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Wednesday 14 March 2018

Solent alumnus and former senior lecturer Dr John Flackett visited the university recently to give a guest lecture covering artificial intelligence (AI) and future jobs.

John first graduated from Solent (then the Southampton Institute) with a first in BSc (Hons) Computer Studies in 1996, before going on to study PGCert Research in 1997 and then a PhD in Artificial Intelligence in 2005.

We took the opportunity to chat to John about what’s been going on in his career.

Tell us about your career story so far.

During my PhD I started teaching at Solent University as a senior lecturer, delivering Artificial Intelligence (MSc and BSc) and BSc Software Engineering for 10 years. I then migrated to Australia, where I founded my first web company providing consultancy to industry. During this time I was invited to join one of my clients and worked as a software manager for an independent corrosion company, where I developed risk software used by some of the biggest oil and gas companies across the world.

In 2010 I co-founded my current company koolth, which specialises in smart web integrations, and in 2017 I co-founded and head up AiLab, helping business, government and the public navigate the complex world of artificial intelligence.

I’m also fortunate to be an international speaker, giving talks and workshops across the globe on AI, future jobs and emerging tech to industry, schools/education, community and government. In my spare time I work as a mentor for the tech community.

What does a typical working day look like for you?

I’m a morning person, so I grab a cup of coffee (always the first thing) and start work around 7am. I schedule in the most brain intensive work first while the office is quiet.

Mid-morning, we’ll have a stand-up meeting to plan work and report progress - the rest of the day depends on what projects we have. Usually I’ll be developing (either web work or AI), business admin (proposals, planning, etc.), or meeting with clients. If I have an upcoming talk, workshop or presentation I’ll be developing new material and/or practising.

What’s your career highlight so far?

Achieving my PhD was obviously a major highlight, and it’s really helped in starting AiLab. We’ve worked extremely hard to build recognition and a brand in koolth to allow us to create another company that is respected and trusted. I also get to share my love of AI with the companies and people we work with.

What tips would you give someone wanting a career in AI and automation?

I actually have the same advice for people in every career. AI and automation is going to touch nearly every job, so it’s really important that people prepare for the changing face of work.

In all my different careers the most valuable skill I’ve learnt is research. It’s allowed me to quickly learn new things and be adaptable.