Meet the people behind O2: Vinnett Taylor
A series that looks at the people behind the technologies we support across Britain.
At O2 we employ thousands of talented individuals to support our diverse customer base. From front line staff working in store with the latest mobiles, accessories and consumer products, to technical specialists who can design your integrated mobile, Wifi and fixed networks, as well as identify the right managed services and digital solutions for your organisation. At O2 we believe that the solutions we provide are only as good as the people that help you make the most of them.
Vinnett Taylor, Head of IoT – Enterprise
What do you do at O2?
I am currently Head of Internet of Things (IoT) Sales within Enterprise, where I lead a dedicated team of specialists who help organisations to solve their biggest challenges, and achieve their most ambitious goals, using technology. I regularly represent O2 as an industry expert on IoT and autonomous vehicles, speaking at Government policy and industry conferences.
How did you end up doing what you do?
I’ve always enjoyed engineering and technology, from the design of hardware to integrated software. When I was a child, my favourite TV programme was ‘Tomorrow’s World’. If you are too young to remember it, I guess the nearest equivalent today would be ‘BBC Click’.
The story of my career is a journey of climbing a series of ladders, in telesales management, enterprise sales and solution sales management. My first technology role was with Symantec, right back when it was an unknown start up. I helped deliver several ‘first to market’ services, including the first ever global site licence in the late 1990’s.
When I worked for Toshiba, we delivered the first out-of-the-box hotspot, designed to prove the commercial viability of wireless public spaces. Whether it was for a single coffee shop or an entire football stadium, we knew we were witnessing a transformation in how we would share data, but what we didn’t know was who was going to lead or dominate the marketplace. I certainly didn’t know that years later I’d be working with O2, with its unrivalled network of free Wifi hotspots throughout the UK.
Before O2, I founded a technology management consultancy, supporting a broad spectrum of businesses from start-ups, SMEs looking to scale up, right through to blue chip corporations. We provided strategic IT, telecommunications, machine to machine (M2M) and IoT solutions for customers, in addition to publishing papers on the internet of things.
What gets you energised in the morning for the day ahead?
No two days are the same. I’ve always been an early riser and the alarm clock goes off between 5 and 5:30am every day. I get in some form of physical exercise before breakfast. I tend to listen to podcasts if I’m out running or watch the news if I’m on the treadmill. I am definitely a morning person and nothing dampens my mood in the morning, not even the British weather.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
I am not a big fan of email. We are all guilty of sending an email when a face to face conversation would be quicker and more effective. But that’s only part of the problem. I think ‘send to all’ and ‘reply to all’ should be banned completely. They are used far too often to cover your back rather than for any meaningful or positive purpose. The fact is that there are far more effective ways to communicate, only some of which make use of technology.
What’s been your proudest achievement in your career so far?
It has got to be the keeping kids safe online initiative that we ran in partnership with the NSPCC. It tackled online safety from two directions, working with children in schools to warn them of the dangers they might encounter, as well as educating parents about how best they could support their children. I am proud that companies like O2, NSPCC and Founder4Schools are still active and supporting in this area.
I did some work in my local schools on keeping children safe online and every child went on to set up their own browsing security levels. I was so impressed by both the children and their parents, and it got me thinking about how schools need to evolve continually to meet the roles and demands that new technologies place on them.
What has been your strangest encounter with technology?
Before joining O2, I worked on a project that used technology to reconstruct road accidents. It involved a novel telematics Event Data Recorder (EDR) that determined the precise shock forces experienced in a vehicle during an accident and, using data and crash dummy testing, assessed the likelihood that a personal injury would have occurred. It was an exciting project, rather than a strange one, although working with crash test dummies felt a bit surreal at the time.
What’s the one small thing in life that always makes you smile?
Other people smiling. I have always believed that the key to a happy and fulfilled life is to keep it simple. A smile is infectious, so I always try and do one good deed a day to help someone else and make them smile. It may sound like a cliché, but if you surround yourself with good, honest, happy people, you will always find something to smile about.
How do you see your role evolving in the future?
I see the Internet of Things not as a product, but as a blueprint for how a portfolio of different products come together to help businesses transform. Think of it as a network of devices that contains electronics, software, actuators and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data securely.
As such, the title Internet of Things may not even be in common use in another five years from now. So I see my role becoming more of a digital advisor, or ‘digital forensic consultant’ – someone who can assist O2 customers in their business transformation by defining a framework of questions that not only looks at the digital aspect of a solution, but also considers the people, staff and customer requirements to make it successful.
How do you switch off and wind-down?
I try and do some form of healthy activity or exercise every day. It might be cycling, swimming, running or pilates. My rest day is Sunday but that’s the day I’ll go for a long walk.
I also love reading, despite working with technology, I still prefer the feel and smell of a paperback book and I love being able to share a book that I have enjoyed. My ritual is to parcel up a book I have finished and send it (without a note or business card attached) to a friend, family member, colleague or client who I think will benefit from it.
I read a broad range of genres and styles – here are a few of the books I recommend and have shared:
- Chimp Paradox – It explores some neuroscience and psychological aspects of developing the mind.
- Who Moved My Cheese? – Once I bought a copy for each board member of a start-up and handed it out at a board meeting.
- The Hard Thing about Hard Things – Truths about how entrepreneurs lead companies.
- Blitzscaling – How to scale up a company
- Henderson the Rain King – This was recommended by an old boss several years back for holiday reading. I got the audiobook to listen to on the three-hour drive, then had to buy the book for myself for Christmas.
- Delta-V (coming soon) – For those of you who are obsessed with technology, try Daniel Suarez’s books. I have bought and recommended them to so many people. I’m not sure if you would call them science fiction or thrillers (“CyberSpaceThriller”) but Daniel mixes what we have today with what may happen in the future.
What does a healthy relationship with technology look like for you?
Well I never take my phone, or any other tech into the swimming pool or bathroom, and it all gets left downstairs at night. In fact, I don’t have any technology in the bedroom, not even a television.
To me, a healthy relationship with technology means having a face to face conversation with the people you care about whenever you can. It means never texting someone who is sitting across from you. It means taking a holiday from social media once in a while, turning off all the notifications on your phone. I did this over Christmas last year and it felt liberating.
How long would you survive a full digital detox for?
Last year I survived for three weeks over Christmas with only limited access to technology, so the answer is probably longer than two days, but less than a month. A full digital detox would mean stopping work, though, because I need technology to do my job.
I really enjoy being outside so I’m not someone who needs technology to be happy. I’d definitely find it harder to go a month without a long run than a month without my smartphone.
What are you most excited about that the future will bring?
I am fascinated with all things connected with thought and the brain, and so I am excited by artificial intelligence (AI) and the potential benefits it can bring to society. For example, the impact it is having in science and medicine is already transforming our healthcare system.
We need humans and machines to work together. I don’t believe AI can replicate a human brain, but I do believe that over the next few years we will see a number of ground-breaking solutions to challenges in business, health and industry delivered using it.