For the April 2022 edition of the ‘BatTalk’ series, we caught up with James Cameron-Williams, the Technology advisor at BatFast. James comes with over 20 years of experience in the technology industry and is currently the Chief Technology Officer at Experian, a leading global FinTech company. Read on for some great insights, knowledge, and opinions from one of the leading members in his field.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m James, a family man with a thirst for sport and a passion for technology. Today, I hold the role of CTO at Experian Consumer Services. Experian is a Credit Reference Agency, we hold lots of data that can be used to power better decisions for businesses and consumers. My teams are highly motivated to build digital products that help over 10 million consumers keep on top of their debts. I love my job. We help everyday people save money and we have created an environment at Experian that allows people to launch their careers in digital technology. It’s hugely rewarding to witness talent being unleashed and see the stunning products they create.
Away from work, I’m often watching or playing sport. My main sport is field hockey, playing for Boots HC 1st XI, also having represented Wales Over 40s. Hockey is a great family sport and highly competitive at the elite level. My wife and I met on a hockey pitch and our three children also play. Like cricket, I believe hockey could be more accessible to more diverse demographics, all sports must work hard to be inclusive – one of the many reasons I love playing a small part in the BatFast story.
When was the first time you heard about BatFast and how did you join the BatFast team?
Through BatFast COO, Navdeep Sethi. We actually went to school together, in fact, we’ve both been invited to a 25th-year reunion this year, so that could be interesting! Nav is an inspiring individual. He has a remarkable energy and focus, his values are strong and pure. Nav is one of those people that makes you feel stronger for spending time in his company. So when he introduced me to BatFast, I immediately fell for the concept and got a tour of the facility in Colwick with Nav and Jignesh genuinely raised the hairs on my neck! It’s just so cool, it reminded me of childhood tinkering in the garage with my dad – turning that into a vibrant business is amazing.
After that first visit, I met Jignesh a couple of times, bringing my son and his friends to play on the simulator. I felt bad for Jigs because I couldn’t help but be distracted by how much the boys were enjoying themselves, but I’ve since found more focus and I’d like to think Jigs and I have created a strong partnership, he’s a genuine talent for sure.
What is it about BatFast that makes you passionate about working with the team?
Well, I think you can tell from above that the team has really bowled me over (ahem..)! For me, it comes down to 3 things.. Firstly the wonderful combination of sport and technology, that’s such an exhilarating space for me. As with Experian, I also love the idea of this incredible concept scaling globally. This will bring huge opportunity for the current team, including Jignesh and Navdeep, but also for many shiny new BatFasters in the future. They will get to join and grow with this thriving business, to advise on how to scale whilst retaining core values and pure culture would be a total privilege. Finally, it’s the vision of increasing participation in sport. This year I celebrate 21 years of playing for my club team. In that time I’ve made incredible enduring friendships, we’ve celebrated marriages, children being born into the club, I have a family through hockey, and I have God sons through hockey. I have represented my country of birth. Sport has given me so much. Who could possibly deny more people getting access to that kind of environment?
What are your expectations/predictions about BatFast in the coming 2-5 years?
So, I’m still new to BatFast and my focus is on the core product and how the team develops a data-led digital proposition to support the simulator experiences. I’m yet to fully appreciate the scale of the market opportunities ahead. There is no doubt that the next 5 years are hugely exciting. At Experian, my focus is purely on the UK Market of 20+ million credit-active consumers, but I do collaborate with peers in North America, EMEA, and South America. Our combined reach is in the billions, as it could be for BatFast. It’s forever fascinating to discuss how our markets differ, and the historic, political and cultural evolutions that impact our technology challenges. When it comes to cricket, in some parts of the world there are almost religious connotations, so I have no doubt that global scaling will be a totally fascinating journey.
Closer to home, my son started U10 cricket last year under remnant COVID restrictions. He loves it and played his first few friendly matches, including one that Samit Patel turned up to watch. We are fortunate to give Jack these opportunities, with all the kit, uniform, training, subscription fees, etc. these are not opportunities for everyone. Whilst BatFast could thrive on the participation of Jack and his friends, me and my friends, I’ll be watching closely to see if we can encourage new people to the sport. Can we draw kids away from YouTube or PlayStation and into a batting cage? If they later watch their best shots on YouTube, that’s cool too!
What is it about BatFast that sets it apart from its probable competitors?
That’s easy, it’s the team. Everything is about the team, the people. BatFast has a brilliant group of people and they have a strong and singular vision, yes there are many ways for them to get there, but there’s a tangible culture to support working through those different directions to find the right one for the business at any time. If they can sustain that culture as they grow, no competitors can get in their way because they will monopolise the BatFast way.
Talk us through any BatFast project that you are proud to work on?
This week, Jignesh kindly walked me through the product roadmap. There is so much good stuff on there! The one area I’m really intrigued by is how we might innovate experiences that are less connected to the usual sporting mechanics. The team are exploring new concepts that take the simulation away from a bowler and batter to other gaming scenarios. I don’t want to reveal too much just now, but this could be very exciting. What’s really impressive to me is how open-minded and creative the team are proving to be, I had expected there to be more resistance to innovation on proven experience modes. To see how fast a team could pivot to new market opportunities is really something when you’ve spent 8 years in a regulated corporate environment!
As a member of the BatFast Tribe yourself, tell us about your first experience on the machine?
Ha! This is a little embarrassing… Whilst I loved my first experience with my amazing friends Iggy, Jim, and Jim, they were a lot better than me. The night before I had been at a leaving party in Nottingham. It was a late one. One of the first proper nights out since lockdown. So I’m blaming my hangover for the lackluster performance in the simulator! That reminds me, I must book a return visit for the four of us, so I can put that right (after some private practice maybe).
What is your advice for young people who are interested in a career in tech?
Don’t hold back, give it a go. However, pick the right environment. At Experian, much of my focus is on early career development and when young people join us it can be quite distressing to hear of their prior experiences. The lack of support, learning and development, coaching, and mentoring means that core talents are left underused, confidence tempered and self-taught bad habits can form. You don’t have to be an expert to thrive in tech, our industry moves so fast that so-called experts can get left behind, what you need is the willingness to learn and sometimes to unlearn or relearn. A small example in my career was developing a strong respect for relational data – structuring and normalising your data for high-performance databases and the applications they supply. Then cloud technologies and ‘no-SQL’ took off, suddenly there were many other ways to efficiently store and process data. I had a lot to unlearn.
So the durability of your career in tech is entirely correlated with how long you are prepared to be proven wrong and to learn what would be better for the challenge at hand. The trick is to work in a team that helps you continually do this learning in the most motivating and rewarding way possible. I’d like to think that whilst at very different ends of the scale, both Experian and BatFast present such an environment, so even if you have very little experience, if you love to learn and love problem-solving – get in touch with Jignesh or myself!
What is your long-term dream for BatFast?
A technology brand that rivals Facebook, Amazon, and Google for global adoption, renowned for continually reinvigorating and stimulating participation in sport through physical, hybrid, and digital experiences expertly personalised for the billions of BatFasters competing daily to be the best they can be. For BatFast to have introduced millions of sportspeople to each other, to form amazing teams, to win competitions, to create lifelong friendships and relationships through sport.
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