FanFinders Team Spotlight – Meet Paul

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Name: Paul Gwynn

Position: CTO 

Years with the company: Coming up for 3 years

What attracted you to FanFinders…

The role offered a lot of autonomy. The technologies they had in-house were appealing and it provided a chance to create new systems you could have a lot of pride in.

If being a tech-first company matters…

I’ve been places where they put a lot of marketing emphasis on tech but that wasn’t their core business, tech didn’t have any representative at Board level and was mainly viewed as a cost. Ultimately the tech never advanced the business and probably never will under those circumstances. That just wouldn’t happen here for lots of reasons, we have over 40 years of tech experience at Board level alone and tech is definitely at the core of what we do.

How has FanFinders’ tech changed over the past few years…

One of the key things is that your tech needs to both follow and lead where the business is going. If sales want to go right, then there’s no point building your tech so it goes left. They must share the same vision and alignment. As a result, we’ve added new systems and features, all designed to enhance our offering as a company and get us to where we want to be on our company wide roadmap.

And what’s next…

It’s all about offering the user a much better experience. Through machine learning, we can make use of demographics within our data to make our marketing more relevant and bespoke. This is about making the content and offers people see more personal and dynamic – evolving with their different life stages. Additionally, we want to intelligently automate a lot of our manual tasks and free people up to do more productive and creative things.

Why is there still a fear about ‘artificial intelligence’…

I think the general public vision is influenced by The Terminator *smiles slightly*, and several high-profile influencers have publicly expressed caution. In reality, it’s used by people daily in a ubiquitous fashion e.g. Alexa. If you look through systems of the past, the term itself is only really describing a sort of decision tree. Thirty years ago that tree just said “If this is red, say yes. If it’s any other colour, say no.” But that is still a computer making that decision.

And the decision tree now…

Just as humans learn from experience, what’s happening now is that your existing data can be used to train models that can make more intelligent decisions based on your inputs and parameters.

Best thing about working at FanFinders…

Seeing things come to life. I always think of it like being a carpenter who’s building a cabinet. He finishes building this cabinet and it looks amazing. He stands back and says “Yeah, that’ll last 100 years.” It’s that same feeling when you see a system you’ve laboured on for 6 months or 2 years; and you see it out there and working well, with thousands of users and ticking over nicely.

Is expertise over ego important…

There is general acknowledgement here that, for want of a better phrase, people know their sh*t. You don’t want to work with people who have a lot of presence, but no substance. It gives you a lot of confidence in the company, because you know that all along the project chain are quality people.

Does the culture of FanFinders make a difference…

It gives people the opportunity to prove their competence openly. I think everyone at FanFinders feels like they have responsibility and the business has confidence in them to deliver – there is a ‘can-do’ attitude. We still talk over ideas and proposals with others, but those people aren’t roadblocks, they’re eager contributors.

On mentoring young talent…

One of the best things is that you can guide those minds into good practices and try to give them the best start in their career. Plus, I’m not naïve enough to think I know everything, because that’s just folly. You can turn over little gems from junior developers – they may have only been on the job two weeks but their brain is thinking about a problem in a completely different way.

How do you unwind…

Strangely enough, I still enjoy coding. Software developers still tend to be driven by that creativity in their spare time. I also like a round of golf on a regular basis, weather permitting of course.

Your favourite movie and movie quote…

For favourite movie, I’d have to say Cool Hand Luke with Paul Newman, saw it when I was very young and I still enjoy it to this day.

Movie quote? Without a doubt it’s “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! this is the War Room!” from Dr Strangelove. Irony at its very best.

Finally, who’s finishing in the Premier League top four this season…

Man City, Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea, I suspect Leicester will be the ones to miss out.

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