“It is one thing not having the money to invest, it is quite another to be too lazy to invest time into understanding how to leverage huge sums of money that are specifically available for skills development and better education”
Dan Brown knows a thing or two about tough challenges.
As a homeless teenager he spent nights sleeping rough in a bus stop, before moving into a car. Interviewing daily for jobs, he would use the local leisure centre to get freshened up and wash his clothes. It was an experience that left him with habits it took years to break. He tells Computer Business Review: “For a long period of my life you’d never see me out of a full suit and tie. Even in the heat of summer.”
“My friends would take the ****, but I’d always keep a suit jacket on. It took me a while to realise why: when I was sleeping in a car I’d never had an iron, and I only had one shirt. As a teenager I’d wash it in the leisure centre then hang it over the car seat to dry; it was never quite crisp and I’d do my best to hide that under a suit. Long after my circumstances had improved, always keeping a suit and tie on remained a habit.”
That his circumstances did improve dramatically after leaving home at 15, is testament not just to his own work ethic and persistence, but a helping hand at a time he sorely needed it, he recalls.
Now 42, and after a successful career in legal technology sales that has brought him face-to-face with many of the country’s leading CIOs and CISOs and their challenges, he’s keen to put the lessons he’s learned over the years to good use – drawing on both his personal and professional experiences.
He says: “Two people helped me up immensely. One was a lady in a recruitment company who was incredibly diligent in trying to get me opportunities. I still look back on her efforts with real appreciation.”
“The other was Tom Lee, the founder of Quintec International Ltd (sold to Nasdaq-listed PC Docs in 1997) who got me a job selling training courses and gave me increasing levels of responsibility very fast; it was huge break for me and my role developed organically very fast into legal software sales.”
Currently a partner at Temple Brown, and advisor to the European board of the International Legal Technology Association (ILTA), his experience has inspired the creation of a new group, the CIO/CISO Skills Development Council, that Brown is spearheading. The council launches later this month and a parallel “Positive Transformation” programme launches in January at a dinner hosted by Sir Ken Olisa, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant.
CIO/CISO Skills Development Council: What’s the Plan?
Dan Brown tells Computer Business Review: “There are two simple drivers for launch of the CIO/CISO skills council. Firstly, there is a massive ongoing crisis for CIOs and CISOs in terms of getting access to the opportunity to improve the skills they’ll need medium and long-term; the world is changing very fast indeed on both the regulatory and technological front and they are not getting the right people and skills out of education programmes around the country, nor finding much opportunity to train themselves.”
“Gathering a body of professionals who are very focussed on tackling these challenges into a group where they can collaborate and find practical solutions seems a vital first step to tackling this issue, which is worsening.”
He ad”I’ve had a huge positive response after speaking to over 300 CIOs and CISOs personally” [‘I may not be the most talented person in the world, but I’m like walking ERP software’ he jokes] and we’re going to be working collaboratively to think about the challenges in and around skills.”
He adds: “Secondly, the council will look at practical but innovative ways we can use funding that’s available to improve skills across members’ organisations, like the apprenticeship levy; funding that is widely available but which is not being used properly to help break a cycle of not-fit-for-purpose training.”
As he puts it more forcefully in a letter to the inaugural members: “It is one thing not having the money to invest, it is quite another to be too lazy to invest time into understanding how to leverage huge sums of money that are specifically available for skills development and better education whilst complaining about the state of education.”
“This is more poignant when you consider that this is your money [docked under the apprenticeship levy] and will ultimately become a stealth tax if you do not spend it. There are also several associated schemes to provide funded training programmes for smaller non-levy paying businesses that are not being utilised effectively which could prove beneficial.”
An inaugural lunch will take place on December 20 and be hosted at The Honourable Artillery Company by Michael Grant, President of the British Computer Society and chaired by Pete Cooper, a Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council Cyber Statecraft Initiative. Other attendees will include Lord Toby Harris, Maria Vello, CEO of the Cyber Defence Alliance and Tiffany Hall, CIO at Cancer Research.