a school play.

People also want to work on innovative projects with innovative technologies.  There are a lot of new start-ups, challenger brands and tech companies who are doing fantastic things - and people want to be part of that, rather just be part of a large, faceless team keeping the lights on.

Being "well paid" actually came in 4th down the list.  It's not always about the money.

Other things that came out.................Google are taking over the world and show no sign of stopping.  Let's just hope that they continue to be "the good guys" as if they decided to be the "bad boys" then I think we'd all be in trouble.

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Interestingly, Microsoft and Apple didn't rate that highly on the 'Most influential Tech company' - perhaps they need to come out with some more 'magic and fairy dust' in 2015.  Amazon are coming up fast on the rails and if any company promise me that they will deliver my tight Lycra gym kit by drone into my back garden - they are OK by me.

In terms of 'the next big thing' around tech, your usual suspects were there.....Mobile, Big Data/Analytics and getting everything into the Cloud.  However, new tech/movements are now accelerating into the scene: Crowd Funding, Wearable tech, E-Health and Quantum Computing.

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I didn't even try explaining what Quantum Computing is as to be honest, I don't fully understand it and wasn't going to insult the audience making out that I did.  I was happy to read out the definition and make a point about how we should keep our eye on this area, how it could be a real danger to encryption software and how Google (of course) have already purchased a Quantum Computer.  A little bit Star Trek?  Watch this space!

One of the major overarching themes in all this was that only 50% of respondents thought that Security was going to a 'big thing' in the next few years.  This could mean a couple of things.  It could mean that people just don't see the current Security risks as big enough to worry about - maybe everything is under control?  Or it could mean that people are happy to take the risk using Open Source technology, open networks, in an open world - and hope that the results and rewards are worth the risk.  Or it could mean that people just don't know what's out there........

For more information around Harvey Nash Technology Survey 2014 or to receive a copy, please contact me at steve.corbett@harveynash.com or @SteveCorbettHN

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Then it was over to the speakers........We were delighted to welcome 3 industry leaders who had kindly agreed to speak for us at the event.

First up Ed Tucker - Head of Cyber Security for HMRC.  Ed did a great job of taking us into the sometimes misunderstood world of 'Cyber Security'.  What it is, what it isn't, how the media have distorted things, how sometimes your own company may not fully understand what it is.  He gave us a good high level overview of how companies should plan around their security issues, how we should dispel the myths; but at the same time, how we should take it seriously.

Next was Fred Warren, a 7 year Microsoft veteran and part of Microsoft's Connected Digital Services team.  Fred talked to us around how Microsoft were working in partnership with consumers and customers a lot more, he talked around Customer Co-Creation, how to innovate and how Microsoft were 'magically blurring the physical and digital' - all with the help of the John Lewis penguin!

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Last to speak was Nick Holzherr - Founder and CEO of one of Birmingham's very own start-ups Whisk.com.  Nick told us about his business, where the idea came from, what he had to do to get it off the ground, how he got funding and the general state of the UK start up scene. 

We then entered into a lively Q&A session with the speakers where the audience threw their questions at them.  We had questions around everything from how to attract and keep good tech talent at your company, don't we need a balance between the data we give for what we get, do we need people to hunt/gather threat intelligence or does technology/big data suffice, how we can use data to create business opportunities, to would you employ a convicted Hacker?

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The debate could have gone on all night, but we had to draw the evening to a close.  We were delighted to have two '90 second pitches' (well it was a tech event) from two people who were representing excellent organisations.  First, Tim Fogarty - UK Commissioner for Major League Hacking.  Check them out at http://www.mlh.com .  Second was David Groombridge - Head of Business Systems for Eversheds but more importantly Vice-Chair of Midlands Byte Night, a charity Harvey Nash has been delighted to support for many years, check them out and support them! www.bytenight.org.uk

Everyone then took to the interactive technology museum to relax, have drinks and food, play on the Oculus Rift and carry on the debate.

It was an excellent evening and we would like to thank everyone who attended.  The Midlands Technology scene is alive and well and fantastic things are happening all over the city. 

And.....to get back to my original question........don't be afraid to call yourself a Hacker.  Be proud to be called a Hacker.  Your country needs you.  Hacking is the necessity of invention.  This is how we will progress and make the UK a superpower in Technology innovation again. 

WE ARE ALL HACKERS NOW

Steve Corbett - Associate Director

Harvey Nash Technology

Please contact me for more information or a copy of the survey :

 steve.corbett@harveynash.com / @SteveCorbettHN / www.harveynash.co.uk