Get to know Carl Griffith, General Manager of SEA and Australia
Can you tell us about your work background in both marketing and IT?
I cut my IT teeth on an IBM mainframe as an analyst programmer working for (what is now) Royal & SunAlliance in the UK back in 1988. For the techies out there, I was programming in FOCUS and writing batch routines in Rexx. One highlight was designing, managing and executing a FOCUS database migration exercise that ran for 3 days, the scale of which had never been done before.
Since those techie days I’ve had a variety of roles in senior management and marketing including Senior Design Manager (Online) for Philips Design and Head of Digital for Havas Worldwide – both roles in Singapore.
IT and marketing play for an interesting combination and this, coupled with my working with the Singapore Government supplying Design Thinking workshops, has ensured that I always approach technology and projects from a user or customer standpoint. I firmly believe that technology is nothing without it creating real benefits for real people.
What do you think is unique about the Singapore IT landscape?
The fact that we are basically one city means that, unlike the UK for example, where connectivity to remote and rural areas is still a huge challenge, we are all enjoying ultra-high-speed fiber in our homes and 4G almost everywhere when out and about. This means several things and one of them is that the opportunity for disruptive technologies is huge. With Grab (SE Asia’s answer to Uber), for example, the fact that almost everyone uses a cab at some point, mobile penetration is off the scale and broadband speeds are everywhere means that Singapore lends itself perfectly to this kind of technology-driven innovation.
What was a highlight in 2017 for SEA/Australia?
2017 saw us win and successfully implement some important and prestigious projects – some with a global brand known for their digital and industry disruption. Working with clients like this not only affords us the chance to support some of the world’s most important and innovative brands but exposes us to contemporary working practices and, although I hesitant to say it myself, reminds me of how old I’m getting!
Who are some of your biggest influences personally and professionally?
I’m passionate about exploration and fascinated by the peril some people expose themselves to in actually pursuing that passion rather than just talking about it like me. Whilst I’m not sure what he was like as a person, I have real admiration for Sir Ernest Shackleton and have really got into (I won’t say ‘enjoy’ necessarily) books like Into Thin Air by John Krakauer and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. Modern day exploration is amazing too. I am in awe of those teams of scientists who spend their lives designing and creating satellites and sending them off on trips that last for years that often pivot around a single key navigational moment. Those moments genuinely bring me to tears sometimes as I feel part of our collective need to reach out and see what’s there.
What gadget could you not live without?
It would be both obvious and boring to say my phone of course. So, I’ll avoid that and say the ‘radio’. And, of course, nowadays I don’t mean an actual radio as in a box bur rather radio as a concept and its more contemporary cousin, Podcasts.
Despite living away from the UK for 15 years, I still crave that background sound of the BBC even listening to traffic reports for the M25. Podcasts allow me to try and connect with some of the world’s greatest journalists, story tellers, thinkers and, importantly for me, comedians and satirists – something I can’t find easily here in Singapore.