I was forged in the deep mines of South Wales before moving up to the North West of England at a young age. 100% welsh blood still runs through my veins, particularly where Rugby is concerned but my accent is English and I now live in Australia.
I’m a life-long techie and computer nerd; a relationship that started as a kid coding programs (and playing lots of games) on the legendary Sinclair Spectrum in the early 1980s before migrating to the Commodore 64, Commodore Amiga and finally the PC with enthusiasm.
These were the halcyon days of the British Computer Industry and this moulded my career path for many years to come.
Outside of Computing, I was (and still am) a sports fanatic… Football (Soccer & American Football), Rugby, Boxing, Tennis. My main tribes are the Welsh National Rugby Union Team, Liverpool FC and the Oakland Raiders.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science (with Honours) in Computer Information Systems (Dept of Computer Science & Mathematics) from the University of Liverpool in 1994. Since then, I have added a Diploma of Website Development (2015), Cert IV in Training Assessment (2015), Diploma of Digital Media Studies (2017), Microsoft Technology Associate Certification (Database Fundamentals, 2016) and became a Google Certified Educator in 2017.
Professional Career (UK)
I joined British Aerospace as a Software Engineer (later promoted to Senior Software Engineer) and worked at the Warton Aerodrome for nearly seven years working on military defence and aerospace projects including:
Tornado Mid-Life Update: I was the Assistant Software Management Controller working on the upgrades of the multi-role Tornado Strike Aircraft. The upgrade was part of the “Al-Yamamah” contract with Saudi Arabia. A 43 billion Pound (approx. USD 54 billion) contract which is the highest value arms deal and export agreement in British history.
GHost Project: This project entailed rolling out best practice – engineering tools and processes across the company. Projects included the Nimrod MRA4, Harrier, Hawk, Eurofighter and Future Offensive Aircraft Systems (FOAS). Our team received nominations for six innovation awards during this period.
Nimrod MRA4: I worked on the Nimrod Project as the Database Administrator for Systems Engineering. Responsibilities included rolling out best practice using toolsets and processes, database development and programming, providing training and generating Systems Specifications for the internal team and the UK Ministry of Defence.
Working at British Aerospace was a great experience. There were some smart minds in the house, and I also had the pleasure of working with American Contractors (Boeing on Nimrod) and German Contractors (DASA on Tornado). It was a work hard, play hard environment and some of the nights out were legendary. Nothing was ever done in halves at that place.
Liverpool John Moores University
Love Will Tear Us Apart. As the words go to Joy Division’s legendary music hit. Well, it did for my relationship with British Aerospace.
I met a special person, who would later become my wife and after a few months, I decided to re-locate back to Liverpool.
Once I’d moved, the daily commute to British Aerospace was fast becoming a pain. I got fed up sitting in a car for hours, particularly in heavy traffic. I was fast beginning to realise that this travel to work arrangement wasn’t going to work in the long-term.
I also had another major itch to scratch – I wanted to get into web technologies. The Internet was exploding and I was conscious that I’d miss the boat.
So despite a sharp salary cut and plenty of advice not to, I followed my gut instinct and left British Aerospace to take on a role as a web and database developer with Liverpool John Moores University.
The role entailed working in the Centre for Public Health (housed within the University) and was about building Health websites, databases and frameworks.
The Centre was buzzing at the time under the stewardship of Professor Mark Bellis. The scope of projects and the number of staff required to fulfil them was multiplying – new faces seem to join the ranks every week.
These were fun times. It’s good being part of something that experiences such rapid success and growth, and the offices were only a few miles from where we were living, alleviating my pet hate of sitting in traffic.
During this time, I developed the original UK Public Health Observatory National Web Portal and had another role where I was designated the UK’s Public Health Specialist for Schemas reporting to the UK Government Office of the E-Envoy in London.
Self-Employment / Web Agency Owner
I left JMU in 2003 to set up my a web consultancy. This career change was a giant leap into the unknown. We already had a young family by this time and the financial commitments that go with it, so it was a risky business. In hindsight, the timing wasn’t the best and working at JMU had been a pleasure.
However, the idea of running my own business was a long-held ambition. Going back to school days I’d be hustling for extra cash – making and selling sandwiches, washing cars, along with more regular work of working in restaurants and delivering newspapers.
Running a business? – It was another itch that needed scratching, and I decided to take the plunge. My ethos is that life is not a rehearsal. I’d rather have a go and try something than regret not doing it years later.
The stats say that the vast majority of businesses fail within three years, so despite what people might say, it’s no cakewalk. The immediate concern for me was to build a client base. Fortunately, JMU contracted quite a bit of work out to me initially which would help get us established and before long I had expanded the fledgeling business to a five-strong team in our office based at the Liverpool Film Studios site in the city.
The JMU work included projects working in collaboration with several external European organisations and funding sponsors such as the Drugs Prevention Advisory Service (DPAS), European Union (EU) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Sample projects included the build of the Club Health, Nightscope EU, Healthier Nightlife Toolbox and Safety Conference websites/portals. The tools, databases and websites we developed mainly related to nightlife, alcohol and drugs research/outcomes.
