TechVets catches up with Sean Richardson CEO of Labb to find out how he built his tech career and why veterans are perfectly suited for the industry.
How did Labb come about?
In a café on the south bank of London in January 2014. In 2010 I left a software company I had worked at for nearly 13 years. I knew I wanted at that point to be part of something new but had no idea what or how to start it, so I began contracting as a software architect. Over the next 4 years I found myself bumping into the same couple of ex-colleagues (Mark Forster & Henry Hale). All three of us saw the potential of building a brand of the back of something we were passionate about (we still didn’t really know how to do it).
What has been the highlight of your career to date?
That’s tough as I tend not to look backwards at the bad or the good. I guess a pivotal point of my career was moving into computing. I left school at 16 and worked for a family member in the building industry. I had a great group of friends at secondary school, all very much into computing and most way more academic than I was. At 24 an old school buddy who knew I wanted to get into computing, convinced his boss to give me a chance as a workshop electronics engineer. This manifested itself in working for free for a week with a decision at the end. It was a tough week of late night and lots of study, huge support from said friend and a leap of faith from his boss at the end. Without a doubt the most pivotal point in my career to date.
Why does Labb support veterans and forces families into cyber?
Two reasons really. I can’t pretend I understand all the challenges of moving from the forces to a career in the private sector. However, I do understand from my own introduction into computing the value of just being offered an opportunity. Secondly, while we see candidates that perhaps may lack the technical background, they bring a huge wealth of experience and transferable skills that become a real asset within a team.
Where will you be in 5 years?
Gosh, its hard to say. I have some big ambitions for labb and I’m still very excited about reaching them. However, I would like to give some time to something new. I’m not sure what that is yet! Either way it won’t be retirement.
Throughout your life who would you say have been your main role models and why?
I think the same as it is for many people one, or both of your parents. For me it was my mother. She was a single parent, worked three jobs and believed and promoted that hard work will pay off. My grandfather was an engineer and I remember as a very young kid him spending hours explaining how something worked and being incredibly patient as I continued to ask questions.
Do you or have you ever had a mentor? What did you learn from them?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a mentor (formally). However, I think there have been many times where I have been mentored or I have actively sought the advice of others. I do think mentorship is incredibly valuable and being able to draw on the experience of others to help you navigate your career can definitely ease the anxiety of making decisions alone.
What mistakes have you made in your career? How have they shaped you for the better?
I tend not to look backwards or identify too much as “mistakes”. I have learned an awful lot in the last 5 or 6 years and am continuing to learn how to run and grow a company. If I had to reflect on anything it’s those moments where I moved forward with something even when I knew it was wrong, and ultimately it proved exactly that. That’s not something I do anymore, and it might still go wrong but it’s something I believed in and can be accountable for.
What emerging technologies should we be keeping an eye on?
I’m sure you’ve heard of all of these but: Quantum Computing, Large Language Models (ChatGPT etc), Process Mining are all super relevant at the moment!
If you were to retrain now, what area of cyber/tech would you focus on developing skills in?
I’m not sure I would – I still find myself fascinated by Pega even after 25 years. If anything, I wish I was learning it all over again. The newest versions have some amazing features with the incorporation of things like Generative AI and Process Mining we are about to see a real technological leap forward!
What more can the government do to encourage more veterans into cyber and tech training programmes and jobs?
I think the government would do well to further recognise and incentivise companies hiring veterans. Promoting and helping to organise networking events, leveraging existing resources like the GI Bill, and providing ongoing support services would contribute to transitioning more veterans into the cyber and tech workforce.
Why are service leavers well suited to cyber security and tech jobs?
They typically deal with high pressure environments well, they are also very good at thinking on their feet and problem solving. Most service leavers have also developed brilliant soft skills which is essential when dealing with clients. All of these attributes plus the ability to communicate, organise and work efficiently all play really important roles in Tech / Cyber.
How can we encourage everyday people to take better care of their cyber security?
So few people care about their cyber security, mainly through a lack of understanding the dangers. There are a number of tools we all have at our disposal that can provide more than adequate protection, it’s just making sure people know they’re available!
Should the national curriculum focus more on cyber security and tech skills?
I think the national curriculums focus on core subjects like English, Maths and Science gives such an important foundation for future learning. Tech is now so deeply incorporated in children’s day to day learning and lives I don’t think it’s necessary to make it any more of a focus.
You can find more insights at the link below, and if you’re a veteran, service-leaver, reservist, or spouse, find your place in the TechVets’ community right here.
Find out more about Labb, a company that leverages the Pega Digital Experience API to power clients front-end UI framework of choice.