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Interview with Kevin O’Donovan

by | Dec 18, 2019 | Interviews,

Kevin O

Kevin O'Donovan

Technology Evangelist at A Bit of This & That...

Key Topics:Technologies for the Energy Transition; IT/OT, Grid Infrastructure, Energy Storage, Power-to-X, Blockchain, Future of Work
Location:Nice, France

Kevin has been evangelizing how new technologies can transform the way we do things through-out his career, having established a proven track record of 'bridging the gap' between the capabilities a new technology can bring and the practicalities of bringing that technology to market. He is the founder of the boutique technology consultancy company, A Bit of This & That ... focused on the intersection of technology and the Energy Industry, delivering innovative technology consultations, advisory, speaker & B2B Influencer services. Prior to establishing his own company, Kevin has held senior leadership Technical Sales & Sales Management roles at Compaq, HP and most recently at Intel, where he was Intel’s Worldwide Sales Director for the Energy Industry.

How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?

I’ve spent my entire career evangelizing on new technologies, mostly related to the IT Industry. Back in 1994, I was the go to guy for Compaq in Europe for OS/2. Now I’ve seen many, many technologies come and go since then.

In 2006 I stated to look at the Energy Industry as a new business development opportunity for Intel and as a result in 2009, I was asked to build up and lead a new Energy Industry Worldwide sales team for Intel. While building out the new organization, I got the opportunity to chat with many folks right across the industry. That’s how I began to establish my Energy Industry network that I have today.

As we looked at new business opportunities, I also got to understand what technologies enable the industry and how new technologies have a critical role to play in what we now refer to at the Energy Transition. And it’s not just IT / Digital technologies. The amount of technology innovation in the chemical, mechanical and materials disciplines is simply fascinating. Now I’ll be the first to admit, that I’m not ‘the’ expert on any specific technology. Being called an ‘Expert’, in my opinion, it’s like being called an ‘Influencer’, it’s a bit subjective. I’d like to think folks value my opinion as I strive to bridge the gap between the 10,000 foot overview and the really deep-dive technical knowledge on any given topic. For me it’s all about making a technology tangible for people so they can make their own decision on it’s viability for them.

As for the term ‘Influencer’, I prefer ‘StoryTeller’. As telling stories on how new technologies are impacting the way we do things really is what I do.

What topic areas are you most passionate about?

As I look out into 2020+, I have 3 topics I am especially interested in, namely;

Energy Storage : We will need all sorts of different energy storage solutions, ranging from a few minutes to months in order for the Energy Transition to reach it’s potential. With so much innovation happening around electrical, mechanical & chemical technologies, I find the topic of energy storage fascinating. Plus I’m guessing we will see a lot more investment into Energy Storage in the next few years, especially with the changes related to ‘Green’ financing coming into force.

Future of Work : I’ve been talking about wearables, edge computing, drones, AR/VR, robotics etc. for many years. Yet we’re still only scratching the surface with these technologies, especially when it comes to combining a number of them into developing a solution like say a Digital Twin for an entire grid. Work flows, work practices, required skills, diversity in the workforce are all evolving, and technology can be a huge enabler on how we have to do things differently in the future. I’ll actually be attending CES 2020 to see what’s the latest and greatest around a lot of these technologies and other new innovations, to see if any of these will be applicable into the Energy Industry in the coming years.

DApps : The ‘trend’ towards a decentralized energy system is not slowing down. In 2019 we have seen a great acceleration in society grassroot movements looking to engage in their ‘own’ energy system. People see things changing way to slowly, so they want to do things themselves. Imagine what could happen if folks start building their own distributed applications for energy supply, neighborhood trading, sharing their energy, all via some sort of a ‘Distributed Application’, a DApp. It could be a whole new dynamic. Blockchain has not gone away you know.

Which influencers influence you within those key topics?

When I began to use social media almost 10 years ago, I honestly only ‘followed’ folks I had physically met as a way to keep track of what they were up to. Over the years, this has evolved and I began to follow and get to know people ‘online’ before I ever met them physically. So I’d claim to follow loads of people right across the Energy Industry, all who influence me in some share or form. I have a lot of lists for specific technologies in Hootsuite for this.

Now for this interview, I did go back and look at some stats to see who I really do ‘follow’, as opposed to who I think I follow. And it turns out the folks I check on regularly would be Laurent Schmitt, Michael Liebreich, Jigar Shah, Marguerite Gazze & Tom Raftery.

Outside of your key topics who else influences you?

Now that’s a broad question and my default answer would be ‘it depends’. My wife, my kids, my family and friends certainly all ‘influence’ me. From a pure ‘technology’ point of view, I’d certainly call out Leo Laporte/The Tech Guy, The Inquirer, Wired, The Economist as my most common go-to places in order to see what’s going on out there.

