About Gareth Marlow and eqsystems.io

Gareth Marlow, speaking at Business of Software in 2019

My journey to engineering began when I was a kid, fascinated by taking things apart to understand how they worked – then building new projects with my Radio Shack electronics kit. But my imagination really came alive when I was given a home computer – an Acorn Electron, designed and developed here in Cambridge by the team who went on to develop the ARM chip.

Computer Science seemed like a very dry, abstract subject in the late eighties so I came to Cambridge to study Chemical Engineering instead, in 1990. I spent four years working for Shell as a sponsored student – where I learned huge amounts about oil and gas exploration and production – and concluded that I didn’t want to become a Chemical Engineer, or work in an industry which seemed happy to downplay the environmental damage it was causing.

Fortunately, by the time I graduated, organisations were starting to exploit the potential of the internet – and my geeky hobby turned out to equip me well for this new world. I have always been motivated by seeing the impact of engineering, science and technology on people’s lives, and I spent several years bringing digital technologies to organisations for the first time.

I joined the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge in 2007 in my first management role – and the penny dropped! Technology is amazing, and fascinating, but I quickly realised that it was actually all about people. Building products and services that truly make a difference to people’s lives is a collaborative effort. If we don’t understand and empathise with our users; we can’t work together brilliantly as a team and as an organisation – we might have come up with some clever ideas but our efforts will be futile.

I moved to Red Gate Software in 2008, first as IT Manager, then heading up a product division, ending up as Chief Operating Officer. Red Gate has a brilliant culture, and over my time there, the team was awarded the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies award for seven consecutive years and continues to be hugely successful in its markets. At different points I was responsible for every part of the business – from product management, sales and marketing to HR, finance and operations, and helped to lead M&A, IP sale and international expansion efforts.

But in 2016, I hit the buffers. Burnout is a classic “slow-boiling frog”. It creeps up on you slowly, and steadily. It’s hard to spot, day-by-day. It damages your mental health, hits your team, your family and your friends – until you can’t continue. I took a break to heal, and reflect on what I wanted to do next. I knew I’d developed lots of experience managing people, teams and organisations, and I knew that I was at my happiest helping smart, creative people working together to crack difficult problems – so I took a risk, and trained with Meyler Campbell to become an executive coach.

Gareth Marlow, on a coaching zoom call with Mark Littlewood of Business of Software

I launched eqsystems.io later that year, to help science, technology, engineering and mathematics organisations to work more effectively, build brilliant products and services which delight users, and develop strong cultures. The name comes from my three pillars of interest:

  • eq – Emotional Intelligence – the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle¬†interpersonal relationships judiciously¬†and empathetically.
  • systems – Systems Thinking – a way of making sense of the complexity of the world by looking at it in terms of wholes and relationships rather than by splitting it down into its parts.
  • io – Input/Output – the application of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to improving our lives, our society and our planet

I’ve worked 1:1 with hundreds of people, in many different teams and organisations over the last eight years, and I love seeing the transformation in people as they develop their skills and confidence, and put that to use creating fantastic products and services.

Outside of work, I have two grown-up children and live in Cambridge with my wife – a teacher – and our two younger kids who attend our local secondary school. I’m a trustee at the Centre for Computing History, and I’m obsessed with renewable energy, solar power and home automation. In what little remains of my spare time, I try to experience as much live electronic music as possible.