Part of the IT Leaders 100 - a list of the most influential IT leaders in the UK in 2023.
Oliver leads everything related to technology at law firm Travers Smith, both operationally - his team keep the company running - and strategically. He is the company's first ever CTO, bringing years of IT experience in the law sector to the role.
Oliver and his team prioritise making lawyers' lives easier and delivering a better service to clients. He is passionate about both technology and social work, sitting as a trustee (technology) with Refugees at Home.
How did you get into IT?
I studied Artificial Intelligence at the start of the 2000s, which is a bit like learning physics in the time of Isaac Newton! I started out in project management, but I always enjoyed the IT projects the most as it gave me a chance to solve technical problems as well as get stuff done - so I grabbed a chance to move into IT properly about 10 years ago.
How do you ensure diversity is taken into account in your IT recruitment?
We've removed higher educational requirements from all our IT vacancies as it can be an unnecessary barrier for talent, particularly in the legal sector. Also, when we brief agencies about new roles, we specifically ask to see female candidate CVs where possible. We have above average diversity in our team (compared to typical UK IT teams) and it's something I think is incredibly important.
Which technology are you currently most excited by?
I'm sure lots of people will say this but, artificial general intelligence. The practical applications that are emerging already are amazing and I don't think people are prepared for how quickly it will advance now (speaking as someone who studied AI 20 years ago!).
Our Engineering team has been working on pattern recognition models for legal contracts for the last few years, but now the potential to put that in reverse and generate new insights is wild, even from the early research we're doing.
What would an outsider find the most surprising part of your job?
How non-technical a lot of the job is. We're lucky to have lots of very talented technical people in our teams and so a lot of my day job is listening to people, understanding what the priorities are and making sure the right people are talking to each other.
I'm still a geek at heart and so spend plenty of time reading and learning about advances in technology, but I don't pretend to be the expert!
What's your secret talent?
I really enjoy engaging with people in lots of different roles and understanding what's going in their part of the business. It helps me understand the bigger picture and how to translate business problems into people/process/technology solutions, and I can have the technical as well as commercial discussions.
What makes you laugh?
We've got two little boys and they often catch me out and correct me! When I explain something to a four year old, I suddenly realise I don't always understand something as well I thought I did!