Part of the IT Leaders 100 - a list of the most influential IT leaders in the UK in 2023.
Akbar has a strong history in IT, starting as an analyst and working his way to strategic roles at Vodafone. Today he leads the company's operational design and transformation, blending IT management with business communication.
How did you get into IT?
Joined HP/EDS as a graduate during the credit crunch after months of companies abandoning their graduate schemes. I really was more interested in business roles but there was a unique scheme just for IT testing, and that's where it all started. I learned testing and got to work for major clients like Rolls Royce, Nike and Vodafone.
How do you ensure diversity is taken into account in your IT recruitment?
I always look to the candidates and their background: the challenges they faced from being from a less privileged upbringing and also their path to applying for a role in my team. Knowledge and skills can be attained, but the inner behaviours to the do the right thing and act with integrity is universal. Being from an ethnic minority I always look to embrace differences and have teams with a broad spectrum of gender, age and race.
Which technology are you currently most excited by?
Cloud is still very exciting because many legacy systems are still at the heart of major enterprises, and to move at pace like a start-up is much tougher and can be disastrous if not done well.
AI like ChatGPT being used by IT support & DevOps professionals to build more capabilities faster is also massive opportunity to grow citizen developers.
What would an outsider find the most surprising part of your job?
Involved constantly in driving strategic change within an IT operations setting. IT Ops is often the place for careers to die as it is very reactive and old school thinking, but actually at Vodafone we are delivering huge value to the business, spearheading the drive to DevOps and finding ways to engineer solutions for our front line teams to make an impact. Experimentation, psychological safety & collaboration with similar groups globally is at the heart of what I do daily.
What's your secret talent?
I often get involved in things and step back to take no credit. I personally enjoy it when someone who didn't think they could do something with a little help actually takes the limelight for something they delivered.
It's that, and diving into issues with little to no knowledge; I love to problem solve and ask questions, often finding myself joining incidents on the weekend when I'm not even on call out just to learn and feel that adrenaline of learning and solving something.
What makes you laugh?
Whenever anyone asks me if I can get them a great discount on their broadband or mobile phone and realise i still have my iPhone from five years ago. That, and the host for the UK IT Industry Awards when my team was finalist for IT Team of the Year in 2022.