Private sector clients supplemented the work that we sourced from JMU. We built a diverse client base including Exhibition organisers, Beauty Schools, Charities, Security Companies, Corporate Finance, Franchise companies, Motocross. We dealt with dozens of different types of enterprises. I learned something new from every project.
Looking back, I think I preferred the period where I was a one-person band. I was indeed better off financially and had a much better work/life balance.
Having employees brings its own set of issues, and the business was initially set up to support one person. I had not set the enterprise up in a way that could scale up quickly.
Other than some web hosting accounts (which we sold at a later date to Vidahost), we didn’t have any recurring income streams (a mistake), so it was like being on a constant treadmill of generating business, doing the work and then chasing invoices.
It got to the stage where I was working until midnight every day and then working weekends to keep the wheels spinning.
After about seven years on the treadmill, I was ready for a change of scenery.
The business had been moderately successful, but it had taken over my life. There was no work/life balance.
My wife and I had previously discussed relocating to Australia, but she’d vetoed it up to that point. By 2009, she finally came around to the idea, and we took in a three week holiday to Perth, Western Australia to check things out. We had a few friends out there already.
The trip was a success, and it made our minds up. Australia was where we wanted to be, and we decided to get the migration process underway.
It would take nearly three years to complete the emigration process. I worked the business side of things until the very end… even though my heart was no longer in it and I was counting down the days.
The client base was sold to a competitor for a minimal amount three days before we were due to fly out to Australia.
Frankly, I was just glad to be out of it and start a new chapter, although I made sure to retain six clients who gave me regular work so at least I had some income when we hit the ground in Australia (I still do work for five of those six clients today).
Ten years of running the business had sapped my energy; I was more than ready for our new adventure.
The Leaving of Liverpool. Welcome Australia.
In May 2012, the phone was buzzing in my pocket. I was at my Nans funeral in Cardiff, South Wales. She was the last of the grandparents to pass on, so it was the end of an era.
The message was a voicemail from our emigration agent – Concept Australia in Manchester (who were helpful throughout the process).
We had been approved by the Australian Government to emigrate. It was a strangely fitting coincidence that with one era ending, we were receiving notification of a new one about to begin – all on the same day. My Nan was probably looking down with a smile on her face.
The next four months were insane. The house was put up for sale, and we started getting rid of everything. We decided we weren’t going to take much stuff. We had also agreed that we were now going to move out to the Gold Coast in Queensland rather than Perth. Perth is a lovely city but a little isolated.
The Gold Coast is only an hour south of the Queensland state capital Brisbane, and a short flight away from Sydney and Melbourne. We were taking a bit of a chance as we’d never set foot in the place and yet were dragging our family across the world to live there.
Leaving the UK was always going to be tough, mainly saying Goodbye to family and friends. We had a big farewell party at Waterloo Rugby Club in Liverpool.
Close friends from Lancashire came down on a coach, the friends of my sons were all there. It was a good turnout. My eldest son’s mates (who later ended up in a band managed by Mick Jones from the Clash and supported Paul Weller) played some tunes, and then the corked hats and accordion came out.
It was a great send off.
We arrived in Brisbane in the middle of the night after a 26-hour journey that included stops in Dubai and Singapore.
It was lashing down with rain as we travelled down to the Gold Coast for the final leg of the journey. But we were finally here at last with fourteen bulging suitcases and seven bags to our name.
Basically, it was a completely fresh start. The Australian chapter was about to begin.
It felt almost surreal standing on the beach for the first time after the effort we put in to make it happen.
Professional Career (Australia)
I began the Australia phase by servicing the UK clients that were kept during the transition from Liverpool to Gold Coast and also ended up doing some small sites for some local traders.
Money was tight at the beginning as our asset sales from the UK still hadn’t come through.
I also got involved with a rental property project for a lawyer which didn’t go to plan. The job was part way through when I got engaged and turned out to be a much bigger task than I had initially anticipated.
I didn’t spend enough time evaluating the existing code to figure out how much work was involved and also took the clients word that the project was already close to completion.
The more I delved into the existing code the more holes I was finding and it was fast turning into a complete re-write and hence a problem as they’d already forked out thousands before I got involved.
They were good people who looked after me well, so it was a shame it didn’t go to plan. At that point, I vowed never to take on another big where the original code had been written by somebody else.
On the plus side, we loved the Gold Coast. 70km of world-class beaches, a beautiful sub-tropical rural hinterland, restaurants, nightlife, theme parks and much more.
The Gold Coast is the centre of the Australian tourism industry, and it’s easy to see why.
Just an hours drive away we also had Brisbane to explore, and that’s before we even start with the rest of Queensland and the Australian states.
Building another web agency here wasn’t on the agenda – in fact, it was the last thing I fancied doing.
The work I was engaging in was just a temporary means to an end. I wanted something else but wasn’t quite sure what.
Fortunately, I stumbled across an advert for a position at a college in my local suburb of the Gold Coast for a Web and Digital Media Tutor.
