Partially Attended

an irregularly updated blog by Ian Mulvany

Goodbye SAGE, hello BMJ!

Thu Feb 13, 2020

817 Words

I’m excited to share the news that from mid-April I will be joining the BMJ as their new CTO. I’ll be leaving SAGE on great terms with the teams here, and for sure there will be a little sadness and I’ll definitely miss my colleagues, but equally I’m super excited about the new challenges ahead.

Crucially, at SAGE we are hiring for my replacement, so if you are interested in applying for one of the most fun roles in the Scholarly Publishing industry at the moment then reach out, I’m happy to chat about what we have been up to!

I think BMJ is going to be a great fit, we have a shared set of values, they have always been a leader in supporting open science, and there is no more interesting time to be in a tech role in the publishing industry, with the changes being driven by Plan S, the advent of easy to use machine learning technologies, and a growing understanding of the value and importance of truth and unbiased evidence. (Also, as it happens, my wife publishes with BMJ, so I’m going to have direct exposure to a very vocal user).

My whole career has been driven by wanting to use technology to help improve the way research is done and communicated, and I am thrilled to be able to continue with that goal at the BMJ. Seriously, I feel tremendously lucky to have these opportunities, and to have been able to work with amazing colleagues to date, on some amazing projects.

I’ll spend the rest of this post looking back a bit, as my chapter at SAGE is coming to a close. I joined 2016, and over the past three years I’ve been able to learn a ton about lean product development, rapid prototyping, machine learning, neural networks, working within a slightly larger organisation, the absolute value of creating great ground rules for teams, the intricacies of publishing in the humanities and social sciences, how to think about product names with an American accent, the joys and horror of MS Teams, what Lean means to an organisation and the difference between top down and bottom up scaling of process, how not to pick good hotels, learning by doing, cascading goals down into bets and then picking across those bets given the best information available at the time. Maybe the most valuable skill I have learnt is how to tear off a post-it note the right way (thanks @Cennydd)!.

Looking back over the last three years I want to call out two specific pieces of work that I am very proud to have been involved with. The first is all of the work that led to the launch of SAGE Ocean and it’s associated offerings. SAGE Ocean is about supporting social science researchers who want to work with data at scale. This emergent approach to social science is often called computational social science. It involves many areas of expertise, from data collection, network analysis, algorithm development, right through to understanding the sources of power in our digital systems and the ethics and implications that machine systems have on society. From a business, product and branding perspective it was also a chance to create something from scratch, and to delight in seeing the positive response that we received from the communities we wanted to serve through creating this initiative. We brought to bear a rapid approach to product development inside of a fairly large organisation and we also partnered with some amazing organisations along the way. It was a joy to be involved in.

The second area of work that I want to call out is around internal innovation within SAGE. The title that I am moving on from is “Head of transformation”. I’ve heard it said that no one in an organisation should have either “transformation” or “Innovation” titles, as everybody should have the autonomy to be transformative and innovative. Well, maybe, but rather fixating on titles it’s better to look at results, and I’m really proud that the team I worked with introduced new technologies, data sources and ways of working that got adopted across the company. We definitely started off in more of an “Innovation Theatre” mode, but combining our technical abilities with a sober assessment of where we could add value to process or systems led to some great results.

Of course what makes an organisation is the people, and I have had just the most wonderful colleagues at SAGE. The stories I could tell - of fun, intensity, kindness, a willingness to experiment and learn as we went along. It’s been great. I can’t mention everyone, just too many, but I have to give a thank you to MarthaLou KatieSheenKylieDanielaAdam Raz Ziyad Andy and Shiran.

If you think that any of this sounds interesting or enticing, do please reach out, as we are looking to fill my position!

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License