Q&A with Patrick Blume
Growth – the most exciting and memorable moment in the company’s history!
We had a virtual sit-down with Patrick, our Chief Technology Officer, and again as in any good Q&A, we found out stuff that we didn’t know before. Pat is not only one of the Acceleon co-founders, but he’s also the best dad-joke teller on the company Slack channel, plus we are sure he can fix pretty much anything you can think off. If you haven’t heard from Pat for a long time, this is an excellent opportunity to catch-up, and yes, we did have a lot of questions!
Pat, I just recently learned that you have two passions: one in your ‘work-life’ and one in your ‘free time’. Can you share with us more?
Of course, my first passion in my free time is my family, but I think you’re getting at the slightly unusual hobby for people in my industry. A lot of people don’t know this, but I am a Group Fitness Instructor for one of Australia’s large fitness club chains. It’s something I have been doing for over ten years now, and hope to continue for at least the next 10. Keeping myself healthy is important and quite a nice benefit of doing the work, but quite honestly, it’s the excitement, commitment and discipline of the people that keep coming to my classes that has kept me going. My participants are a reflection of what I do and how I behave, so for me to be able to push someone to do what they wouldn’t do by themselves, I need to be able to push myself beyond that point too and take them with me on that journey.
I find that the passion in both my work life and my external activities comes from the same source. I love helping people get to the next level, whether it’s my gym team, my work team, or my customers. Whenever I look at a situation, I think ‘How could I make this even better?’
Your colleagues, even though they are coming from different professions, in their recommendations, speak about you in the same tone. Words used are ‘consistent, creative, enthusiastic’. How early in life did you recognise what will be your ‘drive’?
The love for the ‘why’ and ‘how’ has always been part of my life. I have always been a builder and maker. Taking something apart to see how it works and how it could be done better is an approach I take to every project. When I was a young boy, I distinctly remember taking apart my Space Lego sets once I had finished building them and recombine them with other kits to make a bigger ship or moon base. It gives me my enthusiasm, and it allows me to be creative with what I do. When you don’t limit yourself to the constraints of what exists right now, creativity and curiosity take over.
How experiences in working with finance and telecommunication industry influenced your professional and business development?
The finance industry, in particular, has given me an appreciation for security and accuracy. Knowing that I always needed to be one step ahead of anyone trying to break our systems appeals to my sense of curiosity and competitiveness. Over the years, I’ve become the bane of our developers because I now have a knack for finding test cases and gaps that no one else has thought of. Sometimes you have to break things to make them better.
Acceleon clients and long-term platform users will know that you started the company with David Johnson, our Chief Operating Officer now. What was the most rewarding moment you remember in your journey of building Acceleon?
There have certainly been lots of memorable and rewarding moments, but one of the most personably significant was when we had run out of desk space at our second office. As you mentioned, Acceleon started with just the two of us in a 50 square meter concrete-box office down in Docklands. We quickly grew to 4, then 6 then 8 people. By the time we moved out of there, you could hardly move. When we first moved to Collins St, we acquired a space that I thought would last us for year and years. Within the next three years, we ended up nearly tripling the size of the company. When I would walk into that bustling office full of phone calls, energetic chatter and smiles, brought so much joy to me. We had made a difference to so many people’s lives, and our reward was being able to do it again and again.
We are now tackling projects that we could only dream of back in the early days.
What were the product specifics you wanted Acceleon platform to have when you started the development process in 2009?
To me, breadth-of-data and ease-of-use were the most significant factors when we first started. We had used other systems in the past that had clunky and cumbersome user interfaces. We knew what our customers wanted, and we wanted to make their lives easier. To that end, we built a lot of smarts into the product that essentially figured out what the user wanted to do and did it for them.
At the same time, establishing an architecture that would allow us to plug in more and more data easily was a decision that has paid for itself over and over. We now offer an industry-leading breadth of quality data sets that are all queried in one simple environment.
Can you discover the secret behind the brand’s name?
I’ve always been a fan of the word ‘Accelerate’ and ‘Acceleration’, and Acceleon was, quite simply, an even faster way of implying the meaning of both words. I think it sums up the business quite nicely and it speaks to looking at different ways to solve a problem.
