IT LIFE: Lee James, Rackspace EMEA CTO

IT LIFE: Lee James, Rackspace EMEA CTO 683 1024 C-Suite Network

Rackspace’s Lee James talks about his journey from the market stall to becoming a CTO

What is your role and who do you work for?

I’m the Chief Technology Officer at Rackspace EMEA, and responsible for making sure that our products, services, and offering meet the needs of our customers and help drive growth for their business.

How long have you been in IT?

I recently celebrated my 21st year in IT – although it was slightly quieter than my actual 21st birthday! I started off working in an IT support role at a chemicals company in Leeds. It was a great place to learn – I got to see first-hand how IT works in a highly-regulated industry.

I later moved to London and undertook a number of contract roles to further my skills and industry knowledge before I landed at BP to help drive forward their private cloud strategy. At BP, I had the pleasure of being mentored by Brian Brennan and Paul Russell – their guidance is what forms the foundation of my own guidance on today.

Before I worked in IT, I began my working life on my parents’ market stall. They taught me the importance of connecting with your customers, and making sure you put yourself in their shoes to understand their needs and provide the best experience possible. It’s something that has remained with me until today.

What is your most interesting project to date?

Lee James Rackspace
Lee James Rackspace

To date, the most interesting project I’ve worked on was around analytics. My team and I developed a service which could provide insight into when a piece of technology was likely to break down, allowing us to rectify the problem in advance. The first time we trialled it was during a large project with a major automotive company, and we discovered that their CEO’s laptop was about to suffer a malfunction.

Without alerting them we backed up all of his data and loaded it onto a new laptop, which we delivered before anything went wrong with his current one. He was astounded by our proactivity as he could continue his day as normal. Now imagine that being delivered to 30,000 users. Putting yourself in other people’s shoes and imagining their experiences, is what makes the smallest breakthroughs have the most impact.

What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

My biggest challenge is helping customers make choices. Customers have more choice now than ever before and must be able to weigh different options – understanding what’s going to give them the biggest benefit and what will have no impact if implemented. It’s these decisions that can make a huge difference to their bottom line.