(Before we get down to it, remember if you’re looking for a new role yourself to check out the Econsultancy jobs board.)

Econsultancy: Please describe your job: What do you do?

Michael Olaye: I have two roles. I’m the group CTO of Inside Ideas Group, and for that role I basically make sure the technology and digital vision, as well as the digital strategy of the group, is aligned. Its agencies are all varieties of the ‘inside model’, which embeds bespoke, in-house agencies within our clients’ offices to work at an efficient, creative and highly collaborative level. Given the range of agencies within the Group, they perform radically different functions with their own individual tech stacks; we share data across all these platforms, so I make sure they work together efficiently.

My work as Dare’s CEO involves leading my team of digital experts, recreating digital solutions and products and harnessing behavioral science, with clients spanning the entire spectrum of digital.

E: Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?

MO: As Dare’s CEO, I run the agency alongside my senior leadership and management team. For Inside Ideas Group, I direct report to the UK Group CEO, Sharon Whale; and the founder and chairman, Simon Martin.

E: What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?

MO: You need to be very business-savvy as well as completely immersed in all facets of digital – not just the bits you personally like. You’ve also got to be selfless at times – a massive part of this job is mentoring, liaising with account leads, and ensuring everyone has the tools they need to be the best they can be.

E: Tell us about a typical working day…

MO: At the risk of sounding like a cliche: there is no typical working day for me! It varies. As I said, I spend a lot of time talking to employees, because they’re the most important part of the business – I need to ensure that their working environment is an inviting, positive place to be.

Another chunk of my working hours is allocated to both my managing partners, my commercial/finance director and business directors, discussing how we’re growing and how we’re serving our clients. I also mentor six or seven people at any given time, I advise on a few London start-ups and an upcoming Crypto launch, I network, I spot opportunities… I have a lot of meetings.

On a Monday, for example, I’ll typically sit with my Dare senior team and learn from what’s happened in the previous week. Go through new business issues, look at growth, new talent, what we can improve on – I might nip out for lunch at one if I’m lucky! Then I’ll meet with Sharon, the group CEO, to discuss improvements and growth for the group as a whole. Then I’ll have lots of one-on-one sessions with account leads in every department across Dare – really getting into the nitty-gritty of what’s working and what’s not, making sure everyone’s not too disappointed that the weekend’s over! Finally, I’ll go over new business with my managing partner and at about six, I focus on my own stuff like networking, events and so on for around an hour.

Oh, and on a Thursday, you’ll always find me street-fighting with the Dare team. Not scrapping outside on Rosebery Avenue – we have an old-school, analogue Street Fighter console in the office. I remain undefeated.

michael dare ceo

E: What do you love about your job? What sucks?

MO: I love working with a team that’s helping grow a business in the right way – working with a company that’s egalitarian, transparent and open. That really interests me in my CEO role. I also get a massive kick out of our clients’ feedback, the fact that they’re getting what they need to help their operations grow too.

And what sucks? There’s just not enough hours in the day to do everything.

E: What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?

MO: In my CEO role, I measure my metrics on how happy employees are, how healthy the business is, whether we’re providing business impact for clients and so on. On a personal level, though, it’s about nurturing Dare and growing it into an international brand. 

E: What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?

MO: You want me to give my secrets away, eh? Well, I rely on three things. You’ll never see me without my mobile. Never. I’m always sending emails and would be lost without it. The second thing would be Google Keep – my whole life is planned on this thing. It’s basically a mobile PA, with the options to colourise, prioritise, and basically make sense of a very hectic schedule! And my final tool’s got to be Slack. It helps me keep up to date with where my teams and the agency as a whole are at. 

E: How did you become a CTO, and where might you go from here?

MO: My career’s always been around technology – it’s just what I do – but since 2000, I’ve been involved in the business side of digital. I was a founding member of the creative shop U-DOX, and was also heavily involved in Crooked Tongues, a sneaker resource brand that went on to be acquired by ASOS. 

So I’ve always been fascinated with setting things up, making things work better – I built Havas’ digital team from scratch in 2011. When I joined the Inside Ideas Group, it was all about harnessing digital power for the Group, to create efficiencies for both us and clients. My CEO role at DARE paints me as a digital specialist, but ultimately, my goal here is to make this not about technology. I want to get to the point where our work is so seamless, people don’t bat an eyelid at the technology part. 

E: What new technology are you most excited about (if any)?

MO: Obviously AI is the go-to piece of kit that’s exciting in the long-term, but there are three others that’ll impact us in the shorter term. The first is Zero UI – the idea of voice and gesture really coming into their own opens up so many possibilities. The second is AR – as more  devices become fully AR-enabled out-of-the-box, we can build super immersive, completely authentic experiences with them. And the last is blockchain. Web 3.0 is on the way and the idea of a decentralised internet is exciting; it’s still in the early stages, but we can all see the effect cryptocurrency has had recently. 

E: Do you have any advice for people who want to work in technology for an agency?

MO: Keep a broad, open mind. There’s a lot of different things called ‘technology’. There’s the client side of technology, the shiny interface users interact with; server-side technology, the nuts and bolts that keep big systems running; and middleware, which is how we get systems to talk to each other, how we harness parts of different technology to create the products we need. By understanding how the technology works with other systems, we can focus on highlighting the experience as the thing that matters, rather than the medium used to get there.

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