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Candidate blog Chris Northwood

Q and A Guest Blog with Andrew Palmer

Andrew Palmer

Andrew Palmer

Head of Quality at Iliad Solutions

Andrew Palmer bio.
Since completing General Electric’s International Information Management Leadership Programme Andrew has focused on improving quality management systems within technology companies. In 2012 he became a Chartered IT Professional from the British Computing Society. He is an advocate of agile delivery approaches and experienced in implementing transformation to business strategy.

Iliad Solutions are a global independent provider of products and services to the financial payments industry. Customers and partners are comprised of household names from across the retail and banking sectors.

Hi Andrew, thank you for making the time to talk with us today, you have a highly impressive career in tech! How planned was your career progression after gaining your degree and qualifications from the University of East Anglia?

Not very much at all!

I think the foundations for your ambitions are very much set by your parents and they always guided me towards a professional career, but I started out without a plan to become an IT leader. I’ve found that the people who have been able to actualize their potential, are those who are in roles that they most enjoy and fit their personality.

The great thing about working with technology is that as it evolves it creates new careers and new opportunities. The path I have followed is to be responsive to that and understand how my skills fit with industry needs. I personally invest in growth and improvement, as well as working with businesses who aspire for the same.

You undertook a two-year international graduate programme with General Electric to gain management and leadership skills and experience. How important do you think graduate focused programmes are to the future growth of our UK tech industry, and how valuable was this programme to you and what you applied from it to your own IT career?

Empowering young people is a passion of mine, it is the future of Tech. As technology evolves, with much R&D coming from universities, it is the graduates and apprentices who have grown up and understand the new platforms. Social media used by millennials is a great example of this. Companies such as Snap! are dependent on using younger people to reach out to that younger audience.

It is the responsibility of those of us who are more experienced to best harness their creativity, their skill and their hunger for knowledge. We can give them experience and prevent them from repeating mistakes. At Iliad, we maintain a fantastic talent pipeline, blending experienced technologists with enthusiastic graduates.

I’ve made enough mistakes in my early career but I’ve never regretted them. If you challenge yourself to work differently, you must accept that you will make mistakes. I always endeavor to reuse of the lessons I’ve learned and this has more than compensated for the pain endured at the time. 

What does best practice in Testing mean to you and how have you seen it best embodied?

Professionalism, and by that I mean applying the right amount of process to maximise the benefits to stakeholders.

Some see Test Automation as the holy grail, others aim for ISO standards or applying ISEB techniques. From my perspective, a great tester is someone who can listen. They can understand the customer’s requirement and the needs of the delivery team and then apply the right amount of testing specialist techniques, to minimise the risks from change.

The model of the T-shaped Tester best describes this. A great tester has the skills to be a Product Owner, Project Manager, Business Analyst or even a Developer; because they have the range of abilities and a willingness to listen and learn in a way that supports the team.

Do you think Agile is an approach, technique or methodology?

Definitely not a methodology. If someone claims to have implemented a pre-defined agile methodology, then there are likely to have failed.

Whilst Agile has a suite of techniques, it’s more of an approach. More specifically a mindset and a way of life. It is a focus on sharing personal and professional values, such as satisfying customers early and collaboration.

It is scary that there are Agile Coaches in the industry who have not read, let alone be able to explain, the Agile Manifesto.

Some of your specialties include recruitment and talent management. What do you think are the key ingredients to effective talent acquisition and management, particularly in the tech arena?

Talent management over the past few years has been a real internal struggle. Recruiting and promoting people that you simply liked and could work with got replaced with over-bearing anti-discrimination and corporate process.

The latter is very important and nepotism and cronyism are still real issues in our technology industry, but the former is still important.

Things have got better with names, DOB, nationality and gender being removed from CVs and application forms. But I’ve also seen processes going too far and talent management rewarding people purely on their CVs, with no consideration of whether an individual shares the company’s values or that the person may be difficult to manage within the team environment.

This is bad for the business, the hiring manager and the individual. There is not enough appreciation in business currently for the benefits of having effective collaboration within teams. 

You are a qualified AgilePM practitioner and you provide Agile Delivery coaching; what do you get back from it?

Qualifications in Agile count for very little to be honest. When recruiting an AgilePM or a coach, it is important to look for as much variety of experience as possible. Agile Coaching, like Agile itself, is about iterating your skills and continuous improvement. By working with different teams, we learn together to improve our approach and techniques.

The effective use of an Agile Coach is not to assign them to a single project for a long period of time. It is great to include them at the inception of a programme or project, but over time it is their responsibility to disseminate their approach to the self-organising delivery team.

What do you think are the 3 major no no’s when it comes to recruiting into a testing team at Iliad Solutions?

There are lots of potential pitfalls, but to list my top 3 I would say:

  1. Don’t commit to a technology or skillset too early. Choosing an automation tool before deciding a delivery approach, for example, would be a costly mistake.
  2. Don’t recruit without a succession plan. Build in a talent pipeline from Apprentice up to Test Management
  3. Don’t forget your existing team. Recruiting against a standard job description can work, but it is important to find candidates who compliment the skillsets of your existing team.

The best leaders recruit those who have skill sets that they don’t themselves possess. Hiring managers should never fear hiring someone that one day could replace them.

What are your thoughts on MOB programming; is it a completely new team approach or a re-hash of team techniques under a new guise?


IT is littered with salespeople who are more than happy to sell books and consultancy to executive management as the ‘latest innovation in technology delivery’. In reality concepts are cyclical and leadership teams buy into them in place of a wiliness to fully understand how their delivery operation works for themselves.

This is not specific to Mob programming or any other delivery flavors of the month at the moment. 20 years ago, all the hype was about XP and pair programming; and good ideas don’t go away. I appreciate any approach that encourages greater collaboration. 

Would you rather be known best as a leader, an innovator or a mentor?

Describing yourself as a leader is sometimes seen as big headed and bit of a faux-pas. In reality, it is a much-needed skill and incorporates being an innovator and mentor. 
The other challenge of being labeled a leader is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What constitutes being a leader is different for everyone. It’s more common for people to point towards a great leader, or point out a bad one, than for someone to step forward and be one.

Sometimes the only qualifier to make someone a leader is for them to stand up and do it. I prefer the role of servant leader, you may not garner the same notoriety but the end results are more outstanding.

If you were to design an app for the greater good; what would it be and why?

Wearable tech is going to be the greatest growth area in the tech industry; and it needs to be. At the moment it is niche watches and heart rate monitors, but in future robotics, AI and usability will work in closer harmony with our organic bodies.

Pacemakers and synthetics were at the start of the trend that will eventually lead to enhanced brain and sensory abilities. My contribution to this would be enhanced healthcare diagnostics. Be it nano-technology and embedded chips monitoring your health via a smartphone app or sensors that can spot the early signs of disease. This would improve quality of life and drive efficiencies in our stretched healthcare systems.