My City Science Journey: Dr Ed Campbell

17 August 2022

What’s your position at City Science?

I’ve recently taken on the role of CTO (Chief Technology Officer) for City Science, having previously been the Lead Developer.

City Science is a tech-driven company, devoted to providing data-led sustainable transport and decarbonisation insights to decision-makers. My role is primarily about this technology leadership. I'm responsible for the technology strategy that supports our innovative projects, products and services.

It’s about ensuring that everything we are doing keeps working, but also ensuring we are constantly evolving by asking where we want to be, and how we best get there.

How did you come to be working at City Science?

After leaving university (Cambridge, PhD in Astrophysics), I worked in a variety of companies, starting as the first employee in a university spin-out, and leading teams at organisations such as BAE Systems and the Met Office.

I learnt a lot, not just about technology and engineering, but also the nuts and bolts of running a business, from purchase orders and VAT returns to resource and stakeholder management.

This was an extraordinary education, but I found myself moving further and further from technology and started to realise that I wasn’t fulfilled.

I decided to take a break and spent two years cycle touring with my partner around South East Asia, New Zealand and Europe, which we absolutely loved.

When I returned to the UK I was lucky to be introduced to Rob Byrne, the then CTO at City Science, and had a series of engaging conversations with him and the team. I soon came in as Lead Developer – essentially Rob’s right-hand person. I relished being a developer again, building something tangible, and sharpening up my technical skills.

My role was very much about driving quality, consistency and automation, ensuring we had the products to be competitive and to deliver on our vision.

Can you give an example of a project that you're either working on or have been working on?

One of my responsibilities is to make sure that we strive for best practice from a technology perspective.

A significant trend has been the move from in-house data centres to the cloud. I led City Science’s cloud migration, which has involved moving our products and services with minimal disruption, as well as leading on pathfinder projects to explore new possibilities.

It continues to be a challenging area, but I’m pleased at how well it’s gone and how readily we’ve adopted GitOps.

What motivates you most about the work you do at City Science?

My passion for technology tends to be more around the operational side and really geeking out on how we're going to deploy something (or turn something off). I’m a builder and need to understand how we make sure our systems are robust and resilient - that real engineering side.

The great thing about working at City Science is we always push ourselves to try new things. We don’t have as many of the constraints that often come with legacy in large organisations.

But I also enjoy being around scientists. As much as I love clean code and a passing CI pipeline, I’m a physicist at heart. I see that scientific innovation going on at City Science.

When you do get time off, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?

As mentioned above, my biggest chunk of time off came when I went cycling for two years, exploring amazing places, including a six-month stint that stretched from Thailand, up into Laos and Vietnam, back across Cambodia, then south until we reached Singapore.

The freedom of being outdoors, carrying everything you need on the bike, with no fixed plan - I loved it - it was hard, but it changed my perspective.

So I love being outdoors and cycling in particular, but in truth, I haven’t been on my bike that much in recent months. Instead, I would say I'm a bit of a cliche - like many others in their 40s, I enjoy wine, I love to cook, and I like to grow things. I'm not particularly exciting: I'm a geek and I like to eat and drink well!

If you could wave a wand and change some aspect of policy or legislation, what would it be and why?

I haven't got a magic policy or a plan to effect change, I’ll leave that to my consultancy colleagues. However, I firmly believe in active travel and believe that data is the key to understanding and unlocking its potential. Cities shouldn't be dominated by cars - they should be dominated by people, striking buildings, and beautiful open spaces.

I'm also passionate about public transport, I always try to explore a city’s metro, trams and buses, and I delight in buying a dayrider-style ticket and having the freedom to hop between different modes of transport. Alas, much of the public transport we have here in the UK right now is not up to scratch.