TechWeekEurope finds out more about Jo Hickson, the first head of innovation for holiday firm TUI UK and Ireland
Each week we profile a leading CIO, CTO or IT manager from the world of technology and beyond to see where their career has taken them and what issues are affecting them today.
What is your role and who do you work for?
I’ve recently re-joined TUI UK and Ireland (I was formerly on their graduate scheme) as its first Head of Innovation
How long have you been in tech?
Prior to my role at TUI I led innovation for over five years at Home Retail Group and then before that worked in innovation for Telefonica. It’s been more than eight years in total specifically in tech, but I’d say it’s always been a real interest of mine.
What is your most interesting project to date? They’re all interesting – that’s the nature of the job and why I enjoy it so much. Every project is unique and I get to work with a really talented team.
What is your biggest challenge at the moment?
It’s more of a challenge for innovation in general, but it’s about how large businesses take new prototypes, trials and tests once proven successful and scale the initiative and roll out across the business in a quick, efficient and effective way. In my new role I have responsibility for the TUI Holiday Lab which is a dedicated innovation team to do exactly this. For example, the Lab recently launched the Thomson Apple TV app – the first in the travel industry to do so – and while the turnaround time was just a few short weeks, the customer feedback has been phenomenal.
What technology were you working with ten years ago?
During my time at Telefonica, it was all about the connected home and now around eight years later there are some signs of this smart, connected home ecosystem emerging. It seems we were ahead of the curve.
What is your favourite technology of all time?
Hands down the Apple iPhone. My life would be more challenging and complicated without it. I rely on it for information, entertainment and it controls my life. One of my favourite features in voice interaction which is great for being able to do what you want in any given moment.
How will the Internet of Things affect your organisation?
In so many ways; some we can predict and some we can’t yet. The potential is almost limitless, but some of the areas we’re already thinking about are our sustainability agenda, driving and ensuring efficiency in our holiday operations, and getting feedback from customers on holiday.
What smartphone do you use?
The Apple iPhone of course.
What three apps could you not live without?
Google Maps – it is awesome and better than sat nav; email – for obvious reasons; and BBC iplayer. If I’m allowed a fourth, I’d add the Sky+ app in to the mix too.
What new technology are you most excited for a) your business and b) yourself?
For the business I’d say the internet of things as mentioned already and then also virtual and augmented reality. A holiday is a big purchase, but something that you can’t see, touch or feel before you go, so using this technology opens up incredible possibilities and we can really showcase compelling holiday experiences. Watch this space.
For myself, I’d say driverless cars. I love the idea and I think a machine driving me to work would help increase my productivity levels even more or give me time to unwind and think creatively – it’s an exciting vision for the future.
If you weren’t doing the job you do now, what would you be doing?
I really can’t imagine. Innovation for me is such an exciting space, and if you do something you love, then it doesn’t even feel like a job.