The changing face of the CTO during the 4th industrial revolution.

In conversation with Niall Staward, the button mashing, world record holding, gamer Chief Technology Officer.

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Think CTO of a modern software company and you could be forgiven for conjuring up images of a bespectacled old man in a white lab coat thanks to endless Hollywood megalomaniac stereotypes and whatever fictional, weather disrupting space laser they have somehow secretly managed to manufacture deep in a jungle lair. Analogues of Bill Gates will probably continue to work their way through popular culture for some time yet. Television, on the other hand, gives us a different type of stereotype, the skinny-jeaned, free-climbing, base jumping “dev”.

So, on the lead up to meeting Katchr’s CTO, images of who might be behind one of the country’s leading software providers to the legal industry were abound. The reality of Niall Staward? A down to earth, articulate, funny and acutely intelligent man running a team where everyone can and has to make a difference.

As Katchr’s first employee and a shareholder, he saw an opportunity to bring new ways of thinking to the law industry, with a product that looks clean and fresh, that provides a huge amount of information through a simple interface.

That’s the industry-leading software he has helped create and refine but what brought Niall into the technology world? How about achieving the world record for the 100 metres on Playstation 1’s unforgettable International Track and Field? Some gamers laugh at button mashers. Where’s the skill in hitting buttons as quickly as possible to simulate left leg/ right leg racing? Well, perhaps it’s not so much the skill as the sheer determination. That’s what got Niall to under seven seconds and whilst the record no longer stands today it flung open the door to a future in technology. Gaming is never far from his life as he currently battles his way through the epic, The Last of Us whilst juggling the duties of a parent.

These days Niall maintains a healthy balance of dad-time, game-time and “proper sport” honing his love of football and also a desire to be the next Bradley Wiggins whilst out and about on his bike.

He always knew he’d work with computers having explored the delights of the Commadore 64 and the BBC Micro. But, putting his skills to practical use he soon discovered how lucrative a career choice it was in his 6th form days when he was already earning £300 a week working on Microsoft Access for a local client.

So why create software for the legal sector? Well, Niall knew that legal software was one of the most exciting areas of technology development. It is one of the first industries to explore A.I. in its operations and, as a traditionally change-averse industry, the evolution of technology and law represents one of the most meteoric transformations in business the world has ever seen.

As is the case with most people, career and life choices tend to be interlinked and with the company growing nicely Niall’s thoughts turned to his future and even post retirement. “Work helps us live the lives we want to live.” And Katchr is a team of people with all sorts of interesting dreams. “As a company, we try to help people spread those wings.” Last year, Niall’s M.D., Graham took a month off to explore New Zealand because Katchr believe that people with broad and fresh minds are happiest and most productive… Huddersfield with a dash of California. For Niall, life outside Katchr is about travel… all the better if it involves a stop at a whiskey distillery in order to swell the ranks of his collection, now in excess of 60 bottles.

Niall is very careful who he invites to join his team “often looking for a person rather than a role” which very much typifies Katchr’s search for only the best people.
Niall Staward (pictured), CTO at Katchr.
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