Born out of an appetite for tech diversification, Harvest Technology plc brings together management expertise, technological prowess and operational excellence to provide a wide range of related services to the sector. In his dual role as CEO and Chief Technology Officer, Dr Godwin Caruana is now using his people-focused vision to channel the strengths of his team towards further investment and widening the group’s already-impressive portfolio.
Dr Godwin Caruana can remember the first time he saw a computer – a moment that would inspire a lifelong love for technology and pave the way towards a career at the forefront of the industry. “I was 11,” he recalls. “First, there was a picture of a computer in a magazine, then, later, I saw one in a shop in Valletta and knew I had to have one. I was lucky, as that was during the boom of the home computer in the early 80s. It’s the software side of the story that makes me tick. I was – and remain – fascinated that you can shape a machine to do exactly what you want. I love it!”
This passion for the inner workings of electronics has seen Godwin work in the ever-changing technology sector for over 25 years, and it has afforded him a healthy respect for the benefits of learning.
“It is so important to have a mix of corporate and academic experience, particularly in the vast technology landscape. I never stop learning; as long as you’re learning, you’re growing, and you stay up to speed with the industry,” he affirms.
Godwin certainly lives this ethos, as a post-graduate from the University of Liverpool and the University of Brunel, where he graduated respectively with a Master of Science with distinction in information technology and a PhD with a research focus on high-performance computing, algorithms and machine learning. Godwin remains a member of the research community at the University of Brunel in the Electronic and Computer Engineering Group, a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Malta, an independent expert and evaluator on the European Horizon 2020 and FP7 programmes, and a member of EU COST (the European Cooperation in Science and Technology).
The crowning jewel in Godwin’s impressively tech-focused background, however, may well be his roles at the helm and at the heart of Harvest Technology plc. Having previously served as CTO at 1923 Investments and at the Malta Information Technology Agency (MITA), he was appointed CEO of Harvest in September 2019. Today, he continues to serve as both CEO and CTO, having already navigated the Group through a once-in-ageneration global crisis.
“Harvest was officially listed on the Malta Stock Exchange during one of the most challenging times in the modern world and in the industry,” Godwin shares, reflecting on the pandemic.
“Harvest is a group of tech companies and not just an IT company, so our impact travels wider. But our strengths are just as wide: we have a very strong Board with the experience and expertise to maintain the company’s trajectory. Plus, our workforce here is second-to-none. The team’s capabilities are outstanding – I have rarely seen such aptitude and capability matched elsewhere.”
In fact, it is the opportunity to engage with everyone on Harvest’s expert team that Godwin enjoys the most about trailblazing a new definition of the traditional role of CEO. “One of my proudest career achievements has been challenging the status quo and taking forward my role as CTO while becoming CEO,” he explains. “Although I’m a ‘techie’ – a term that is usually misconstrued as not being people-oriented – I love being around people and collaborating towards a shared goal. Working as both CEO and CTO has allowed me to get closer to the team, and that is a game-changer.”
It is this hands-on approach that now defines the lively, family-like company culture at Harvest. The carefully curated multidisciplinary team offers a diverse collection of specialised skills from the worlds of academia, marketing, strategy consulting, telecoms, FinTech, product development, security, and logistics, making the company applicable to an equally diverse range of sectors. The Group’s subsidiaries are IT solutions provider PTL Ltd, the payment gateway specialist and operator of the ApcoPay brand APCO Systems Ltd, and automation and security company APCO Ltd.
“Innovation thrives in teams,” Godwin continues. “We bring people together to share their different skills, creativity, vision and perspectives. The best and most enjoyable way to take Harvest forward is to listen and learn from our people every day. I love listening and hate talking; the less you talk, the less you make mistakes. It’s rare for someone to be both CEO and CTO; to drive product development on the ground while also having responsibility for major corporate decisions. But this set-up helps me to focus on operational excellence rather than micromanagement, to feel and steer the organisation on every level.
Godwin also blends his passion for people with his love of learning through the Harvest Technology Academy, which is a collaboration with the University of Malta. Here, he bridges the gap between technology education and working within the industry, allowing students to explore their individual potential within the vast tech landscape, just as they are making life-changing decisions about their future roles.
“As professionals we all have an obligation to engage with students and new ideas,” Godwin maintains. “Over the years I have collaborated with leaders in the field and that networking gave me opportunities to further my own studies. The Academy allows me to pay that forward by engaging with students and hearing their ideas, which not only attracts talent to career opportunities but also helps me to predict the future direction of the sector. Building that sustainable link between academia and the industry is part of the social responsibility of a CEO.”
While the people-oriented dynamic at Harvest inspires the company’s corporate social responsibility strategy, Godwin insists that the tech Group’s long-term CSR goals need to extend beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. “We will not latch our CSR to the pandemic – it just created a different dimension. We have always listened and adapted to the needs of our team. Of course, the pandemic challenged our people-facing process, but the team adapted quickly and now has an even deeper bond. Our wider CSR strategy constantly evolves as a social enterprise, taking into consideration the bigger picture and technology’s place within it.”
Indeed, Godwin points to new opportunities in the sector created by changed market interest and higher user-volume through the pandemic. “The arrival of COVID-19 amplified the need for technology and expedited people’s tech-savviness. Technology is intrinsically forward-thinking, and businesses must think ahead to adapt and persevere. Remote working in some shape is here to stay, while the explosion of social media is impacting businesses more – the scale of it is mind-boggling. All of this takes extraordinary computational power.”
Agility and adaptability are, likewise, at the core of Godwin’s strategy for Harvest over the coming year. While 2021 brought internationalisation, modernisation and innovation, 2022 at Harvest will continue the drive towards investment and acquisition.
“Our main focuses never change: providing shareholder value, attracting the best talent and boosting business automation, business growth and new applications. We continue to serve our clients with transparency and integrity, applying only the technology that will add value to their organisation. Offering them the best service also extends to building our portfolio through new acquisitions and staying updated on the latest innovations. Multiple performers in the Forbes Top 10 list are tech companies – a clear indication that the landscape is very active. There’s no doubt about it: technology is here to stay,” the CEO concludes.
This article is part of the serialisation of 50 interviews featured in MaltaCEOs 2022 – an annual high-end publication bringing together some of the country’s most influential business leaders.
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