The Day in the life of a CTO at GDS Group

We spoke to Dan Whiteley, CTO, about his role and life at GDS Group.

Dan Whiteley, CTO at GDS Group

What does a CTO do when a business like GDS is in start-up mode?

It's all about building a technology business with the right foundations but doing it at speed! The pace is immense and the workload is varied. It’s an exciting time to be creating a product from the ground up.

The primary focus for me is on the people and attracting the best talent and creating an environment they can excel in! Parallel to the people are the technology choices we are going to make and how we are going to bring the technology together to build out our new platform and services.

We are going to be using some cutting edge tech including taking advantage of AWS Games Lift and the Unreal Engine to deliver an immersive customer experience across web and mobile. We’re taking all of our collective experience, all the lessons learnt and what works and bringing it to the forefront, so it's very exciting opportunity for me and the team!

What made you want to join GDS?

GDS is a fantastic business with a rich heritage in events and more recently into creating and hosting ‘TV production level’ virtual events. GDS has a brilliant, vibrant culture and allows the freedom to explore and innovate which is increasingly rare.

This was a unique opportunity to join the business and build something brand new! The technology platform hasn't really been built before and it's going to be addressing a big gap in the market. I’m hugely excited by the range of possibilities and the opportunity to be using some cutting-edge technology and tooling. I ultimately like building software, building tech teams and most importantly working with smart people and having the freedom to innovate and ship product. GDS provides the opportunity to do just that!

What skills do you need to succeed as a CTO?

This is an excellent question and I think will vary massively depending on the type of organisation and where they are in their lifecycle. In my opinion, the key skills are technology vision, strong people leadership, a results oriented mindset and a solid technical understanding and appreciation of how technology can be used to advance the position of the business.

What does a typical day look like for you?

It varies a lot, and no day is the same. We are agile and we work at pace! A typical day could be meeting with potential new candidates, working through our technical thinking and designs, collaborating with our key stakeholders to ensure what we deliver is right and works, briefing the design agency on hi-fidelity mock-ups and finally, walking through a virtual world that is bringing to life our proposition and product. Above all having a lot of fun along the way and working in a collaborative manner.

What’s on your road map for the rest of 2021? 

We've got some fantastic new serviced offices in the heart of Leeds City Centre that we are moving into early September. We will also be launching our new brand and we've got a big hiring campaign where we're looking for the brightest and the best. Alongside all of this we have a top team of engineers building out our MVP which is going to lay the technology foundations, explore some of the key technology challenges and ultimately get us to a position where we can sell our new services.

What project are you most proud of? 

I've worked on many different projects over the years, and I guess the ones I’m most proud of have been where I’ve lead the team to deliver a major transformation or where I’ve built capability and delivered a new platform or set of services. I’m also extremely proud of the work I have done with Fruition Consulting in building up the business and the tech consultancy side of things. I ultimately enjoy creating and building capability which is underpinned by technology and solving those big technology and delivery challenges.

What is the biggest challenge facing CTO’s in today’s climate? 

I think the primary one is ensuring you have the continued ability to create high performing teams and an environment they can be the best in. I think the pandemic has bought on some additional challenges around ways of working and how you can continue to innovate and collaborate which has created a number of opportunities in how we work and who we work with.  I think the other key challenge is making the right technology choices as there's a plethora of technology available and I think it's too easy to make the wrong design choice. Some will say fail fast but getting it wrong could be a hangover you carry for a while. I’m all about trying to get it right at the start and building strong foundations.

Why is GDS a good proposition for someone looking for a new role in tech?

I think we are offering something that is fairly unique in the market. For a start, we are brand new, we're greenfield and we're doing something that hasn't been done before! Whilst we are small we are backed by a well-funded pandemic proof parent. We are genuinely agile to the core, and we don't come with any of the legacy hangover or politics. Did I mention we are also working with leading edge technology including games technology from Unreal and using AWS serverless?

We have the freedom to explore and innovate and we are creating an immersive rich customer experience that's going to bring together the best of web, mobile and games technology on a single secure, always on scalable platform that will host a global customer base! 

If you are tired of working on boring stuffy corporate platforms? Want the freedom and opportunity to build something truly innovative? Want to regularly release product to market? Then this is why you want to work with us!

  • Work with leading edge technology, game tech, AWS and have the freedom to explore and innovate.
  • Develop and create an immersive and rich customer experience using a mix of web, mobile and game technology.
  • Build our always on, scalable back end services and platform. The engine which powers our platform!
  • Join a brand new well-funded start up backed by a pandemic proof group business.
  • A rich 25-year heritage in digital events and immersive experiences.
  • Over 1,000 events per year and work with global house hold names!
  • Awesome culture with a focus on our people and learning.
  • Flex working – collaborate, explore, innovate!
  • Create a cutting-edge ‘never been done’ before greenfield platform.
  • Cross functional teams and agile to the core.
  • Accelerate your potential and work with the best and brightest!

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