How would you describe your offline influence?

Speaking at events is certainly one of the most visible ways I can make a difference. I get to share with people how I see technology making a difference for our planet. Now people may or may not agree with me, but I’d like to think that I at least give them some food for thought they can take away and mull over.

It’s always great when someone walks up to me and tells me that they heard me speak at some event and as a result, they went off and looked into some tech, decided it would add value to them so they are implementing it in some way. Now while this is very anecdotal, it is very rewarding. Plus I enjoy speaking. I strive to make every session interesting, though provoking and entertaining. Back to storytelling…

When it comes to actual business impact, it’s usually the behind the scenes Advisor / Consultant engagements that deliver the more measurable ‘influence’. I do get a sense of achievement when I see a company I’ve advised implementing something I recommended. That’s pretty cool.

If a brand wanted to work with you, what offline / online activities would you be most interested in?

Being a bit of a storyteller, I prefer to engage with companies as they look to tell their story with a well defined campaign rather than just doing a bunch of ‘one off’ tactical activities.

My first question to any potential client is “what are you trying to do and why?”

Ideally I engage early with a client where I get to play devil’s advocate behind closed doors on their overall strategy, their technologies, their perceived unique selling points, their sales / marketing plans and goals. Once I have an understanding of what they are up to, then we can game out how to make their story more impactful and what range of activities can be woven into a campaign to best support their goals.

Now activities can range from hosting a podcast series, webinars, a video chat series, LinkedIn Live chats, on-site video blogs at energy facilities etc. to name but a few. But these ‘activities’ are simply tools. To be honest, going off and creating fun and entertaining content can be the easy bit. Creating compelling content that tells a company’s story as part of a well defined campaign that measurably contributes to their goals, that’s the challenging and rewarding bit.

Which non-paid activities would you be keen to take part in if the opportunity raised your profile or delivered value to your audience?

I would be willing to co-create some long form content (e.g. blogs, white papers, eBooks, research), participate in a podcast, webinar or online chat or also provide a quote for content or news article if it was on a relevant Energy Industry / Technology topic.

If I find a particular innovation/idea/technology interesting or thought provoking, I’ll share post about it. That’s just me being me. I would potentially speak at or attend an event depending on my personal interest in that event, the topic(s) and the networking opportunities etc. I also personally select companies/individuals for my ‘A chat with’ or ‘A Glimpse Inside’ series of video chats.

What’s your best source of information for getting ahead of a story?

As I’ve been around in the Industry for a while, I honestly relay on my network most of the time as I strive to stay ahead of trends. I’m lucky enough to be able to meet up with colleagues relatively regularly from right across the Energy Industry. We get to chat and find out what’s new in their world, what they are planning and speculate on what we think may happen in the coming months and years. Now I’m also a big believer in the saying, “I don’t know what I don’t know” … So I do spend a good bit of time browsing Twitter, LinkedIn, Newsletters or various news sites where I will come across a new idea, an innovation, a new technology that I simply was not aware of. And many of these may be from out side the Energy Industry. Plus when I am off at events, I’ll usually try to attend some sessions on a topic that I have no clue about, as “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

What brands have you worked with?

Since establishing my business 2 years ago, I’ve been lucky enough to have been engaged by the likes of Clarion Energy, Siemens, Innowatts, IBM Industries, CHARGE / LarsEn Energy Branding, Event Horizon / Grid Singularity, SAP, EASE – The European Association for Storage of Energy, Itron, Centrica Business Solutions NA, Commercial UAV Europe …

What are your passions outside of work?

Reading history, especially medieval history is certainly one of my passions. I have collected quite a ‘few’ history books/audiobooks over the years. And SciFi & Fantasy novels would be a close second in my Audible playlists. Being a bit of a technology nerd, I do of course find time to try out all sorts of new gadgets, fly my drones and I play the odd PC video games, titles like Fall Out, Far Cry, Fortnite plus the odd VR game. When it comes to sport, Rugby is my main passion (I’m a big Munster & Ireland fan), followed by watching and trying to play golf from time to time. And travel permitting, I try to spend every Saturday out in our garden getting some real work done.

Are there any organisations you are affiliated to or part of a long-term program with?

Sales and Marketing Advisor for Innowatts Europe. A member of the Siemens Influencer Community #SIEx. Industry Influencer for multiple Clarion Energy events worldwide. Ad-hoc content sharing agreement with Smart Energy International.

What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?

People can always can get in touch with me through my accounts on Twitter and LinkedIn.