Technology Survey Event Birmingham – Photos & Blog

November 2, 2014

Are we all hackers now?

On Wednesday 26th November 173 technologists from
around the Midlands gathered at Millennium Point inside the fantastic Think
Tank in Birmingham to hear the headline results from the 2015 Harvey Nash
Technology Survey and explore this very question.  Panel members were:

Ed Tucker – Head of Cyber Security, HMRC

Fred Warren – Connected Digital Services, Microsoft

Nick Holzherr – Founder/CEO,

View photos from the event here:

2014 Tech Survey Birm Invite.jpg

In just the 3rd year of publication, our
Technology Survey has quickly become our largest survey in history and was
completed by 3,323 technologists from over 40 different countries. 

In the week before the run up to the Birmingham event, we
had held previous similar events in Edinburgh, Dublin and London and it was
clear that the Survey and debate around “We Are All Hackers Now” was generating
a lot of opinion and interest.

As guests arrived and started chatting over drinks in the
interactive technology museum, it was obvious that this event was also going to
be a big talking point and there was already a buzz in the room. 

At 6:00pm people took their seats and it was my pleasure to
take to the stage to welcome everyone and open the evening.

I firstly set the scene of the evening and explained the “We
Are All Hackers Now” title.  I challenged
people to raise their hands if they were a Hacker.  Around 11 people in the audience did this,
accompanied with a few gasps heard from the audience.   I then explained how the word has changed
over the years, how people’s mind sets’ have changed and how ‘Hacking’ now
means something totally different to what our lovely media would have us

10 years ago a Hacker was a ‘baddie’.  Someone evil who lurked in the dark web,
breaking into the networks of banks for financial gains, hacking into our
personal private things, disrupting the websites of corporate organisations,
holding Governments to ransom and playing a part in pretty serious Cyber

But now, something has changed.  A Hacker is now someone who builds new
systems or products with new software and hardware; explores the boundaries of
current software, systems or products with a view to making them better.  Someone who attends Hacking events or
‘Hackathons’ with a view to knowledge sharing with like-minded other people,
learning new programming languages, tinkering with things to produce something
outstanding and competing against other Hackers to show off their skills, or
sense of humour.  Hacking together a new
idea to launch a brand new tech company or start up has become the new way to
start a business.

The Hacker is now someone who is respected and in big demand
in the market.

I then offered my thoughts that with the ubiquitous advancements
of technology and how easy it has become to use, set up, change, re-route,
configure and ‘play with’ – the general public have all become Hackers
also.  Who hasn’t set up home networks? Configured
home WiFi hubs? Have SMART homes and appliances and can actually change, Hack
or reconfigure software to make it do things that we want?

More worryingly, our children are doing this.  They seem to know more about this than
us.  Even my 6 year old son, Alfie, can fully
use an iPad; turn on, set up and use the laptop; scrape his favourite WWE
(American wrestling) off YouTube and store in a file.  He is aware that technology is a normal part
of his life, just like his mountain bike is. 
There is no learning curve with him and technology.  There is no fear.  It is natural and it’s only going to grow
with him.

So…..that was my challenge to the audience……WE ARE ALL

results of our survey. 

2014 Tech Survey Birm results.jpg 

This year’s major headlines were very positive……..Tech
budgets are up, new projects are being started, a race for innovation is on,
using Tech to make money is the priority, there seems to be a new openness
using Open Source technologies and successful technologists are logical, self-reliant
and adaptable to change.  All good stuff.

The Technology community is now more mobile than ever, with
30% of respondents working in technology jobs, in countries that are outside of
their country of birth.  That is on
average 1 in 4 in every technology team in the UK is a skilled technology
migrant.  In London this rises to half of
an average technology team is a skilled technology migrate.  We are now at a critical stage in the eyes of
the public and the politicians around the whole immigration topic and I am not
going to use this blog to debate the left, the right, the middle and Europe –
but whose technology project could survive if 1 in 4, or more worryingly half
of your tech team left your business? 
Not many I’d wager.

What are people looking for now in their role?  Work/life balance.  Simple as that.  Nearly 70% of respondents told us that that if
they were to look for a new role, work/life balance is now the most important
factor.  Our thoughts around this are as
follows.  The recession hit us hard.  Very hard. 
Many people lost their jobs, were made redundant, companies folded,
projects were canned and people in the technology community suffered.  If you were lucky enough to keep your job,
you had to work extremely hard as budgets were stripped and everyone in the
leadership chain was leaned on to produce more for less.  It was a stressful and uncertain time and
most just kept their head down, worked late into the night, at weekends,
travelled around the country for weeks on end or even agreed to be posted in
other countries, missing out on essential family time.

Now times are better; the economy seems to be lifting, tech
budgets are up, confidence is back, new tech companies are flowering and there
is a drive to recruit or maybe even re-recruit technology talent.  As a result, people want to get back to the all-important
work/life balance that they once had.  To
do a fair days work, for a fair days pay. 
To see the kids in the morning and in the evening – when they are
actually awake!  To do the school run
once in a while.  To get back to a place
of work that is actually commutable and be able to leave early once in a while
to hit the gym, work from home or attend a school play.

