Jamie Smith Webb, CTO of Numan talks to Luke Webber (Partner at Albany) in our latest interview.
Jamie is a skilled tech leader with nearly two decades of dynamic leadership experience across a range of technologies, domains, and stages of growth. Before joining mission led health-tech company Numan, Jamie significantly scaled the engineering team at Funding Circle, thriving in fast-moving and dynamic environments. Jamie prides himself on his knowledge of both business and technology, and his ability to translate between the two.
Q: What attracted you to your current organisation?
A: Personally, I’m drawn to the exciting and uncertain parts of a company’s journey, especially when they’re relatively new. I love diving into challenging problems that have meaning and working together as a team to solve them. It gives me a sense of belonging. When I interviewed at Numan, these two things really caught my attention. Firstly, the people and the culture. It may sound cliché, but the questions they asked and the discussions during the interview process showed me that the senior and technical teams are invested in knowing their peers and fostering a strong team spirit. There’s a significant emphasis on culture and leadership style, and that appealed to me. Secondly, the opportunity to work on something meaningful and work on it together. The ambition and passion to improve men’s health were crystal clear. I wanted to be part of that journey with that team. So, the people and the shared ambition were the two main factors that drew me to the organisation, and I’m proud to be at Numan now.
Q: What part of being a CTO excites you the most?
A: Well, there are two aspects that truly excite me about being a CTO. Firstly, it’s the unique opportunity to create a strategy that propels the business mission forward. Understanding where the company wants to go and developing something that comes to life over time is absolutely amazing. Witnessing the impact of technology on businesses and how it helps us tackle increasingly complex problems is fantastic. That’s what I love the most about being a CTO. Secondly, being part of the journey itself is incredibly thrilling. As a CTO, I work with a team from different disciplines, each bringing their unique perspectives to the table. Working with experienced, talented peers who are at the top of their game, I learn something new virtually every day. It’s inspiring to collaborate with them. So, these two aspects, bringing strategies to life and collaborating with a diverse leadership team, are what excite me the most.
Q: What was one of the biggest challenges you faced in transitioning from a VP of Engineering to a CTO?
A: I would say there were two main challenges in that transition. Firstly, it involved letting go a bit and taking on more of a coaching and mentoring role with my director of engineering. I had to realise that I wasn’t the sole decision-maker anymore. My role shifted to assisting others in making the decisions that I used to handle. This transition was initially tough for me, but with great feedback from my team, I managed to overcome it (although it did take a few months to find the right balance!). The second challenge was understanding that as a CTO, I wasn’t just the tech expert in the leadership team. I had become a leader within the company, while being the one who knows the most about technology. Navigating these dual roles and adapting my behaviour accordingly was a really tough challenge.
Q: What is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve received?
A: The best advice I’ve ever received is the understanding that what may seem obvious to me isn’t necessarily obvious to everyone else. This perspective is both comforting and challenging. It means that the questions I have, even if they seem basic or silly to me, are valuable because they often represent what others hesitate to ask. I’ve realised that asking these questions benefits not just me, but also others who may have been too embarrassed to ask. So, that’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received.
On the other hand, the worst piece of advice I received years ago was the notion that the best teams are always harmonious. That advice is just plain wrong. In my experience, the best teams I’ve been a part of engage in debates and arguments. It’s through challenging each other that we push ourselves to be better. Sharing different thoughts and perspectives and striving for clarity is what truly makes a team great. So, healthy disagreements and constructive arguments are essential for team growth and success.
Q: What advice do you wish you had received in your first leadership role?
A: Looking back, there are two pieces of advice I wish I had received. Firstly, I wish I had been encouraged to both ask for help and offer help. This approach has proved incredibly valuable. Asking for help builds strong bonds with peers and fosters learning through collaborative goal achievement. Stepping outside my comfort zone and role has taught me a lot. Offering help allows others to see me as a reliable ally. It opens up opportunities for personal growth and strengthens relationships with colleagues. Understanding what others need help with enables me to offer support at a low cost to them, fostering mutual development.
Q: Where do you see the main tech challenge in your sector in the coming years?
A: In the health tech space, I believe the main tech challenge lies in striking the right balance between innovation and regulation. Patient safety is of utmost importance, and there’s a growing expectation for a seamless and user-friendly healthcare experience, similar to what companies like Apple deliver. Our goal is to innovate and create incredible experiences using technology while ensuring safety and delivering the desired health outcomes. However, navigating the regulatory landscape, which can be slow to adapt, while simultaneously driving innovation at a faster pace, creates a friction that’s really hard to navigate. Finding the right balance between innovation and regulation is the primary challenge in our sector, as well as the broader tech sector for health tech. Achieving this balance will be crucial for success in the coming years.
Our thanks to Jamie for taking the time to talk to us!