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Doing business with Kieron Lawson

Doing business with Kieron Lawson

The Auckland-based CTO, cloud applications at LiveOps talks about an important step that is often overlooked as one moves from being an ‘individual contributor’ to team leader.

Name: Kieron Lawson

Title: Chief technology officer, cloud applications at LiveOps

Age: 41

Where were you educated? University of Auckland

Where do you live? In Stanmore Bay on the Whangaparaoa Peninsula – we moved there in 2005 for the lifestyle, and love it there.

What are your interests away from work? I enjoy working with my hands – makes a change from sitting at the desk all day. At home I have a very well equipped workshop and spend a lot of time there building furniture, aside from that I try to get out fishing on the Hauraki Gulf as much as possible.

What are you reading at the moment?I just finished Carl Hiaasen’s Bad Monkey which is the first paper novel I’ve read in a couple of years – almost all of my reading now is on the Kindle, and at the moment I’m splitting my time between Crux by Ramez Naam and Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. My favourite read of the last 12 months was Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane which I highly recommend to anyone.

What is your favourite movie? Why? The one that always bubbles to the top of my list is Bladerunner. I love the dystopian feel of the movie and its examination of humanity and the impact of technology on society. Of course, it helps that I’m a big sci-fi fan.

What is the most memorable place you've been to? In the past eight years I have had the good fortune to travel all over the world. There are many memorable places but the one that stands out to me is India – I spent a very short three days in Delhi and Bangalore on business in 2009 and loved the chaos and energy. I will definitely go back – but for much longer next time!

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received? “Inspect what you expect”. When you make the shift from individual contribution to management it’s important to learn that people don’t always follow your expectations, and over the long term this reflects poorly on your performance as a manager. By inspecting what you expect your team knows to follow through on your expectations – because you will be checking that what you’ve asked has been successfully executed. It’s actually a pretty simple piece of advice, but something that many people fail to do well.

Professionally, who do you admire most? Tough question – there are many smart people out there. One at the top of my list would have to be Bill Gates – not for his ability to generate immense wealth at Microsoft but recognising that he has decided to leverage that wealth to help make the world a better place.

How long have you been working in IT? At least 20 years – longer if you count holiday jobs.

If you weren't working in IT, what would you be doing? I’d like to think I’d be doing something practical – I come from a line of engineers and builders so the desire to make things and work with my hands runs deep.

What was your first job? At the age of 11, I ran my mother’s shop during the school holidays. At the age of 16, I had my own business doing desktop publishing (remember, this was the 80s) for real estate agencies in the Auckland area.

What's the best thing about working with IT executives? Our company is headquartered in Silicon Valley – and one of the benefits of that is I get to work with some truly brilliant, visionary people. It never ceases to amaze me the world-changing ideas that come out of our industry.

What is the worst? Probably myopia. I’ve been building and delivering what we now call ‘cloud’ solutions since 2000. It’s only been in the last four years or so that people have started to truly recognise the value of shifting their legacy infrastructure to the cloud.

What is your favourite networking situation? No specific situation – but with the travel I’ve found that you meet really interesting people in many different places – airport lounges, trade shows and conferences – even hotel bars.

What will you do when you retire? To be honest, I don’t ever think about it. Retirement is a strange concept these days. I’ll always be doing something, it will probably involve some sort of technology, but I can’t imagine being in a situation where one day I just stop.

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