He was born in Birkby, and was a teenage
guitarist in a Huddersfield punk rock band.
But while Howard Watson’s musical career didn’t quite reach the top of the charts, his other childhood love, of computers, forged while a pupil at Fartown High School, has seen him scale impressive heights in the business world.
When he was a kid, Howard would go home after school and play on his then space age BBC Commodore 64 computer in his bedroom.
His dad was an engineer in Huddersfield, and urged his son to seek a similar career.
And Howard, hooked on the then new and exciting computer craze, needed no encouragement as he set out on a working path that would take him first to university, and then into the cable industry.
His career since then has included a spell as chief of transformation and technology at Virgin Media, chief technology and information officer at Telewest and a time as managing director with Cartesian, a telecoms software and consultancy company.
When he joined BT in October 2011 he brought 30 years of telecoms experience with him, and he has now been appointed as the new CEO of BT Technology, Service and Operations, and Group Chief Information Officer, stepping up from his role as BT Chief Architect and MD Global IT Platforms.
He possesses a broad knowledge of operational leadership, technology and IT, fortified by his expertise in strategic development, business transformation and post-merger integration.
He also has strong experience in innovating and delivering transformational products in the UK cable industry.
His areas of expertise include telephony, digital TV, video on demand, high definition TV and ‘ultra’ high speed broadband.
He is passionate about technology and innovation, and bringing transformational products to market, and as CEO of BT TSO, will be in charge of the company’s ‘engine room’, responsible for its core networks and IT systems across the globe.
BT TSO manages the company’s internal and external platforms – including TV, mobile and conferencing - as well as BT’s world class research and development arm at Adastral Park, Suffolk. BT TSO employs 12,000 staff and eight thousand contractors across the globe.
Howard led the technical teams behind the launch of BT Sport, in August 2013, and has transformed the way software development is carried out at BT.
His dad is understandably proud, and when Howard looks back over his successful career, he remembers the excitement he felt as a schoolboy playing on his computer.
“I was one of those lads growing up who experimented with electronics in the bedroom.
“I did electronics and computing and used a BBC Commodore 64 computer. I always remember playing an old Star Trek game.”
This love of computers would beam him up to a career in a subject he loves.
“I really got into computing and electronics early on. And when I went into engineering as a specialist subject it was one of the really exciting things at the time.
“I am keen to do what I can to reinvigorate that. We work in a fantastically exciting industry but are not always very good at passing that on to 16 and 17 year olds.”
Howard is kept on his toes by having three daughters, who have never lived in a time without the internet.
“We need to think about how we make it exciting. The pace of change has always been fast, but has got even faster in terms of how things are evolving.
“My new role is absolutely to make the most of the technology that is available.”
Howard is a qualified pilot, but his head is not in the clouds.
And he is better placed than most to realise how vital it is to keep ahead of new developments.
“The next few years promise to be transformational in terms of how people communicate and I look forward to making my contribution.”
With the virtual world evolving at such speed, he knows how important it is to be grounded in the real world.
And one of the things that helps is when he comes home to Huddersfield to see his family.
His punk days may be behind him. But rocking up in Huddersfield is still one of his greatest
He has twin brothers, who are a year and a half younger and who live and work in Huddersfield, and his dad still lives in the town.
“I get up there as often as I can, but that’s not as often as I would like.
“It is very nice having family who are still there.”
Role: CEO of BT Technology, Service and Operations (BT TSO) and Group Chief Information Officer.
Family: Engaged. Three daughters.
First job: Stacking crates at Ben Shaws, Willow Lane, Huddersfield.
Best thing about the job? Working with great people who are experts in their field.
Worst thing about the job? Nothing springs to mind.
Business tip: Keep learning and trying different ways of solving problems.
Work: Responsible for the strategy, design, deployment and operation of all BT’s technology. An organisation of 20,000 people.
Site: BT Centre, Newgate Street, London.
Car: BMW X3.