Canon Europe’s Quentyn Taylor tells us about printers, Amara’s Law, and why business agility is crucial to success
Tell us about your current role, how long have you been in IT and what are your areas of expertise?
I’ve been in IT almost my entire working life. I studied Biology at university but went straight into IT, so I’m a frustrated scientist really. In terms of my expertise, I have still kept my underlying technical skills, which is in some ways both a help and a hindrance. I say hindrance because it often means you lead from your own experience rather than trusting other people who may know more than you. I think it’s really important that you have worked in IT and have experienced what it is like to do a variety of things in the area. I’ve done everything from first line support to third line support; I’ve worked in ISPs, telephony, firewall configuration and many others. I think it’s really important to have a taste of everything to be able to see the bigger picture.
What motivates you right now?
Motivation, I think, is the ability to make a change. If I believed that everything I was doing here was pointless and nothing was making a difference then I wouldn’t be here. I believe I can make a change, and that’s the key for me. It’s the ability to say ‘I can make the world a better place’. Maybe I alone can’t make the whole world a better place, but I can influence change and help people to do so.
What has been your favourite project so far?
Developing the print security message and strategy with the input of industry folk has been by far my favourite bit of my career so far. Print security is an important issue for businesses that want to keep their information secure, and devices should include hardware and software that helps them to achieve this. So we developed and implemented features such as standard encryption, secure mobile printing and the ability to pick up prints securely from any printer. If security is not taken into consideration by executives when reviewing their print services, then they could be leaving businesses open to both attackers and security breaches caused by human error.
How has technology changed in the last ten years?
Technology has had a lot of improvements over the past ten years, but bizarrely, hasn’t changed a huge amount. I think this is down to Amara’s law that (paraphrased) says we tend to overestimate the pace of change in the short term and underestimate it in the long term. Television programmes like The Jetsons were only set a few years from now, and I don’t see myself driving a rocket car anytime soon. Overall, the technologies of ten years ago are very similar to the ones of today. Things have evolved, rather than completely changed.
What do you expect to be using in ten years’ time?
In ten years’ time, issues with information security will be broadly similar than they are now. I think there will be greater public awareness and security will be treated with more severity. It’s likely we are going to end up with legislations, especially with the recent OPM breach or the Ashley Madison breach in the US. In ten years’ time, I also hope we will have the new Data Protection Act in place and it is up to us to guide this legislation, starting today.
Who is your tech hero?
Definitely Caspar Bowden, a British campaigner who recently passed away. Bowden used to be Microsoft’s privacy chief and he is credited with starting a new wave of making consumers aware of their rights to privacy. Bowden always said the right thing, no matter what the personal consequence was. It is alleged that he even lost his job at Microsoft because of this.
What’s your favourite device ever made and what do you use the most?
My fountain pen, as I typically don’t take notes electronically. It has all the features I need for my day-to-day job; I can doodle, free form and take notes in short hand if I need to, and it never runs out of battery. It is probably my favourite device in a business sense. I’m not abandoning technology completely but there’s nothing like the sensation of writing with a decent fountain pen on decent paper.
What’s the greatest challenge for an IT company/department today?
Remaining relevant is the main challenge. We talk about shadow IT, but when we see things like shadow IT, what we actually see is a failure of IT to be able to deliver what the users actually want. Corporate IT is very good at delivering what the users need but maybe not what they want. Agility and being able to remain relevant, I think, are the main challenges.
Apart from your own, which company do you admire the most and why?
Google. I admire it because, firstly, the employees think big, there is no idea or concept that can’t be done. It’s a very profitable company and has a corporate ethos of ‘do no evil’ which I like, leaving employees free to do a lot of good. It is a company that is so certain that it’s going to improve the planet without prioritising monetisation and I thoroughly approve of that.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
I had very humble ideas; I wanted to be a fresh water biologist and travel the world, looking through rivers and lakes investigating small invertebrates. Perhaps I’ll go back to this idea at some stage!
Quentyn Taylor is director of information security at Canon Europe