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How Transport Systems Catapult IT Director Alex Farr and his team add value, helping businesses transform and grow

Matt Egan | March 10, 2017
We find out about the ups and downs of Alex Farr's career in IT.

Alex Farr

Alex Farr is a bright, ambitious digital leader with a fascinating job in an interesting organisation. His commitment to personal development, technical creativity and building successful organisations means he has a bright future. But it wasn't always like this for Farr, despite his lifelong passion for IT.

Early career

These days Farr serves as the IT Director of Transport Systems Catapult, having been inspired to enter the profession by an uncle who was an IT manager. He spent his early years messing around with computer code and, after attaining a national diploma in computer studies took a role as an internal IT support officer.

The company for which he worked developed smart cards, and Farr credits this early exposure to IT as product as well as support service with giving him a wider view of the possibilities of tech. More important for his long term career: Farr's line manager left very shortly after he started. He describes this situation as sink or swim, and says it helped him to become tougher and more adaptable.

"I had to embrace it, and ended up getting involved in some big meaty projects," he says. "It gave me some great exposure to serve as an IT manager early on, which you'd never get in a 18 year old."

Farr develops this theme when describing subsequent roles. After his first employee went bust he found himself working for an outsourced IT company.

"It was really good for me because I'd go into different companies every day," he says. "It was a lonely role - you're on the road a lot, and you're being thrown in at the deep end.

"A company who don't have any type of support needs you to do something: whether that's building a server, replacing a keyboard, or something completely different. It could be such a wide range of stuff. Exposure to different technologies, and different organisations - talking to people at different levels, which was great exposure."

If early challenges lead to ambition and flexibility, exposure to difference company cultures gave Farr the vision to start to manage his career. He took roles in a traditional and cost-constrained newspaper business, and then a data-based marketing firm, before landing his first digital transformation role working for the Netball Association. 

Transforming netball

On the face of it a Sport England-funded governing body largely staffed by volunteers, administering a minority sport, is not a great opportunity for digital transformation. But Farr says that his previous career had given him the skills and the attitude to see the opportunity.

This was Farr's first role as an IT Manager, and the organisation had a mandate to grow netball. The experience clearly still resonates, as Farr tells the story with relish.

 

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