10 minutes with Marcus East
We all have big ideas and passions; what do you think was unique about yours?
My passion for technology was born at the age of 8 when a fantastic teacher brought a computer into school and taught me to code. I realised straight away that the ability to turn code into images and functionality was something magical. My own first computer was a ZX81 – I don’t know how many people would remember that.
If you could, what advice would you give to your younger self?
I'd say be prepared to take risks and grab hold of opportunities as they come your way, but make sure you fully understand them before you commit. I ventured into start-ups at a young age and luckily, that worked out well for me, but I have friends it didn't happen for. Looking back, there were chances to do things that seemed crazy at the time, but could actually have been great. So, be sure to understand the perils and think about your future… but don’t let them hold you back too much.
Have you had any formative failures? What have you learned from them?
I've been involved in start-ups that didn't quite deliver the billion dollar return that I was hoping for. I learnt how important it is to appreciate the skills of others, like a great accountant to help manage your cash flow. I also didn’t understand how sharp you have to be when you’re negotiating, because you can't assume that the other party has the same integrity you do. You've got to surround yourself with people who have the technical and business skills you need, as well as being people you can trust.
The other thing I've learned is that I'm resilient – there's not a lot in life that's going to stop you. So when I speak to young people I tell them, 'Hey, what's the worst that can happen? Failure isn’t a bad thing. If it goes wrong, you'll have learnt a lot and you'll be a stronger person'.
Which trends excite you at the moment? What keeps you engaged?
A number of things; the increasing reliance on smart phones and mobile devices is one. We're already at a point where we use a lot of technology for entertainment, but it's going to start going beyond that. The internet of things means our lives as consumers can be further enriched. With more connected devices doing the mundane tasks for us, our fridge will be able to tell our computer that we're out of milk; we’ll never have to refill toothpaste again... these things are all going add value to people's lives on a daily basis, and give them more time to enjoy the fun things in life.
What’s one thing that you hope to achieve in 2016?
In 2016, I want to have a happy, motivated and high-performing team, that are working towards building the most incredible digital, customer experience – both in-store and online.
Do you draw a sharp line between your work and personal life, or does it all blend into one?
I try to keep the two separate, but in reality they often blend into one. Especially working in technology – you need to learn from other people's experiences, so it’s important to connect with others. That means the people you socialise with are often the people you'd connect with for work too. But it's important to protect weekends as time to recharge your batteries; you can't be effective in the workplace without that head space.
How do you navigate modern workwear, where there’s a lot of flexibility between formal and casual?
I generally like to look smart, so how I dress for work and how I dress at home is similar; a pair of jeans, a nice shirt and a blazer thrown on top. Previously, a pinstripe suit, white shirt and tie was the norm, whereas there's more flexibility these days. But I think the image you project and your mind-set is reflected in your clothing, so I like to look professional.
Have you ever accidentally over or under-dressed for a meeting?
I once turned up to a school charity event in a pinstripe suit which didn't feel quite right. But I think usually read it really well.Inside M&S