Boss it like

How To Boss It Like… Ian Fordham, CEO Edtech UK

By Oliver Smith 5 May 2016

These leaders are changing the world for the better. We find out how they get the job done.

There are a handful of business leaders and industry figures in Britain who are changing the world. Lindsay Pattison, Jeff Lynn and Tom Blomfield seem to get an incredible amount done, in an impossibly short space of time.

This morning as part of The Memo’s education month we’re talking to Ian Fordham, CEO of EdTech UK, who is undoubtedly a productivity guru.

A former teacher Fordham has, in the years since he left the classroom, founded not one, but two education technology groups.

The Education Foundation is the UK’s first cross-sector education think tank, established by Fordham in 2011 to explore education reform, technology and innovation.

In 2015 Fordham helped start Edtech UK, a group to champion the education technology industry and promote it to the same level of financial technology, biotech and fashion tech in the UK.

Today his job ranges from running trade missions across to the US, where Fordham says Edtech is the most established, to holding events here in the UK and advising new education or technology businesses.

A busy man, with big ideas, The Memo asked Fordham how he gets it all done.

What time do you get up, and what part of your morning routine sets you up for the day?

I’m up at 5-5.30am, get breakfast and make lunch for my 2 boys and a cup of tea for my wife.

I switch on Radio 4 to catch up on the business news and headlines for the day and check Twitter and LinkedIn for any overnight messages. I also read The Telegraph’s iPad app and get a summary from most of the broadsheets.

As well as Edtech UK, I’m also the Co-founder of The Education Foundation (the UK’s leading education think tank) so we have a lot of requests for advice and support from companies as well as policy makers plus reactive media requests from the BBC, Sky and others so it’s good to get on top of the daily schedule and the week ahead.

Once the children are off to school, I’m usually off to London or, increasingly, to cities around the UK. On the train I get a chance to catch up on emails and social media using the phone, iPad or laptop.

Free wifi on South West Trains is a lifesaver.

What apps or methods do you use to be more productive?

Pretty simple stuff like iPhone notes, Dropbox, Google Docs and a lot of photos of things I see that inspire and give me ideas for work, future events or advisory work that we do.

My brilliant co-founder and chair of Edtech UK, Ty Goddard, who I’ve worked with 24/7 for the past 8 years, is also the first port of call each day.

We’ve also coined a new phrase for the business world called “stexting” (not “sexting”!) to describe our “strategic texting” that enables us to brainstorm ideas, strategy and iterate.

As a small team of 5, it’s critical that the co-founders are on the same page and this enables us to keep in touch.

What smartphone do you use?

It’s a 64gb iPhone 6, Space Grey with a protective black Griffin Survivor case as my children use it and throw it around!

It’s an essential tool for any business to be productive and, as well as my MacBook Air, is indispensable.

How many people do you meet in a day?

It’s a packed schedule – normally 5 or 6 meetings.

I also get a lot of requests to speak at evening tech and education policy events, so often it’s a late return home.

It’s a mix of EdTech startups, companies and government officials and policy makers across Whitehall.

We are increasingly contacted by international governments, delegations and companies too, so we host sessions and do work for them.

I was also invited to the White House last December for the launch of the National Education Technology Plan and there is a lot of transatlantic work and interest in what we are doing

When do you work until? Are you still sending emails in the night? Or do you have a wind down routine?

I normally get back around 8-9pm for the boys bedtime, but can be later if I’m speaking at an event. I try to stop emails then and unwind in front of the TV (Game of Thrones, films or Netflix).

Ty and I are also writing a book at the moment so some of that free time is spent working on early drafts and it’s a great way of switching off in a hectic week.

Come back next Thursday for our next #BossItLike interview, and get in touch if you know a business leader who’s also a productivity guru for us to talk to.