One of your professional recommendations says that you were always successful in connecting business outcomes and technology. Since most of the technology products today, try to address a particular problem and offer a solution, what do you always communicate as a key differentiator for Acceleon?
I think the main difference that Acceleon brings to the table is that we try to understand the business and what the customer is trying to achieve before we do anything. All too often, technology products present a one-size-fits-all approach. While that can be a quick way to get started, it usually does not solve the long-term strategic goal for our customer. We see our customers more like partners that we want to establish a long-term relationship with. We bounce ideas off each other and come up with better solutions because we genuinely care about each other. While we often use off-the-shelf systems and products to help us get started and to get the customer value for money, we spend a lot of our time filling in the gaps to really being the solution to life. It seems like it is an approach that works because most of our customers have been with us for the long-haul and some have been with us since the very beginning of the company.
In general, what is your work style? How do you keep yourself organised at your workplace, and can you share a few secrets or ‘super-tips’?
The one tool that I’ve been using for years and still find a core part of my every-day is Trello. It’s a simple Kanban board style list system that allows me to capture my thoughts and tasks across all my projects. I am a very visual person, so being able to see a list in front of me and being able to move the tasks between columns is important to me. I typically start my day on my Work in Progress board together with Outlook where I sort any email action points into the board. That gives me a good idea of what my day is going to look like.
What’s my secret to getting things done?
Pick a few hours per day where you turn of notifications from Slack or whatever messaging systems you use. I found the constant beeps and popups instantly take me out of whatever I was focusing on.
What do you enjoy the most in your role? At which stage, you get excited about the project?
My favourite part of my job is the interaction I have with both our customers and our developers. When a new project starts up, there is always that green-field moment where you get to explore the intent of the project and can then help shape it with ideas that the customer has likely never considered. You can feel the excitement build as new horizons open up, and these businesses are now considering steps that they never knew they could take. The same happens on the developer side. There is nothing better than a meeting room with a large whiteboard and a bunch of exploring minds where you can come up with all kinds of crazy ideas that eventually get distilled down into something that is going to work and is way beyond expectations.
We ask this question in every Q&A, what is your favourite APP at the moment and why?
I’m sure you are looking at something enlightened and peak performance based here, but quite honestly, my favourite app at the moment is still YouTube. As we talked about right at the start, I am a very practical person and am always looking for ways to make something better. So, having instant access to visual tutorials on pretty much any skill known to man is invaluable to me.
Whether it’s finding a new kettlebell workout for the team at the gym or implementing an H-Bridge to drive a DC linear actuator off an Arduino micro-controller board, I know that whatever I need to know is only two or three keywords away.
Today & the future
Having a bigger team and more help and skillset diversity, what would you say is the Acceleon platform potential now?
The growth of the team, coming from all walks of life and industries, along with our continuing work with our Enterprise Services Customers, has spawned endless new ideas for features and improvements. Even more importantly though, because everyone looks at what we do from a slightly different angle, we now have the opportunity to apply our products & services to whole new industries and markets.
Which key capabilities our team has, and what is the level of the expertise across the Acceleon team?
I think one of the keys to the Acceleon team is the complete end-to-end capability we have. Early on, because we started so small, everyone had to be multi-skilled. Having experience in multiple aspects of a system gives you a much better appreciation of how your decisions affect other aspects of architecture. As we grew, and people were able to specialise more, we still carried across the culture of everyone looking at the bigger picture. This allows us to build better solutions faster.
Tell us a bit about your current role in the business?
As a Solution Architect and Technical Specialist, my role touches on a lot of areas of the company, which is where I like to be. I get to talk to the customer to help influence new projects to expand what they think is possible. I get to dream up solutions and explore and attest technologies with the developers. I get to think a little mischievously when I come up with security and defence designs. And, I get the satisfaction of seeing all come together as one cohesive unit.
Your current projects, ones that you can reveal?
As we just discussed, I am involved in a lot of areas of the business, but at the moment, one important focus for us is the future of the product platform. We are looking at revolutionising a whole industry with some of our ideas. You’ll find out about those soon enough.