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MD Tech Leader Talks - June 2024

On Thursday 13th June, 2024, Manchester Digital hosted the latest instalment of the Tech Leader Talks events, sponsored by Slalom. This event, aimed at senior leaders from tech businesses across Greater Manchester, brought together influential voices from across the sector for an engaging discussion on the evolving security and data privacy landscape.

The session was introduced by Alison Ross, Chair of Manchester Digital, who set the stage for a compelling discussion on the crucial topics of security and data privacy in today’s tech-driven world. The panel was chaired by James Pimlott, Senior Principal at Slalom, who was joined by Adam Purslow, CEO of TLC, Rebecca Fox, Group CIO at NCC, Gavin Zephir, Technology Evaluations Research Lead at Barclays, and Mark Harrison, Senior Director of Engineering at Disney Streaming.

James kicked off the conversation by highlighting the technological advancements in the Manchester area and asked the panellists for their perceptions of Manchester as a growing tech hub.

Adam emphasised the transformative changes over the past few years, noting that Manchester is now widely recognised as a technological hub with incredible businesses and a thriving ecosystem. Rebecca praised Manchester’s vibrant business edge and can-do attitude, stressing the importance of leveraging the city’s talented workforce to drive growth. Mark highlighted the close-knit community, bolstered by excellent bootcamps, universities, and apprenticeship providers that continually bring new talent into the fold. Finally, Gavin noted Barclays' collaborations within Manchester, particularly through initiatives like DISH, which further embed the bank into the local tech scene.

Adam Purslow (TLC) alongside Gavin Zephir (Barclays) and James Pimlott (Slalom)

The discussion then shifted to the challenges of privacy and security in a data-rich world. James posed a question about the evolving strategies to handle these issues.

Mark explained Disney’s risk-averse approach, focusing on protecting user data through rigorous internal and external testing, data anonymisation, and strict access controls.

Rebecca shared her concerns about ransomware, advocating for the integration of security into the development process and emphasising the importance of employee awareness to prevent breaches.

Gavin discussed the stringent policies and procedures at Barclays, highlighting the need for continuous vigilance given the large number of employees and the sensitivity of the data handled. Adam concluded by reflected on the shift from treating security as an afterthought to making it a top priority at TLC since its inception, underscoring the inevitability of breaches and the importance of thorough testing.

Adam provided some great advice for tech founders, urging them not to compromise on security despite pressures from customers or budget constraints. He stressed the importance of integrating robust security measures from the start, even if it means delaying product launches.

The panel also discussed how their evaluation processes for adopting new technologies have evolved, particularly with a focus on privacy and security.

Mark Harrison (Disney Streaming) alongside Rebecca Fox (NCC)

The conversation inevitably turned to the role of AI in their respective strategies and the associated ethical considerations, with Adam highlighting AI’s role in personalising apps and enhancing business intelligence at TLC. Rebecca voiced concerns about AI making phishing attacks more sophisticated while also acknowledging its potential in identifying such threats, whilst Mark discussed Disney’s use of AI for internal tools and experimentation, focusing on user behavior prediction and recommendation systems.

Gavin talked about Barclays’ long-standing use of AI in detecting unusual transactions and supporting internal processes, including a pilot with Microsoft to improve meeting and document management. The panel also addressed the ethical considerations surrounding AI, including the risks of bias and the need for explainability.

In closing, the panellists shared their views on the main technological challenges businesses will face going forward.

  • Gavin underscored the importance of identifying meaningful use cases for new technologies rather than adopting them for their own sake.
  • Adam warned of the risks of data overload and the potential for AI to become less effective with too much input.
  • Rebecca highlighted the financial challenges of integrating IT into every aspect of business operations and the necessity of making a solid business case for new technologies.
  • Mark stressed the need to enhance user experience through AI while ensuring developers understand how to leverage these tools effectively.

Tech Leader Talks at the Tech Incubator

June's Tech Leader Talks event provided a rich discussion on the current and future state of security and data privacy for Greater Manchester businesses, whilst also providing a fantastic opportunity for senior leaders from across the community to make new connections and knowledge share. 

Tech Leader Talks will return in November 2024.

We’d like to offer a huge thanks to Slalom for sponsoring and hosting our March Tech Leader Talks event. If you’d like to pick up a conversation with Slalom  - their MD Caroline is happy to chat:

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