[Interview] – Ben Szutor – Why Scotland is a great place to build a tech business
In part two of this industry interview we talk to Ben Szutor, the newly promoted CTO of Skylark Lasers, about his personal journey from Budapest to Edinburgh, what he believes Edinburgh and Scotland has to offer and building a great tech business.
Tell a little bit about your own personal journey
I was born in Budapest, Hungary and I moved to the UK when I was 18 to start university. I didn’t know much about the country, but I liked the course I enrolled in. I have a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a specialisation in Fluid Dynamics from the University of Edinburgh. I really liked my course and I think it was really useful and gave me a lot of competencies and skills which are not focused on a particular subject but were more transferrable and came quite handy in my career. I didn’t know much about Scotland before I moved here, but what I found was openness and support from everyone I met. Innovation and creativity are strongly supported both in a university setting as well as in industry, which makes this country a true R&D powerhouse. Hard work is rewarded, and I received a lot of support from Skylark, having started as a student and developing into my current role as CTO. I’ve been living here for 10 years and I’m definitely not planning on leaving.
Excellent so quite a meteoric rise through the company in some senses.
Yes, which is only possible in a rapidly evolving company with the backing of an excellent team.
What’s the best advice you have had?
The best advice I received was from my academic supervisor, Professor Reid, who told me to be patient. This is usually difficult when you are looking to achieve goals quickly, solve every problem at once. Working for a start-up requires some sacrifices, but the small successes keep all of us going.
What do you believe Edinburgh and Scotland offer?
Everyone is encouraged to come up with new ideas, and get the support necessary to pursue these goals. Especially for the Photonics industry, there is a lot going around in Scotland: the companies, the infrastructure and most importantly, the people. Scotland is a knowledge hotspot for Photonics innovation with the various universities all focused on various aspects of these technologies, pushing the boundaries every day. Collaboration is key and we are honoured to work with so many innovative companies and universities across the UK on various innovation projects. The best part is no matter what problems you come across, there is always someone to talk to.
What are your thoughts about what makes a great tech business?
A great tech business? Well, the strength of a technology company comes from inside; building a team, being open and transparent with your team, encouraging innovation and creativity and letting people say what they think and go with their ideas. Even if sometimes ideas seem risky, innovation is a process that requires failure. But most importantly we must provide an environment, where everyone feels empowered. There is no single person, who can always make the best choice, decision-making is a process that must be based around consensus. Different experiences and different competencies all built together, and I think that is one of the main challenges for us to build that team, maintain that team and keep everyone motivated to push for the next solution.
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