Søren Andersen is UNSILO’s new CTO.
How does UNSILO compare with your last company, Stibo Systems?
Actually, although Stibo is quite a large company, for much of my time there I was in a small group creating custom solutions for customers, expanding the core product, both as developer and later as architect, working with in-house and out of house teams. I would also handle customer customer communications for our projects, so in effect it was a bit like working with a startup. It means I have been in many customer meetings, right up to board level. I’m familiar with gathering individual requirements; my main job was sitting with customers, who would tell us we want to do XYZ, and we would establish if that was what they really wanted. I loved the contact with people, as well as the technical side. Later, at Stibo, I moved into R&D, where we produced a three-year roadmap, with a software release every six months, a much more planned environment. This was a very different kind of software development.
Stibo to UNSILO is certainly a contrast – at Stibo, with over 500 staff, people have more well-defined roles, but there is something of the same feel, the same corporate culture. Just because they are big, it doesn’t mean they had a well-defined process for everything. My experience from working with a technical consultancy was moving fast and talking frequently with the customers. A “goto attitude” was the style, producing something fast, and then refining it as required later.
Do you enjoy working at the cutting edge of technology?
Yes, but the thing about working on the cutting edge, is that sometimes you can cut yourself, as it were! Working with machine learning and NLP it is fascinating what you can and can’t do. In earlier roles I used to discuss how to fit things into existing frameworks; here I’m challenged in completely different ways. I look forward to working with NLP and machine learning – it’s incredibly fascinating!
What about all the hype around AI?
It’s the natural order of things – five years ago everyone talked about microservices, and only now have we worked out how to use them right. Machine learning will also mature. It is currently in that storming phase where things are not established – people are still trying to define some of the models. Every day you can go in 20 different directions – you won’t have a three-year roadmap, but look at the next month. We have lots of brilliant ideas, which is both an advantage and a challenge. If you believe the a curve of software maturity, you eventually reach a plateau of stability, which makes it much easier to define things, but at that point the tools become more of a commodity. Currently, we are in the much more interesting and dynamic phase, where we can influence the how these technologies can and should be used.
What about working with customers outside Denmark?
I’ve always worked with international customers – Denmark just isn’t a big enough market for a lot of companies, including UNSILO!
Are you from Aarhus?
Yes, I was born and raised just outside Aarhus, in a village called Skødstrup. I’ve lived in Aarhus for ten to 12 years now, though, and it’s been interesting to see the concerted effort to change the city in the last few years. Not just the arrival of new businesses, but with initiative such as Aarhus Ø, keeping focus on quality at AROS and the new Moesgaard Museum – and growing culture of gourmet food as well! I also love all the events going on – such as the big-screen TV during the world cup, being the European capital of culture last year and Sculpture by the Sea when that is arranged – these things give us an international flavour and bring us together.
Your first week at UNSILO was the week before the Frankfurt Book Fair, just before UNSILO’s biggest ever new product launch. Do you like challenges?
I don’t like to do easy! Being here during those few weeks certainly cemented that I have lots of things to learn, though!
Thanks, and welcome to UNSILO.