9 Questions with Brennon WIlliams CEO and founder of AIStudio.com and Iridium Systems and Robotics Corporation – ISR

February 10, 2020

Meet Brennon

For more than two decades, Brennon has worked around the globe as a contract software engineer, Chief Technology Officer and consultant technical advisor to companies such as Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and eBay as well as several smaller design and user experience (UX) focused agencies both in London and New York.

Brennon has spent the last several years in R&D, with a primary focus on Cognitive Artificial Intelligence, Robotics hardware and large Enterprise scale supporting infrastructures.

Brennon gained a BSc Computer Science from New York University (NYU), as well as several internationally recognised qualifications. He is a twice published author of technical books and receive the Most Valuable Professional of the Year (Global) award from Microsoft in 2013.

Best piece of advice you were ever given?

“All the money in the world can’t buy intelligence. You can do anything if you set your mind to it.”

My father instilled in me at a very young age that there are no shortcuts. We had very little money growing up, in fact I couldn’t even go to university. I had no choice but to self-educate and while my friends were at parties, I was learning, thinking, inventing and generally making as many mistakes as possible.

What books are you reading at the moment? 

The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky. I tend to focus on one book at a time; to give the material the attention it deserves. This book resonates with my core passion, topics around the development of artificial intelligence.

When did you realise you were wrong about something?

Several times a day. Someone once said that design is iteration – I believe that we should be open to having our minds changed, to be proven wrong, and to embrace a better, smarter solution from the many more smarter people around us.

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along your career path and how did you overcome it?

Myself. Pride – which is a stupid thing. It took me years to learn how to let go, how to advance faster by actively seeking advice from smarter people, and by embracing transparency; not being afraid to stick my hand up and say I made the mistake, or I don’t know the answer.

There are always technical challenges, but this is the nature of engineering disciplines and finding “the” solution is enormously rewarding.

How do you ensure you focus on the right activities?

I constantly compartmentalise thoughts. This helps free me to concentrate. From there, I perform a rudimentary risk assessment on almost all activities. Cause and effect of not completing certain tasks. The single overriding factor is when the emotional well-being of family, friends or a colleague is at stake. Everything else can wait at that point in time.

What one piece of advice would you give a CIO looking to develop a new modern culture in their technology organisation?

Bi-directional Communication is key. As organisations digitally transform and waves of younger, more technically efficient colleagues arrive, work out how to reach each and every person with meaningful content and active involvement in the building of the organisation. Make transparency a core operating principal and listen more than you speak.

What is the most interesting technology to you right now?

There are so many – on a personal level it is all about making clean water and energy from solar. On a professional level, it is about distributed compute on global scale projects. My obsession is with personalities and cognition in AI. My cup of coffee viewing is advancements in quantum computing and genetics.

What is the best example you have seen of an organization that has used technology to transform itself

Tough one – possibly Lloyds of London. The 300+ year old business was still doing things with a hand shake and a stiff look in the eye between brokers only a few years ago. They have made massive investments into technology to really bring risk assessment and globally sourced data analysis into play, which has transformed the insurance business. Brokers now have access to this technology which drives efficiency. One of the world’s oldest businesses, looks, feels and operates like a modern technology business.

What is true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Learn how to live and work with as little as possible – find the balance and happiness without the expense of stuff you just don’t need – retire early.

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