Hello Sean, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, so my background is IT Consulting. I've been a developer and programmer for most of my life and over time I’ve got more into database programming.
I've mostly worked for software houses and companies that offer software services to the finance and retail industry and I loved the database and data analytic side of that work. Core parts of that has involved working in retail and helping big companies understand their data and helping them work out how they should then communicate that back to their team.
I’ve done various roles, all the way from Programmer to Product Manager to Technical Pre-Sales. I've always been very much client based and I’ve always been very much a techie as well.
Can you tell us what you love about data?
If looked at the right way, data does tell a story. You don't have to make anything up or embellish anything. And there are endless stories to be told in any data.
In the retail world, I was analysing a lot of point-of-sale data. I was working on the efficiency side of things. Not all data is interesting so you have to work hard to connect the dots with the customer and work out what is important to understand about your data.It's always a technical piece of work but actually, the results are often very soft. The interpretations can be very different. I've never seen myself as being creative, but in the past few years I’ve realised understanding different areas of data and how that's communicated to other people involves a huge amount of creative flair.
It involves being able to tell a proper story, an interesting story, a story that actually people can act upon. It needs to be based on fact but It's all about how you bring it to life.
How did Azura Earth become a FuseBox resident?
When I struck out on my own, I wanted to try a number of things, take what I had done already and do more with it. I’ve got a real love of maps, cartography, geospatial data and data visualisation. I had always felt there was this gap between data analytics and data science.During the 2017 Brighton Digital Festival, I went to a number of different things, including a VR meetup at the FuseBox. I thoroughly enjoyed the presentations, and I got talking to Jack Maddalena from VRCraftworks and he was the one to suggest I should explore the idea of using immersive technology to visualise data.
Jack also suggested I should become a resident and so I applied and it was brilliant from the word go. I met another resident George Butler from Mutiny Media, he was the first to lend me a headset and it was a mind blowing, a real eye opening moment to this new world.
How has emerging technologies shaped the way we handle data?
I've worked with so many clients on their data solutions. The issue is that we have so many great tools to do data analytics, data science and AI. But I don't feel that the communication of the results and the visualisations are keeping up.So what tends to happen is you've got brilliant science going on and then it often falls flat on its face when you present back to the client. It's really difficult to communicate results when the data is very complex.
So visualisation is important. With immersive, there is the possibility of taking away the keyboard, mouse and screen, the things that kind of restrict us. If you take that all away, and instead have everything around you, whether it's the actual data itself or just the results, you can look at the results and navigate around it in a much more organic way. That could really change the way we deal with data.
Immersive technology is rapidly and continuously evolving. As a company, how do you stay ahead of the curve?
The way to stay ahead of the curve is to not focus on the actual technology itself. There's so many different headsets out there, so many different software platforms and different models coming out all of the time. But it's about understanding what the tech can do and where we're going with it. The most important thing is dealing directly with the customers, understanding what they want and then delivering something that is better than what they've got right now.
How has the FuseBox helped you develop as a business?
It's been amazing, because starting on your own, having your own vision is the biggest challenge and of course, so is staying afloat. It’s about having interesting ideas whilst still being able to pay the mortgage.
With the FuseBox, I’ve got the best of best worlds, because I can do my standard work here that I’ve built up over time with my clients. But I know that if I come into the FuseBox, even if I've got a load on, there will be a number of conversations that will make me more productive than if I was just simply at home.
The FuseBox is a crazy mix of different people and different companies and it just makes the whole thing more fun. It helps me grow as a business and as a person. I know if I have a problem, I have someone to ask. It's a great resource and I know I get more work done here than if I wasn't here.
Do you think it's important to collaborate?
Absolutely, yes. Take immersive technology, you've got the technical side, you've got the programming side. But then you've got the creative, artistic, 3D side, which is a totally different skill set.
And I think collaboration is the key, because there's a crossover and blend of skills that we can all learn from each other. We need to be working together to understand how the different approaches come together. And particularly with the rise of immersive technology, It's only going to become more and more important.
If I ever grew my company, I think I would need a data scientist and a designer or artist to work together. But for now, there’s enough people to collaborate with here in the FuseBox.
What events and projects have you taken part in?
Since that first VR meetup where I met Jack and discovered the FuseBox, I've always tried to get to the VR meetups, because it’s just where interesting conversations happen. And interesting ideas happen, they have been brilliant.
The Brown Bag Lunches have been great, too. Since coming out of the London bubble, I have discovered there is so much more to life than Data and IT. The talks offer a different perspective.
I also remember the Serious Lego Play workshop day ran by Vasilis Gkogkidis. Totally off the wall, but I got so much out it. It helped to frame and bring some order to my thoughts. Again, it's just the coming together of different people and different ideas, it's definitely not just a bunch of IT guys, the conversations and the ideas that flow are brilliant.
It’s the actual space itself, you know, even without an actual event on, there’s always something going on, there is always someone, somewhere wanting to show you something.
Which residents have you collaborated with?
I’ve collaborated in various forms, there's been commercial collaboration and there's also been a lot of general learning, sharing and fun collaboration.
George Butler from Mutiny Media has often roped me in to his creative projects. One of them with motion capture, I was involved in a small way but it was just fantastic just to see how others work and what people are doing with the technology.
Pete and Jack from VRCraftworks helped me a lot in the early days with just understanding Unity. When I got into trying to visualise complex data, such as noise pollution, I started collaborating with Nick Slack, he had a lot of great ideas.
I’ve been helping Andy Baker with a client, working with geographical data and property data. And this has been fantastic for me because I love cartography, data and maps. Together we’ve been plotting things on maps and bringing data to life in various ways and that's been really nice, commercial collaboration.
Michael Hammond from Built Environment Media, we keep crossing paths in terms of architecture. We're constantly talking about how data could be used to inform architects or builders when refitting or creating a building.
I really enjoy my continued chats with Maf’j and her various projects. Louise Winters as well, being involved in her projects with the University of Sussex and presenting in front of a big group of PhD students.
The links seem to go far and wide and for some reason the collaborations have happened more this year, and I can only put it down to the fact that I'm just a bit more relaxed in the second year of striking out on my own and being open to more things. Rather than going out looking for things, things have seemed to have come much more naturally.
Has the FuseBox helped you in any other way?
Being part of the FuseBox has given me the confidence to speak to people about new and innovative ideas, which then makes the conversations I have with people more memorable and more engaging.
I’ve now done quite a few presentations to retail, insurance and different companies to talk about how new technology could help their businesses.
And there's no right answer to this, but we can say; let's explore the technology and let’s see if it could make things more engaging and if it can make our lives easier and better.
Why and how do people find out more about your company?
I've got a multitude of skills, all focused on the data side. People are collecting more and more data and people need to understand the stories that their data is telling. I can assist in doing that in whatever way they'd like to explore. Or I can help trying to discover what it is they do at the moment and what could actually help them going forward based on the technology that I know about.