Judge – Keri Lewis

Entering a competition can be fraught with worry. How can you be sure that you’ve done your best? By checking out what the judges are after and here you get the chance to find out what Keri Lewis, the Chief Information Security Officer at AXA Insurance, is looking for in an entry to the Tech Trailblazers Awards.

Can you give me a brief history of yourself?

I’m a ~30 year IT and Security veteran with long work experience in facets of the industry. My geographic experience is largely emerging markets, but also UK/EU and US markets through regional and global roles. I’ve done start-up to corporate “tech titan” roles mostly in business management, project or operational support functions. These day’s I’m a CISO for a large financial services company.

What is your area of expertise and what’s hot/innovative in that area?

Technical “Jack of all trades” some pretensions to still remembering how to do Identity, PKI, Encryption etc. though I usually accept there are things others know better. My real expertise these days is the “Business to Tech team” interface. Getting the communication going in language both understand.

How long have you been a judge for Tech Trailblazers and why do you do it?

This year is my first. I believe that there will always be new ideas, and in a purely selfish moment, this allows me to watch for developments I can capitalize on without 200 vendor pitches a year.

What do you look for in an entry?

Applicability to an industry, something that shows it’s not just a “LASER – a solution looking for a problem”.

Do you have any advice for a company entering the Awards?

It’s not just the elegance of the technology. That is really important, but it’s how it is applied to a problem that defines success. Think outside-in – what does the customer need, what do I provide to help? If you can communicate that it will be easier for judges and customers alike to understand why it’s important.

What words of encouragement would you give to a company which is weighing up whether to enter the Awards?

This sort of award is the equivalent of being shortlisted for a literary prize. It raises the profile of the solution and gathers the attention of prospective purchasers.

Do you have any advice in general for start-up companies, trying to survive in the current economic climate?

Cashflow and Customer Intimacy are critical. Stick to your best customers, provide them with value, manage their needs as the core to your feature train.

Did you have a mentor who helped you in your early days? And was there one piece of advice that you got from them that you could share?

My first real job in IT after graduating was for a Sales team in manufacturing industry computing. I worked for a great Sales Manager called Ian Bradbury. I would go talk to potential customers and come back with hair-brained opportunities to sell things to the customer. Mostly not based on core products and features.

Ian would say, “and what are you going to get paid for selling that?” I would go read the commission plan and come back with, “not a lot”.. and he’d remind me that neither would he get paid, so he was keen on me to do other things.

A charming way of saying “stick to the knitting” move fast with the tech, but look to what you can do today and don’t over embroider the offer. This is critical for any start-up as well as for a large enterprise.

With diversity in the world of IT, could you think of one thing that the world could change to make a difference and improve matters?

This is a critical success factor for Security technology. We need more diversity of vision. I have no answer to the widespread encouragement., but I ask my HR team to provide the resumes without names, without personal details (maybe which office would be preferred to work in – geographically) and we do the filters that way first.

Respect the data first. Form opinions after. If the opinion contradicts the data then the opinion is wrong.

And because we all need some light-hearted moments in our lives, here are some fun questions:

Which superhero would you be? And why?

At work, I am sometimes referred to as RoboCop… not sure if that counts, or if it’s a compliment! (Ed: are you kidding? Robocop is amazing!)

What’s your favourite sport?

Rugby to watch, especially Wales. I’m too old to play, so I run – long, long distances because I am old and stubborn, not gifted athletically.

What fantastic invention will the future bring?

No idea – I look forward to playing with the toys to find out!