Tom Halton

How many years have you held this position?

Two years. HMHmmmmm Limited is a startup AI, Cloud & Innovation Strategy & Governance Consultancy.  As CEO, I bring over 30 years of business experience, skills, and innovation, at C-level, and as a Senior Executive & Director with a passion for artificial intelligence (AI), cloud, digital transformation, story & strategy, animation, augmented, mixed, and virtual reality, film & media. I am proud to have judged, and collaborated in launching, the inaugural AI Awards Ireland.

What has been your career highlight to date?

The major highlights have been the innovative - both business and technical - products and projects I’ve contributed to, such as creating innovative and ground-breaking AI expert systems, the first true Internet Search Engine – Altavista – web, email, and networking software with Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the south of France, and on both coasts of the USA. 

Also, brainstorming with innovators in computer graphics and cloud in San Francisco in the 90s was thrilling. Building a world class Microsoft solution services organisation while designing and implementing innovative international clearing systems, and the first international military logistics marketplace, were tough challenges and immensely satisfying achievements. 
Launching Amazon Kindle and Fire in Japan, China, and Brazil, was an experience you could not buy and I was paid to do it!  The best is yet to come.

What qualities do you need to succeed in business?
Vision, belief and tenacity, the determination and drive to implement it, together with humility, humanity, and the ability to motivate, relate to, and collaborate effectively with, all stakeholders from employees to partners to customers – at all levels.

Who or what are your main influences?
I have been fortunate to work personally with some great business leaders and innovators. At Microsoft, I worked on global projects with Bill Gates, who taught me the importance of humility in business. Working with Jeff Bezos at Amazon taught me the value of clarity in communications, the importance of the well written word, and a laser sharp customer experience focus. 
At DEC I had the privilege to work alongside Grace Hopper, who inspired me with her verve to create, innovate, and continually learn, even into her 80s.

In San Francisco in the 90s, my social group included great innovators like Marc Andreessen and Jim Clark of Netscape who inspired me with their ability to bring dreams to fruition and their insistence on moving forward with new ideas and products like utility (now, cloud) computing that ultimately changed the world, even while embroiled in a fight for their company’s life.

What is the most challenging part of your role?
Business in the digital age is dynamic and unceasingly changing. The ability to keep multiple products and projects progressing in parallel at the speed of technological development is a major challenge for everyone but is equally exciting and presents great opportunities. 

What, in your view, is the biggest challenge facing directors in Ireland today?
Making sure the people they work with are well taken care of, as, in the end, without the people there is no product, no sales, no customers, and no business. The speed of change and the resulting importance of strategy and governance to all organisations needs major focus. The political, economic, and compliance issues in Ireland, Europe, and globally, also offer significant, if differing, challenges.

What, in your opinion, makes a great leader?
Inspiring everyone to feel they are important, valued, and part of something great.