New beginnings with Andrew Darling

January 12, 2022By Andrew DarlingInsights

I am excited to have been given the opportunity to start the new year with a new challenge and I am delighted to mark the end of my first week at C8 Consulting with a blog post.  Having joined the business as a Director, I am thrilled to come into the organisation, which has been successfully led by Paula Elliott over the past 17 years, just as 2022 dawns.

We are positioning C8 for significant growth and are looking to scale both services and client base in strategic tech PR and corporate communications across the U.K., EMEA and Asia-Pacific. My focus will be on developing the C8 brand, our services, culture and mission, and the delivery of excellent client experiences across the board. I will also help drive business growth with new commercial initiatives and take on strategic responsibility across our portfolio of global clients.

So, I thought I’d write a little post to introduce myself to readers of this blog.

I say “little”, but in fact this may run away with itself because when I started to think about tech trends in 2022, it ignited my imagination. For your sake, dear reader, I will break it down into a series of succinct posts over the coming few days, each one looking at what I perceive will be the key trends in 2022.

But for the moment, let’s get back to me.

I’ve been working in tech for almost a quarter of a century now… pre-digital, post-analogue… I am, it’s fair to say, a member of the Generation X tribe.

After a brief spell in legal journalism at the start of my career, I got my break as a tech journalist on Computing magazine when an editor asked me to write 500 words about an Apache web server. Now I was not a kid who spent hours in front of a ZX Spectrum or Commodore PET. In fact, I found the user interface with computers to be a sub-optimal experience for a social animal like myself, and so I consciously avoided them as much as I could for the remainder of my school education.

In the early 1990s technology was starting to impact society in far more visible and user-friendly ways. Cable and satellite television had arrived, and I became rather obsessed with networks, platforms, data, and content – a rudimentary lesson in the internet backbone, which was being steadily built out around the globe. I suppose the lesson here is that once you start thinking about how technology is going to be used, you can turn it into a narrative that make sense to the intended audience.

I joined a fantastic American publisher in 1997, called CMP, that had launched its flagship U.S. title InformationWeek in the UK. This is where I cut my teeth in tech, working with legends like Stuart McLaughlin, James Governor, and Gary Flood. I covered networking and telecoms, which was growing massively at the time, and after a year in London I headed to San Francisco to cover the Silicon Valley beat.

Spells with ZDNet and a start-up investment boutique VC firm followed before I eventually became executive editor or MforMobile – a mobile services news and events business. This marked the beginning of my specialism in mobile communications which would last well over the next decade. I set up my own PR agency serving mobile content, marketing, and value-added services clients. I eventually went in-house and led strategic and creative communications which helped three mobile tech businesses scale from owner-managed status, through significant fundraising campaigns, to international growth and eventual trade sale.

During this period, I was lucky enough to travel extensively around the globe looking at 3G network rollout and the growth of mobile internet services in places like Japan, China, and South Korea. After a slow start, the industry took off in 2007 when Apple launched the iPhone, and the App economy was born.

Fast forward 10 years and mobile was eating the world

More than 2.5bn smartphones were in use by 2017  and we were well on the way to 5bn. This was a revolution, not only in terms of mass adoption but more importantly, in how our communication behaviours were evolving. Freed from the shackles of the wired internet, countless thousands of start-ups bloomed with a variety of services centred around the mobile device – not least, social media and messaging apps – but increasingly, the ushering in of new ways of working while on the move.

Digital transformation was finally underway and, as we stand at the beginning of the 2020s, there is so much disruption taking place across all industry sectors, from TV to finance, and automotive to advertising. COVID-19 aside, it’s truly an interesting time to be alive and an exciting time to work in tech.

As we enter 2022 there are lots of areas where trillion-dollar questions are wide open. These are the questions I wonder about today, from crypto to W3, clinate change to cyber crime.

However, it would be churlish to ignore the elephant that’s still in the room. At this stage of the pandemic, pretty much EVERYONE hates Zoom/G Chat/Teams/etc. Staring into a screen is not the same as meeting face-to-face; working from home full-time is akin to house arrest for most sane people; and we all need to meet for drinks, dinner, and conversations more regularly again.

2020 was perhaps the most disruptive year we’ve had – at least in my lifetime – and 2021 wasn’t much better. Just as we felt that we might be coming out on the other side of the pandemic, another variant showed up.

We’ve all become accustomed to life as it is now as a result of this era of profound change. Every industry has been radically transformed or affected, resulting in a need for more diverse teams of industry professionals.

2022: back to life?

As we navigate through the next few months of Plan B and Omicron, I’m looking forward to meeting you, working with you and helping you articulate your messaging to the market. At C8 Consulting we aim to transmit a low signal-to-noise ratio for both ourselves and our clients. In the cacophony of tech communications, often it’s the whispers that need to be heard more than the loud shouts. We aim to deliver outstanding value to clients, partners and the media and I look forward to joining you on this shared mission.