In 100 years from now, when they look back and talk about the top 3 IT legends: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and James Dell. There may be some debate about the order.
This week's Planet Hero is the one and only James Dell.
Firstly James, Why IT?
I remember distinctly my Mum and Dad getting a PC for our house that ran a command line operating system and took 5 floppy disks and an hour to load a simple word processor, from that moment I was hooked on technology. Because of this when it came time to choose a career path, IT was the only one for more and I dove head first into my academic studies around IT which eventually lead to the career I had always wanted and the opportunity to engage with technology on a daily basis.
Being the Lead Technical Architect, there's few areas you don't cover, but what's your favourite?
For me the highlight of my role is engaging with customers and solving problems, in whatever form that takes. The reason this is always my favourite is because it requires me to look at and engage new technology to overcome the range of challenges our customers have.
What's your favourite tool or hack?
The biggest hack or tool in my life is integration, so my entire house, infrastructure and devices for me and my family sit inside a single eco system *cough* Apple *cough* , this allows me to control my house from my phone, provide that family IT support from anywhere around the world (I had to do this at 3am in a Vegas hotel room!) and to know that seamlessly I can move content from my phone, to my iPad to my TV and never miss a beat. With a background in development I should really have something I have built be my biggest hack, but I would say all my projects look like something from Mary Shelley’ Frankenstein.
What's your favourite technology toy?
For the last few years it has to be my iPhone as it’s the one piece of tech that stays with me 24/7 and is used nearly as much and so far, I haven’t found something it cannot do. We have reached the point with phones where the tech is so good that I no longer need my DSLR to take a great photo, or a MP3 player to carry all my songs, or even my old fashion paper diary that I had until 2007. Now this one piece of technology can make my life infinitely easier.
What emerging technologies most excite you?
As a big part of my working life focuses on infrastructure , I am interested in the world of Kubernetes and technologies like Docker. The reason that these develops excite me is as we look at the next evolution on from virtualisation and the introduction of cloud services, it key to see how the separation of function from operating system will change the way that solutions can be developed and how this will change the landscape of IT in the next functional jump.
The highlight of my role is engaging with customers and solving problems
What current tech can't you wait to see improved or made redundant?
I really want to see the end of the TV remote, I think that technology like Siri and Alexa have started to path the way for this, but like many people I don’t like the hours of my life I spend hunting for the TV remote, and would much rather be able to say “Hey TV, continue playing Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet on Apple TV+”
Anyone that looked through your LinkedIn activity could instantly tell that you're an Apple Nut! Why?
So I believe in some of the fundamental ideas that Steve Jobs embedded in Apple around the functionality and the feel / design of the devices, this drove me as a college student to save hard and buy my first Macbook (one of the lovely white plastic ones, which I still have and it still works!!). Once I had that device I was never going back to being a full time Windows user. Maybe unfortunately for my wallet the Apple fanboy in me requires me to buy a new Apple device as soon as it comes out, and this has led to me having owned nearly ever Apple device since 2005 (when I could afford to buy them!).
During this time of Covid - what business habits have you seen emerge? What has impressed you? What has shocked you?
I suppose to start with what has really shocked me is the lack of business understanding about what happens when you remove the edge of a network, with so many people working from home the edge of a business network suddenly ended up being at the end of a BT telephone line. However speaking to many IT managers, they didn’t have and still don’t have the technology to protect in a Zero trust environment, this scares me. We cannot look to operate in the long term with people working from home if we are not going secure the home as you would your corporate network. In terms of what has impressed me, it has to be the resilience of people and their ability to embrace change, so many people where trust into the world of Teams and Zoom in March, but everyone has embraced it and the number of people that I now speak to who could not live without a Teams call is impressive.
What advice would you have for businesses right now?
The days of large offices full of people is coming to an end, technology has saved many businesses during COVID 19. So embrace it make it your ally and allow it to drive forward your business, don’t hide behind the ways of the past, allow staff to work from home, give them the tools to be part of the office wherever they maybe. Embrace security and cyber defence and make sure that you’re not a victim, it’s easy to save money from your office rent and to sit pretty , but your safer if you even put 10% of that back into securing your business. I believe in the change and think that every business can embrace it.
Planet IT - what's it like to work there?
So Planet IT for me is like having a family of 50+ people, I have had the pleasure of working in many business, in many settings but nothing compares to the experience I have ever day working with my Planet family.
Everyone so far has mentioned the Planet Family! What makes it so special?
Having worked in many different organisations across different business sectors and I have always been part of a “team”, With Planet this is completely different, I know no matter what that if I am having a bad day and I need to speak to someone that from the directors to the apprentices you can easily sit down grab a coffee, or if it’s after work a beer! Have a good chat and feel like you’re with family. I’ve never felt more at ease with the people I work with and I know that this family spirt carries across into the team building and team drinking that regularly occurs!
Outside Planet IT - what makes you tick?
My life outside work is as geeky as you might expect , I am an avid PC gamer with many hours spent building and playing games with my friends and colleagues! I also enjoy being outdoors and engaging is sports like Surfing, Mountain biking and paddle boarding.
When people think IT guy, they think gamer. That's fair enough. But lots, like yourself, are musicians too. Why is that?
For me it comes from a great respect for what music is and how it differs from the black and white , on and off that IT is. I will often just sit and strum my guitar to unwind or just to find a little moment of calm or escape in a busy week, when it comes to playing I’m no Davey! You never know one day you might see a Planet IT band playing at one of our events!
This is all about Planet Hero’s - if you were a real-life superhero, what would your superpower be?
I would love to have Telepathy like Professor X! I think that would be the most useful superpower! As cool as having adamantium claws would be, other than opening boxes I am not sure what use they would be to me day to day!
Any guilty pleasures?
As the previous question may have alluded to, I am a massive comic book geek, to the point that half of my arm is covered in superhero logos! I have spent far too much time and money on all think’s comic related and I don’t think it would ever stop! I am that guy who watches a new Marvel film at midnight then goes back the next day to watch it again!
Fine dining & champagne or BBQ & a beer?
For me it’s a BBQ all the way! I love my GRILL; my wife gets sick of me thinking I am a cooking expert when I’m Infront of it! Also, you cannot have a good BBQ without a few cold beers! It’s only a shame that in the U.K the foods cold too because its normally raining!
If you were to give advice to a 14 year old you - what would it be?
I would tell myself to follow my love of technology and never let anyone tell you that passion and belief won’t help you find a job, people would often tell me that IT jobs won’t pay and that I should be a plumber or a painter , but I would tell my 14 year old self to keep strong and follow your ambition and it will all work out!
If you were to give advice to a young person thinking of entering the world of IT - what would it be?
If anyone out their wants to get into the world of IT then they should do it, I have had the pleasure of developing a number of young people through the start of their IT careers and it’s something I am still a massive advocate of. If you’re looking for advice of guidance about how or what you can do it the world of IT please reach out to me, because I know it can be a confusing choice between; development, support, cloud and all the other areas you can choose from. What I can say is you will never regret working in IT!
James Dell is our Lead Technical Architect and is the fountain of all knowledge. He is an expert in security, backup, cloud, hardware, networking... the list goes on
If are struggling with making IT decisions, no matter what the area, then I strongly recommend a conversation with James. You can get in touch directly on 01235 437154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org