The secret to effective mentorship, with Daemon Non-Executive Director, Richard Newsome

At Daemon, we pride ourselves on building close relationships with our clients. We often stay in touch with customers long after a project is finished, tapping into their expertise to stay abreast of industry developments. Sometimes, this connection is so strong that we invite them to join our organisation. Richard Newsome is one such client, and we’re thrilled to have him on board. 

Richard is something of a superstar within the industry. His CV reads like a Who’s Who of British business, including IT directorships at Boots, Rolls Royce and Cadbury. More recently, he spent seven years as CTO of Sainsbury’s, where he first began working with Daemon. After a further two years as CTO of Cancer Research UK, he agreed to join our board as a non-executive director. 

Connect with Richard on LinkedIn

In a recent episode of our Daemon Drumbeat podcast, Richard sat down with our Principal Consultant, Nathan Webster, to reflect on his career and to look ahead to the future. It was a broad-ranging conversation, covering everything from the importance of mentorship to the transformative power of AI. You can listen to the full episode on our podcast page, but here are three key takeaways. 


Richard and Nathan

The importance of the CTO role is growing

In recent years, we’ve seen a proliferation of technology-related job titles. Whether it’s CTO, CIO or CDO, companies clearly recognise the need to put someone in charge of their digital strategy. As technology becomes more integral to business, Richard expects these roles to take on even greater importance:

“The CTO is a crucial role, both strategically and operationally. Often the tech teams are among the largest in an organisation, so the people leadership aspect becomes enormous. Equally, the way in which tech teams work with others has a fundamental bearing on the operating model and the culture of an organisation. It’s a really multifaceted role, and one that becomes more important over time.”

While we’ve seen many CFOs and CMOs taking on chief executive roles, this kind of promotion is rarely seen among CTOs. As Richard explains, this could well change in the years to come:

“I can definitely see it happening in the future. It would be a brave move for boards to make, and the skillsets can be quite different, but once a pattern develops I think we’ll see more and more of it. Especially in organisations where the technology is effectively the company. Here, the boundaries between CTO and CEO are already quite blurred.” 

Another perspective: Read our founders’ predictions for 2024


Choosing the right mentor is crucial 

A big part of Richard’s work at Daemon involves coaching and mentoring newer Daemonites. This is something he’s clearly passionate about, having spent years as both a mentor and a mentee. As he explains in the podcast, a good mentor isn’t just someone with the relevant knowledge. A strong personal connection is just as important:

“It’s about finding someone with whom you can have the right relationship of openness and respect. What they say has to resonate with you, and you need to be able to take confidence from them and respect their opinions. Someone like this is much more likely to drive you to respond in a positive way.”  

Richard is also keen to point out that mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal arrangement. Sometimes, all it takes is to be open to the advice and wisdom of those around you:

“It can come from the most unexpected places. I can think of a couple of really short corridor conversations where someone just nailed it. If your mind is always open to learning and feedback, that can be as powerful as structured investments in coaching and mentoring.”

We take employee well being seriously. Here are three ways we put Daemonites first. 


Businesses need an AI strategy that fits with their overall values

Inevitably, talk turned to AI and its likely effect on the industry. While Richard acknowledged the seismic nature of this change, he was keen to stress that businesses mustn’t lose sight of their values:

“Technology strategy has to be rooted in the overall organisational strategy. If that connection isn’t there, the tech strategy is severely flawed. AI is hard because it can drive even greater change at an even greater pace, and can drive strategy and change as well as respond to it. However, the basic principle of keeping technology and business connected still holds true. While in some ways I’m glad I don’t have to face this challenge as a CTO, I'll be watching with interest. It’s definitely a revolution, not an evolution, and it’s something that Daemon can definitely help with.”

Struggling with AI hesitancy? Here’s how to get things moving.


There’s a lot more to this conversation, so we’d highly recommend listening to the whole episode. You can connect with Richard on LinkedIn, or get in touch with us directly for information on any of our services.

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