JACKSON Hull, chief technology officer, at Newport-based Gocompare.com, joined the company in November 2016.

He previously worked in Silicon Valley, California. Here he chats to Business Argus about coming to Newport, the untapped tech talent pool in the area, and his goal of making Gocompare.com that employer of choice in South Wales for those looking for a tech career...

What were your first impressions of Gocompare.com?

What I witnessed on day one, and is reinforced every time I work with people from across the business, no matter what department, is just how genuinely committed everyone here is to doing right by our customers.

I’ve worked at businesses of all sizes and across many sectors, and I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised at how driven ‘Gocoers’ are by doing the right thing for our customer. It’s also one of the most fun, friendly and driven working environments I’ve been part of, so needless to say I’m excited about the future.

And of Newport in general?

Having spent several months getting to know people around the business, as well as working with our recruitment team to review the breadth and quality of candidates in our catchment area, I’m very pleased with what I’ve found.

I’d go so far as to say that there’s an untapped pool of talent in the local and surrounding areas when it comes to tech capabilities, and this represents a real opportunity for us.

My goal is to make Gocompare.com the employer of choice when it comes to tech careers in South Wales.

What attracted you to GoCompare?

The prospect of working with a senior team of the calibre of Gocompare.com’s was a big draw – they are all entrepreneurs, with a diverse experience of working with disruptive, well-known and much-loved brands, like lastminute.com, Expedia, Kayak, Spotify and more.

I had also followed Gocompare.com’s story closely for some time, and as I have always liked businesses that shake things up and use technology to make things better for customers. I was keen to join a company whose goals would benefit from, and complement, my interests and skills.

How does the company compare to those you worked for in Silicon Valley?

In many ways the attitudes of the people are the same – entrepreneurial, tech-savvy, remarkably driven and smart.

While some of the companies I’ve worked with previously have operated across multiple sites (in different time zones and continents), Gocompare.com benefits from having one base, in Newport, which makes collaboration and decision making so much faster.

How would you like to see it evolve?

Gocompare.com’s tech structure and capabilities are sound, which means that we can avoid expensive and time-consuming capital expenditure on upgrades and improvements.

So the changes we’ve implemented recently have focused on addressing the way we do things, with the aim of liberating people to apply their skills as effectively as possible, at pace.

We’ve shortened decision making processes considerably, and improved the way that different departments work with each other.

For me, making sure this continues, by investing in our people, is a key component of Gocompare.com’s on-going success, and something that I am passionate about.

What do you think the Newport/South Wales area is like in terms of a tech hub?

It’s a sleeping dragon. There’s lots of potential, and plenty of talent, and this is something I want to tap into. People see Gocompare.com as a memorable brand and website, but behind that website is a relatively small but mighty army of people, many of whom work in tech – developers, testers, analysts, engineers, IT security, data scientists, product managers and designers.

To develop products and services that drive the company’s ethos of saving people everywhere time and money, tech – and talented people – will continue to be vital.

If Newport wanted to become a Welsh Silicon Valley – how should it go about it?

Tech businesses thrive where there is a strong academic presence and governmental support – for both tech business but also entrepreneurialism in general – and sound infrastructure. From what I’ve seen, Newport – and South Wales more broadly – has much of this already, but stronger links between all parties, and in particular universities, colleges and businesses, should be encouraged.

I’d also encourage academia and government to continue to invest in the area of applied data science in South Wales. That would provide another source of talent outside of traditional areas like London and Cambridge.

How would you stop the brain drain of talented Welsh students moving out of the area either to go to uni in England or when they graduate to find work?

People will tend to go where they feel that the best opportunities are, whether that’s due to a lack of opportunities in their area, or personal ambitions that take them further afield.

But by businesses and universities fostering closer links, I believe the prospects for bright and driven individuals in South Wales could be significant.

Other cities, and in particular London, are understandably a huge draw for people, but as businesses like ours grow and develop I hope that people will see that they can have exciting, world-beating careers right here.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to start a career with a company like GoCompare?

If you find motivation in a fast-paced environment, where you are trusted, encouraged to try new things, and accountable for delivery, then Gocompare.com is tailor made for you.

Everyone here is expected to perform, but also supported the whole way, and you can’t help but have fun while doing it. We value people who are driven, can think big, are focused on delivery and who operate with humour and humility. We care more about the quality of work you do than how you dress or how long you spend sitting at your desk.

Have you moved to Wales to live?

I’m in Newport three to four days a week, and spend Mondays and weekends at my home in London. My family are settled there, and as the train journey is under two hours I’ve not felt the need to move yet.

Californian weather is hard to beat (unless you head to LA in the early summer, in which case beware the ‘June Gloom’), but I love mountains and scenery and south Wales has both in abundance.