An extraordinary year is coming to an end, with the global pandemic challenging the way we work and live, and accelerating the digitisation across all industries. However, for Endava, it was also a year to be thankful for our 20th anniversary and the clients and employees we are working with. So, in order to celebrate, we asked Rob Machin, Endava COO, the same set of 20 questions about Endava and his personal development that we posed to our CEO John Cotterell back in February.
1. The 8th of February 2000 is a significant date for Endava – what does it mean for you?
I joined Endava at the very beginning of March 2000, so almost as soon as it was founded… well, the company I joined was called Concise, and it was a year later that John Cotterell purchased Concise and merged us into his business. Later in 2006, we were then renamed Endava. So, for me it represents a huge part of my career, life even, and something I am tremendously proud of having been part of.
2. Why did you join the business then?
For me, it was the tail end of the dot.com years, and the world of IT was an exciting place; it seemed like every month there was some new start-up that was going to change the world. My wife was working at Amazon, and there was a lot going on in the tech industry.
I joined as a senior developer focusing on Java and Unix. I’d spent the previous five years working mainly in a language called Smalltalk on the OS/2 operating systems from IBM.
3. Who was by your side when you were starting at Endava?
You’d be surprised how many of the Endavans I still work with every day date back to those times.
At Concise, Julian Bull, now Endava CCO, was leading sales, and in those first few years, we spent a lot of time together pounding the streets of London, talking to banks and trying to find our breakthrough clients. We had a lot of luck with a mobile technology called “WAP” and spent a fair amount of time trying to convince banks that the future was going to be mobile banking!
4. Who was the first big, game-changing client?
Vocalink, then still part of BACS, was our first game-changing client. We had just lost a bid to Goldman Sachs when Julian found an opportunity to talk to BACS. So we headed off to this strange office in the middle of a North London housing estate to talk about Java, Weblogic and Solaris with the BACS team, which was being led by Christina Cooper-Bland… I didn’t think we had much of a chance of landing the work, which – as Julian will tell you – is usually a good sign!
Well, to cut a long story short, we did win the work, and I spent most of the next four years working on the client site at BACS – and had a wonderful time. In the meantime, John, Julian and the rest of the team were busy building up the rest of the business, and by 2005, we were ready to start the Endava journey.
5. We have been looking back over the past two decades at what has changed – what was your favourite thing about the way things were in 2000?
In 2000, it felt like anything was possible, and like tech companies were going to own the future. But it was a completely different world – no smartphones, no social media, and Amazon still mainly sold books.
6. What is your favourite law of physics?
That’s a real switch in questioning! So, I went to university to read physics, so I know a few of them, but I then went on to take my degree in mathematics and philosophy rather than pure physics…
My favourite law in physics is the second law of thermodynamics – I’ve certainly found that any process that requires the use of energy is definitely irreversible and inevitably leads to decay…
I am just joking! My favourite law in physics is the theory of relativity. It was the breakthrough that Einstein made at the start of the last century that turned physics on its head. Whilst the maths is pretty straightforward, the conclusions we can draw from it about space and time are stunning. What I took from it was a profound sense that the world we think we know is far more complex than it seems initially to our “common sense”. And even time, which feels absolute, is related to the act of observation; everything is relative to that act.
7. What is the current focus of Endava as a business?
Endava is all about people. I think we have done an incredible job at creating a business that has built a network of centres, each collaborating to deliver to our clients, but each one with its own dynamic and community spirit, creating great jobs and challenging careers to great engineers in each of the cities we operate in.
8. Tell us about industries Endava is looking to expand into.
I think we do best when there is a client going through a hugely disruptive change to their sector… It’s those “do or die” moments when businesses adapt or fail. Endava has shown over the years that we can really help companies come through those moments with the products and systems we build. We can help them adapt. I have always liked to work where things are going through those kinds of shifts.
To be honest, when I look at all the industries we work in today, every one of them is going through changes that make me think we can expand and help them more.
9. Would you say that this experience has changed you over the years?
I don’t think I’ve changed that much over the last 20 years… it feels to me like it has been five minutes since I first joined.
10. Did you ever consider doing something else instead?
I worked for Endava from 2000 until 2007, and I actually left to join UBS Investment Bank – where I met Eoin Woods, Matt Cloke and others. I came back to Endava in 2010 after a 3-year gap. I certainly enjoyed my time at UBS, and it was fascinating to see the world from the perspective of a client, but I missed Endava. I missed the people and the sense of family and community, which is what makes Endava such a special place to work. However, I made a lot of contacts and gained a huge amount of experience and confidence in those years. The understanding I gained of both financial markets and how large, regulated companies work has been invaluable, both to me personally and to Endava.
11. What is the secret of COO longevity?
Clearly, a strong work ethic and delivering the results is a key part of it. But I also think you need to be aligned to the values and culture of the company, and for me that is what makes my role so much fun.
12. What are some emerging/future trends in IT that will impact Endava and the industry in general?
I still think Smalltalk is the best programming language and am looking forward to IBM realising it was wrong to quit OS/2 and release a new version.
I think the way in which people relate to technology will change over the next generation. All children born today are digital natives. I think the work we must do is to ensure that coming waves of technology and automation will release them from drudgery and manual or repetitive tasks, to live better, more meaningful lives. We can help create systems that encourage a greater degree of creativity, by making technology more human-centred and socially useful. Endava is well-placed, in all our industry teams, to take a lead role in helping to build this future with our clients.
13. How do you achieve life-work balance?
I’m not sure I have achieved that! But I do like to decompress with a good book. I spend a lot of time reading and collecting books. I probably spend as much time admiring my bookshelves as I do actually reading the books on them. I’m also a huge music fan and spend a fair bit of my time listening to music; that used to be something I would do on my commute, but now I tend to listen to music in the evening after work, usually whilst reading.
14. Endava has grown quite a bit over the last few years. How do you manage to spend time in each of our delivery centres?
Well, I used to spend a great deal of time travelling to our centres, but clearly COVID-19 has put a stop to that. However, visiting the centres and spending time with Endavans is one of my favourite parts of my role, and I’ve made a lot of good friends here over the years.
15. Which other people do you look up to?
I’m a big fan of Alan Watts – I think he talks sense most of the time, but I’m not sure he’d want me looking up at him, perhaps just a hug as we pass.
16. What is your fondest memory of your time at Endava?
Probably some of what I consider the pivotal moments in the business, like when we started to grow the team at BACS, and I got to work with some fantastic engineers, like Chris Cooper-Bland, Josh Sacks and Colin Hammond – that was a great team!
Or when we first started to build the business with Moldova and started to work with them on projects.
17. Who would you like to play you in a movie about your life?
18. What was the scariest moment since starting at Endava?
The scariest moment since joining Endava… I once lost a bid document and all our costs and plans we had been working on right before a critical sales meeting… that was pretty nerve-wracking!
19. How would you describe Endava in one word?
20. If we could send you back in time, is there anything you would change about Endava and your journey with the company?
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Chief Operating OfficerAs Chief Operating Officer, Rob is responsible for keeping our promises to clients and the smooth running of our delivery operations. Rob was raised by a pack of wolves in the wilderness of southern Oxfordshire. He spent some time studying maths and philosophy in his youth, and although he now very rarely solves differential equations, he still likes to keep up the philosophy studies and enjoys spending his time in the company of good books.
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