UK Diary: Monday – The Geeks Eat Dinner At The Top Of The World

by on July 14, 2009 at 10:54 am

BT-Tower.jpgMonday evening the Traveling Geeks were invited to dinner in the 384 ft BT Tower, which used to be known as the Post Office Tower when I lived in London. It has a revolving restaurant near the top and has been closed to the public since 1980.

It was a rare honor for us to be hosted by BT CEO Ian Livingston and his top team of managers. This giant European Telecom is quite a surprise, very innovative and very aggressive. You might expect the opposite. Yet it is the US telecoms that appear slow and Luddite in comparison.

The innovative energy is caused by strict European Community regulations that ensure a level playing field for competitors. This is unlike the US system, which seems designed to prevent new competitors from entering markets and results in telecoms companies that turn-off mobile phone functions and control what applications and services can be offered.

I met quite a few of BT’s top management team and all of them exude a spirit of industry and innovation that was very refreshing. The leadership for this culture comes from the top with CEO Ian Livingston.

A stand out is JP Rangaswami, Managing Director of Innovation and strategy at BT, who has managed to craft a team that shares his passion for innovation. And he writes a very good blog: confused of calcutta — a blog about information

Originally an economist and financial journalist, I’ve been an accidental technologist for over a quarter of a century. I’ve spent most of my adult life working in that strange space where finance meets technology, for a number of very large firms.

Also, I want to pick out for extra special mention and attention: Sian Baldwin, Director of Broadband & Content Services at BT Wholesale. Ms Baldwin is extremely impressive and was recently recognized as one of the top managers under forty in telecoms. (Photo by Renee Blodgett.)


It was an excellent evening in a spectacular setting with one of the top corporate innovative teams in Europe. I’m always impressed with the access I continually get to such top people. (I’m just a guy with a laptop.)

Here are some more views of this evening from my fellow TGers:

Craig Newmark was very impressed that Ian Livingston interacts with customers:

Apparently the guy publishes his email address, and gets a few customer service emails every day. He answers or delegates each one.

I don’t believe the CEOs of AT&T or Verizon do that, nor do they have any direct reports doing something like this. (Related: this is why a President needs to keep his Blackberry.)

cnewmark: Ian Livingston, CEO, British Telecom

Renee Blodgett has a gallery of photos from the event:

down the avenue: BT Tower by Night