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Spotlight: Thor Ingham - Avella CTO, Business Partner, and IBM Champion

By Jina K posted Mon April 11, 2022 09:53 AM

Thor Ingham is the CTO of Avella, an IBM Business Partner. Thor is also a newly named IBM Champion for his work in the Integration space, specifically for Cloud Pak for Integration. 
I sat down with Thor on April 5, 2022 to discuss his professional journey, the work that he is doing with Automation, and the importance of knowledge sharing and thought leadership. 

Q: First of all, congratulations on becoming a new IBM Champion! I know it has only been a few months, but how has that been so far? 
Thor: Thank you, someone from IBM Norway had actually nominated me as I had worked closely with the labs and provided a lot of feedback and improvement recommendations. 

Q: You are currently working at Avella, which is an IBM Business Partner. I imagine that you are quite busy! How do you juggle the different roles you have?
Thor: We [Avella] have been a Business Partner for quite some years and our company is 15 years old. In all 15 years, we have solely focused on automation and integration. The role that I have in the company as CTO is primarily focused on the internal training of our staff and looking to the future on which direction we should take. In the past 4-5 years, we decided to ramp up on the IBM portfolio and really focus on that. To come back to your question on how I handle the different roles I have, it doesn't really affect how I work or what my focus is because it's always been about following up on what IBM does. Being a new IBM Champion is also not changing how I work, because it's what I have been doing already as well. 

Q: As a noted leader in this Integration space, what are some benefits that you see from a Community of like-minded practitioners and enthusiasts?
Thor: When we deliver projects to clients, we do it based on our experiences. Avella is a boutique firm in the automation space as we have 32 employees at the moment -- this limits the number of clients we can take on. But when you gain access to more Business Partners (especially as an IBM Champion), you get the access to a wider range of experiences in the industry. You can do a sort of sanity check with others in the market, see what resonates, examine what others are doing and learn from or avoid mistakes that others have made. It's also important to share wins in addition to mistakes to ensure that as a collective, we all get better at automation.  This tech space we are in is also so large -- at some point you have to realize that it does not make sense for us all to keep our 'cards hidden' -- rather, we should all be helping each other to make the right decisions and progress further with knowledge sharing. 

Q: That is wise advice and such a great observation. So it sounds like networking is definitely noteworthy here in being active in a Community. 
Thor: Yes, that's what I think also. As I mentioned earlier, I was asked to provide feedback on the Cloud Pak for Integration and Cloud Pak for Business Automation products based on my experiences. Being connected to IBM was positive, as our company is on the smaller side, I felt that our voice was heard and mattered. Kind of felt like a little fish in a big pond, but in the end the comments and recommendations I made had an impact. 

Q: Let's pivot to how you got to where you are today. Can you briefly tell me a bit of your background that brings you to where you are now? Were you always enthusiastic about integration? 
Thor:  I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Norway and then afterwards my Masters in Technology in London. I actually did my dissertation thesis on an automation issue with the Ford Motor Company, to optimize production lines on car engines. Before that, I did not know there was a technology or software out there that could actually tackle such a problem. And it's not even just for production lines for automobiles -- automation can solve problems in any industry, whether it be from dairy production to industrial machines. After school, I dabbled in a few professions, from technical support, consulting, and development to later on working in  architecture, advisory roles, and public speaking. Five years ago I became the CTO at my company and have continued public speaking, including at IBM events. 

Q: And how do you see your role or your company evolving in the future?
Thor: For myself, I'd like to focus more on Community events and speaking at events. I also want to see that Avella functions well from a technical point, One thing that I like about IBM is how they have built automation, especially with the various Cloud Paks. I hope that in the future when Avella continues to grow, that we will have Cloud Pak for Data to incorporate data aspects into what we do. The most important thing I'd like to see for Avella is really growing our employees' careers -- part of my role as CTO is to focus on internal training for our staff and ensuring they have the tools they need for the work that we do. I think about how can I, as CTO, ensure that the employees can spend less time than I in ramping up their knowledge base, knowing what I know now. In essence, how can we become better at what we do and at the same time, have a lot of fun doing the work. 

Q: So it sounds like one focus you have for yourself is also ensuring your own employees' work-life balance as well. 
Thor: Yes, it can be difficult to balance professional work with personal life for sure, but it doesn't have to be difficult as long as I can make room for that and properly scale the work as our company grows. One thing I learned working from home through Covid, is that motivation is something you need to bring to work and inspire people.

Q: As you are now in a role as both Business Partner and Champion, do you have any advice for people who are interested in pursuing either?
Thor: For IBM Champions, enjoy what you do. I very much enjoy what I do and was already putting in a lot of my time doing the sort of work that Champions are required to do. I was lucky enough to be recognized for my passion. I would say that if you are passionate and enjoy it, you will have an easier time of becoming a Champion. For Business Partners, I would say that IBM really listens to their BPs. As a BP, you also are seen as a trusted advisor due to the selectiveness and prestige of the IBM Business Partner Program. And if you are a BP, do not be afraid to ask questions. One example I have is that I was looking to do a motivational day for my employees. I asked IBM for some speakers and they delivered - we had a virutal conference (because of Covid) with SMEs from the lab and we were able to have questions and thoughtful discussions. 

Q: And how do you see the Integration Community and what members can take away from it as an Integration specialist yourself?
Thor: I think real world implementations are invaluable and relevant as Community members can post these in the library. I think Business Partners can do a lot here in posting content that is relevant to certain fields rather than from an academic perspective. This is where knowledge sharing comes in - we should try to expand our knowledge as a collective.

Q: Finally, let us end on a fun note! Tell the Integration Community a fun tidbit about yourself! Perhaps a new hobby you've taken up?
Thor: Well, I do a lot of things with my kids and enjoy walking outside. I also like to play video games - I sometimes play games with our employees at Avella and I also play FortNite with my kids.

A huge thanks to Thor Ingham for his time in conducting this interview. I hope you've enjoyed getting to know Thor. This is our first Spotlight of 2022 and we at the IBM Community are so excited to see what the future holds for Thor Ingham! 
Want to become an IBM Champion yourself? Visit the IBM Champions Community.
Do you want to be the next featured Spotlight? Answer others' questions in the discussion forums, blog, and get noticed!
To view some of Thor's past work with IBM, visit the below links:
How top companies scale automation to accelerate application integration across their enterprises​:



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Mon May 02, 2022 11:55 AM

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