New CW CEO Mark Rayner relishes the challenges ahead
Mark Rayner assumed the role of CEO of CW (Cambridge Wireless) in May – a fairly short period, but enough time for him to formulate a long-term policy that addresses the severe shortage of skilled workers in the digital age. .
Mark’s career began in the RAF (as an air traffic controller), later moving into credit management and founding Cambridge Capital Partners. He then joined Pall Mall Partners as Director and COO in 2000, for 12 years with an overlapping period (2010-2013) when he ran Emotive Experiential Performance Inc, a California-based automotive marketing company: customers included Tesla and Google. From 2014 to 2018 he was COO at Briggs Automotive Company, then became Group Head of Operations at Be Confident Group until 2020 when he decamped to St John’s Innovation Center to become an entrepreneur, a mentor and an access to finance specialist. . In his volunteer role as an advisor at Astia, he champions and helps fund women in business, globally.
Although he has a long-term vision for CW, Mark is dealing with some legacy issues.
“CW is still in transition from the pandemic,” he says. “We used to live in a virtual or hybrid world, and the job now is to bring the numbers back into the real world and come face to face in 3D, which is a real buzz.
“My first event was the CW conference in June, which was a hybrid, 50-50 split [between physical visitors and online], and we hold special events for interest groups every two weeks across the UK. And we hope to increase the number of people for the international CW conference on November 2.
There are 20 SIGs (special interest groups) operated by CW, with titles such as “The Industrial IoT group” and “The Connected Devices Group”. They’re central to CW’s mission to be “the premier community for organizations with technology ambitions.”
“Our membership is stable,” continues Mark, “and we are looking to increase it over the next six to 12 months with new products and services.
“We are launching the first CW Tech Week next May, we are working with universities and other organizations on this. Additionally, our reach has increased because we have a new event base – in London, at 22 Bishopsgate – for our national clients. We are also a member of CXHG Open Spaces [an exclusive workspace nestled in the iconic 22 Bishopsgate building]. We closed the deal in June and have since held our first event there.
The membership of CW in Cambridge is 30% and “70% are national and international”.
Tech Week event is part of CW’s larger ambition to drive adoption of STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] materials in the UK to train the next generation of engineers and technicians.
“We are looking at a number of programs to get young people into digital,” says Mark. “For Tech Week, we will be promoting STEM. The goal is to engage young scientists because there is a shortage of people in digital industries, and we need to start that process now, so for university students, that means they know who their job provider will be. .
“Skills shortages are going to be a big problem in the future, so we need to reach people at a young age. We will start with businesses in Cambridge and universities in the UK, to see how we can develop a pathway for our brightest minds, to broaden the scope of their ambition. It’s also important nationally – to keep people in the UK rather than seeing the smart people go. It’s going to affect us more plus, so it’s about improving people’s skills and getting more people to stay – it’s not just about the money, it’s your mission and what you believe in.
CW is working with Cambridge non-profit Form the Future to develop its Region of Learning programme, a system of digital IDs for young people aged 15-24, with badges reflecting learning or participatory activities offered by a range of formal and informal learning and education providers around the county.
The initiative is being developed by Form the Future, in partnership with St Neots-based consultancy Shift Momentum and digital consultancy Navigatr. The first learning region covers Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
Finally, CW is one of the main advocates of 5G in the UK. Its 5G Test Bed programme, which allows UK companies to test 5G installations for three months, has proven hugely popular.
“We are a core member of the UK5G Innovation Network consortium,” Mark notes of the initiative that helps companies deploy 5G by promoting research, collaboration and business use cases related to 5G. technology.
“We’re promoting 5G in the UK for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, to help attract bigger players – as well as seeing how to make money with it. 5G, to connect the dots… There have already been great results from the program.
“5G offers strong growth in small-cell environments – cable-free environments where the area is so much smaller.”
Small cells are low-power radio access nodes or base stations operating in licensed or unlicensed spectrum that have a coverage range from a few feet to a few hundred meters. They are deployed to increase mobile network capacity and coverage in localized areas, providing wireless service indoors or outdoors.
“This is where 5G is a game changer. There are no wires in 5G, so the cost of acquisition – to put the connectivity in there – goes down considerably: the absence of wires of course makes it easier .
CW is based at the Bradfield Center and has eight full-time staff and six freelancers.
“We try to keep the structure flat,” says Mark. “We are working hard to envision what we will look like in five or 10 years and how we will bring about positive change internationally.
“We have a great opportunity to reach out and deliver more excellence.”