The advertised role was what I was looking for – a new challenge in a different field… and not spending half the day commuting in traffic. I chased up the Regional Manager for an interview, visited the campus, spent a few hours with the Branch manager and within days I was working there on a full-time contract.
I had run training sessions at British Aerospace but nothing quite like this. It was the “something new” that I had been seeking. I now had 60 students to take care of on a full-time basis.
Working at this place was an absolute blast. The whole tone for the campus was set by the manager – a guy called Vince Stefanac. Vince came from a tech background like myself and had previously worked out in San Diego, California for some years developing applications.
It wasn’t a traditional academic environment – none of the tutors came from academia, we came from industry. That probably explained the complete lack of political correctness around the place.
I liked Vince straight away when he referred to me as the “Pommy bastard”. We got on well.
The team was diverse and comprised of Aussies, Kiwis, Filipinos, Americans, Iranians; the banter was top drawer. It reminded me of my early days at British Aerospace before political correctness laid siege to the UK. Everybody loved it.
Vince didn’t micro-manage anybody (unless they didn’t get results) – he told us what was required and let us get on with it. He was my ideal manager. I hadn’t had a boss for ten years and had wondered beforehand how I’d manage to have one. There was no need to worry with Vince.
I stayed at the college until early 2017. I enjoyed working with the students.
The students who had shown commitment graduated. Some of the graduates went into industry, and others started businesses.
By this time the Australian Government changed the funding model for private colleges. The writing was on the wall for the long term viability of the college.
I jumped before being pushed and applied for voluntary redundancy.
I probably could have got another 10-12 months out of the role, but I had my eyes fixed on something else that was about to roll into town…
Database & Accreditation Manager, Ceremonies, 2018 Commonwealth Games
The Gold Coast had won the bid to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games a few years earlier. The event was to be the biggest sporting event Australia had hosted since the 2000 Olympic Games. Seventy-one countries and 4,400 athletes were scheduled to take part in this event.
What most people might not be aware of (and I include myself in this list before getting involved) is the sheer number of performers you need for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
It was something I’d never appreciated before as a regular sports fan. Neither had I paid much consideration to the vast numbers of general volunteers working on the Games to make the whole thing work.
Jack Morton Worldwide won the contract to produce both Ceremonies. The moment they started recruiting in 2017, I decided I had to get a piece of the action… it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, a huge sporting event in your home town that isn’t going to come around again.
I got an interview and was appointed as the Database & Accreditation Manager.
The role was a “full-on” job from the minute I walked through the door – no mooching around in those first weeks reading health and safety policies. Timescales weren’t adjustable, and we were behind schedule from the get-go. We had to hit the floor running.
My role was primarily to manage and develop the database, iPad apps, to provide reports, metrics and technical support. We also worked with GOLDOC and the Queensland Police for preparing and arranging data for background security checks on the performers.
Thousands of volunteer performers were needed for the creative segments of the Ceremonies.
Our tiny team had a big task ahead – recruiting performers, scheduling and managing all the auditions and rehearsals, collecting and processing all the performer data and a whole lot more.
We worked around the clock to make it happen with help from some awesome volunteers, without whom it would have been mission impossible.
The Opening Ceremony was well received, the Closing Ceremony less so. The work was gruelling, and outside of the opening few weeks of the project, I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the experience.
I was pretty anti-social by my standards and rarely attended nights out (quite a contrast from previous jobs).
Maybe it was because we spent so many hours together as a team, my own (rare) free time became ever more precious.
My wife described herself as a Comm Games widow throughout the project as we passed like ships in the night.
She performed in the Closing Ceremony as a dancer but was glad when the whole thing ended so we could resume with regular family life.
I’m still glad I did the project though. It offered great insight into how these huge events worked and opened my eyes to the amount of effort required to put shows like this together.
The constant chaos and friction between numerous parties involved in the production was something I laugh at now, but at the time I was like “What the f**k?…“.
I detached myself completely from the political circus and all the friction… after all, it wasn’t a long term position, and I’d be out of there in a few months.
On a positive note, the creative staff were just amazing. As a functional person with little artistic flair, I was mesmerised watching some of the world class talents hone their craft.
It was a joy to watch people like the charismatic Nathan M. Wright and Kate Wormald (world class dancers and producers) building a show and choreographing vast numbers of volunteers for show segments.
I could happily watch people like this work for hours… then again, I could sit and watch a guy on the street drawing a caricature.
I love creatives… must be the Yin and Yang because I certainly am not one of their tribe myself.
Mandala Dancers getting ready for a call to enter the stadium for a segment in the Opening Ceremony.
1.5 billion people worldwide were supposed to have tuned in to the Opening Ceremony. I find that figure a little hard to believe but regardless, there was a big audience, and I was involved in it.
It looks good on the resume. Not that I intend planning on working for anyone but myself anytime soon.
Affiliate and Social Marketing
I’m currently investigating best practice in connecting Affiliate Marketing and Social Marketing with various technologies and best practice.
I still do some web development and databases for selected clients (mainly people I know very well or have worked with for years) but don’t seek any new clients in that field.
Exciting times ahead. Please go ahead and connect with me on social media below so that we can stay in touch.