People also want to work on innovative projects with
innovative technologies.  There are a lot
of new start-ups, challenger brands and tech companies who are doing fantastic
things – and people want to be part of that, rather just be part of a large,
faceless team keeping the lights on.

Being “well paid” actually came in 4th down the
list.  It’s not always about the money.

Other things that came out……………..Google are
taking over the world and show no sign of stopping.  Let’s just hope that they continue to be “the
good guys” as if they decided to be the “bad boys” then I think we’d all be in

2014 Tech Survey Birm graph.jpg

Interestingly, Microsoft and Apple didn’t rate that highly
on the ‘Most influential Tech company’ – perhaps they need to come out with
some more ‘magic and fairy dust’ in 2015. 
Amazon are coming up fast on the rails and if any company promise me that
they will deliver my tight Lycra gym kit by drone into my back garden – they
are OK by me.

In terms of ‘the next big thing’ around tech, your usual
suspects were there…..Mobile, Big Data/Analytics and getting everything into
the Cloud.  However, new tech/movements
are now accelerating into the scene: Crowd Funding, Wearable tech, E-Health and
Quantum Computing.

2014 Tech Survey Birm wordle.jpg

I didn’t even try explaining what Quantum Computing is as to
be honest, I don’t fully understand it and wasn’t going to insult the audience
making out that I did.  I was happy to
read out the definition and make a point about how we should keep our eye on
this area, how it could be a real danger to encryption software and how Google
(of course) have already purchased a Quantum Computer.  A little bit Star Trek?  Watch this space!

One of the major overarching themes in all this was that
only 50% of respondents thought that Security was going to a ‘big thing’ in the
next few years.  This could mean a couple
of things.  It could mean that people
just don’t see the current Security risks as big enough to worry about – maybe
everything is under control?  Or it could
mean that people are happy to take the risk using Open Source technology, open
networks, in an open world – and hope that the results and rewards are worth
the risk.  Or it could mean that people
just don’t know what’s out there……..

For more information around Harvey Nash
Technology Survey 2014 or to receive a copy, please contact me at or

2014 Tech Survey Birm photo.jpg

Then it was over to the speakers……..We were delighted to
welcome 3 industry leaders who had kindly agreed to speak for us at the event.

First up Ed Tucker –
Head of Cyber Security for HMRC
.  Ed
did a great job of taking us into the sometimes misunderstood world of ‘Cyber
Security’.  What it is, what it isn’t,
how the media have distorted things, how sometimes your own company may not
fully understand what it is.  He gave us
a good high level overview of how companies should plan around their security
issues, how we should dispel the myths; but at the same time, how we should
take it seriously.

Next was Fred Warren,
a 7 year Microsoft veteran
and part of Microsoft’s
Connected Digital Services team

Fred talked to us around how Microsoft were working in partnership with
consumers and customers a lot more, he talked around Customer Co-Creation, how
to innovate and how Microsoft were ‘magically blurring the physical and
digital’ – all with the help of the John Lewis penguin!

2014 Tech Survey Birm photo2.jpg 

Last to speak was Nick
Holzherr – Founder and CEO of one of Birmingham’s very own start-ups
 Nick told us about his business,
where the idea came from, what he had to do to get it off the ground, how he
got funding and the general state of the UK start up scene. 

We then entered into a lively Q&A session
with the speakers where the audience threw their questions at them.  We had questions around everything from how
to attract and keep good tech talent at your company, don’t we need a balance
between the data we give for what we get, do we need people to hunt/gather
threat intelligence or does technology/big data suffice, how we can use data to
create business opportunities, to would you employ a convicted Hacker?

2014 Tech Survey Birm panel.jpg

The debate could have gone on all night, but we had to draw
the evening to a close.  We were
delighted to have two ’90 second pitches’ (well it was a tech event) from two
people who were representing excellent organisations.  First, Tim Fogarty – UK Commissioner for
Major League Hacking.  Check them out at .  Second was David Groombridge – Head of
Business Systems for Eversheds but more importantly Vice-Chair of Midlands Byte
Night, a charity Harvey Nash has been delighted to support for many years,
check them out and support them!

Everyone then took to the interactive technology museum to
relax, have drinks and food, play on the Oculus Rift and carry on the debate.

It was an excellent evening and we would like to thank
everyone who attended.  The Midlands
Technology scene is alive and well and fantastic things are happening all over
the city. 

And… get back to my original question……..don’t be afraid
to call yourself a Hacker.  Be proud to
be called a Hacker.  Your country needs
you.  Hacking is the necessity of
invention.  This is how we will progress
and make the UK a superpower in Technology innovation again. 


Steve Corbett –
Associate Director

Harvey Nash

Please contact me for
more information or a copy of the survey : /
@SteveCorbettHN /