“There's never been a more exciting time to be involved in technology,” according to Adam Forde, Group CIO of Spectris.
“In my 20-plus years, I've never seen anything like it, where technology and technologists are moving from the back office to the front office. It's just wonderful. I feel very fortunate to be working in this era and for an organisation like Spectris,” said Forde who started his management career with betting shop Ladbrokes.
UK-based Spectris works to make the “world cleaner, healthier and more productive” through precision measurement for global customers. Headquartered in Egham, Surrey, Spectris employs approximately 7,500 people located around the world.
Forde is responsible for ensuring that IT supports the delivery of the strategic objectives of Spectris and its operating companies. Recent achievements have included the global deployment of Workday; multiple successful cyber enhancements (people, process, and technology); the smooth transition to hybrid working as a result of Covid-19; the transformation of the technology function across the group.
“Precision is at the heart of what we do. Spectris provides global customers with specialist insight through our high-tech instruments and test equipment, augmented by the power of our software. With revenues in excess of £1.3 billion in 2020, Spectris is one of the largest companies in the FTSE 250,” said Forde who joined the company two years ago.
He is also CIO of Malvern Panalytical (an operating company of Spectris) a leading provider of scientific instrumentation for the measurement of elemental concentrations, crystallographic and molecular structure, and remote sensing for particles, where he leads a team of 50 IT professionals.
Prior to his role at Spectris, Forde worked in financial services, manufacturing, and fast-moving consumer goods. “I have been fortunate to work for interesting companies like Coca-Cola and GE Capital - always in technology. It's a passion of mine and an area that I enjoy being in and never has it been a more relevant and interesting area than it is right now.”
His path to technology started when he graduated in Computer Science from Birkbeck at the University of London but it was not a straightforward career journey.
“I completed a management training programme with Ladbrokes but realised betting shops were not for me. As I had a passion for games, I wanted to start a video game company but to do that I had to learn touch typing which I did with Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. I was then lucky enough to get a trainee computer role with Credit Suisse.
“The video game dream died, but I'm now very fortunate to be in a position of influence in the technology world.”
Commenting on his leadership style, Forde describes him as inclusive. “I prefer a collegiate atmosphere. I find that when you've got an open environment with plenty of diverse ways of thinking, it tends to engender good outcomes.”
Reflecting on the effect of the pandemic and how we have been confined to communicating with colleagues via Zoom or Teams, Forde said he was concerned about mental health and wellbeing. “It has been a broad societal level of catastrophe but also a deeply personal experience for everyone.
“When you only interact with people through a two-dimensional screen, you can easily take the wrong cues from people such as if they cross their arms. Are they cold or don’t they like what you're saying? It has been very destabilising for people. But I have been very fortunate with the team at Spectris.”
Important mentors for Forde include Sabine Everett, who was a senior CIO at Coca-Cola, and Greg Simpson, who is the chief technology officer of GE Capital.
“But I have to admit, I'm inspired more by what the national health service has done individually and personally over the last 15 months, that level of personal accountability and a certain level of risk. This is the kind of leadership I admire because it's not an individual stepping forward, it's a team going far, far beyond what anyone could reasonably expect.
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“We're now shifting to delivery, pivoting into working more in the battle space, and supporting our ambitions in terms of NATO.