Clarivate is a Technically Talent client and reviewed this article before publication.
Before Mike Gallagher joined Thomson Reuters and before he became a senior director leading Clarivate’s spin out, the longtime Philly technologist at the Philadelphia School District headed up the data department.
Gallagher might have roots in Philly tech, but he’s now leading a team that spans the globe as Clarivate continues its high-profile spin-out into a standalone company. He explains what that work entails and more in an interview with Technically Talent.
Tell us about your background.
I’ve been in tech for about 14 years now. I started out at a small software development firm and then went to the Philadelphia School District as the head of the data department. That was a really rewarding experience — something I never would’ve understood until I actually worked there.
Then I joined Thomson Reuters’ IP + Science division, which is now Clarivate. I started on the product development side, then went into a different number of architecture roles. The purpose of my role now is to help us stand up as a business. All of our applications were part of Thomson Reuters. Now as we stand ourselves up as Clarivate, we have to design, develop and integrate our products in everyday lives. I’m now more in the buy vs. build world.
How about your hobbies?
I’m a rare person in that I’m a sports fan that’s also a technologist — you don’t see that often. I just saw Star Wars for the first time. I have two girls, which pretty much drives my world before and after work. I enjoy city life. I grew up in the suburbs but have been in Center City for about 10 years.
What does a typical week look like for you?
My typical week has recently changed from a design phase to a build phase. I’m meeting with business partners in verticals, making sure the build teams have what they need. I also have meetings to ensure status — scrums, business partners, one-on-ones and reporting to C-levels to make sure we’re on target.
I’m also emailing, Slacking and meeting with anyone on my team — I think it’s important to get as much facetime as you can when you’re in the office. I manage a team in Bangalore and other peers in Europe. It’s important to make sure you understand what’s going on in their world and they have a chance to hear from you about what’s happening. I make it a point to tell people on the team to talk about what’s good. I want to hear about what’s going well, so we can take those things and apply them elsewhere.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Clarivate?
The speed at which we’re operating at the moment. We’re responsible for getting outside of Thomson Reuters. Where I came from, from a product development standpoint, if you think about it, all our products are in Thomson Reuters data centers around the world, and now we’re migrating to AWS. We’re using new open source technology; there’s been a considerable push from our CTO to change how we operate, to be more lean in how we build. What used to be quarterly or yearly releases are now weekly or biweekly. I love the advancement of technology, the speed at which we have to do these things and the overall learning curve. As a technologist, I think it’s important you’re always learning; this is forcing people to break out of their shell and giving people a lot of opportunity to learn new things and actually do it.
We have millions of customers in roughly 80 countries. If our content isn’t available, we pay a pretty penny for that, both financially and in our reputation in the marketplace.
What’s the most challenging part of your job? How do you approach challenges?
Like many places I’ve worked, some of the challenges are engaging the right people when it’s time to hire and when new things come along. Also, being able to promote the brand and show what we’re doing and get people excited — promoting our brand, making sure if people are looking for great opportunities we really get our name out there.
The amount of change that’s happening is a challenge, too — keeping morale happy, showing that change can be tough but it can be good as well, but also showing positive impacts of how things have been. It’s really just keeping that positive focus; we’re marching forward, doing things faster and getting better as a company.
How would you describe the company culture?
There are a lot of people who have been here for a while — you could join a lot of teams that have a real family feel because people have been here working together for a long time. It’s a real tight-knit group. On the other hand, we have really large engagement with Drexel from a co-op standpoint, and we bring a lot of those folks on. You see a lot of that transition of people who say, ‘Here’s another way of looking at things.’ Combined with family feel, you get the best of both breeds in the sense that we have that really good engagement with local communities in Philadelphia and in the same sense, there are people who have a really strong sense of buy-in of the products they’re on — it’s really theirs. The people responsible for the applications don’t take that lightly — they take the responsibility of people using our products to change lives.
What moment from your career is a particular point of pride for you?
We had our own project that was essentially our first foray into building applications on AWS and microservices. There was a three- or four-month build up. It had a brand-new UI, new databases, teams that had never worked together before and a method they’d never used. That big launch was really a culmination of probably 100 or 150 people working together in various capacities to make that go live and be successful. That turned out to be the pathway; it showed here’s what we can do, how we can do it and how we can be successful. It helped with some of that negative connotation of change.
How do you bond with your team?
A lot of my team are not originally from Philadelphia, so we talk about a lot of things to do outside of work and activities to do while they’re here. We’ve been using Slack — we created a number of channels where we’re able to communicate personally and professionally.
I think it’s important to use communication mediums to show that we can be more than just formalities, to see people’s personalities shine. It’s important to have that kind of bond so that when things are moving fast, there’s a familiarity so you can see where people are coming from.
What advice would you give someone who wants to work for Clarivate?
Be ready to move fast. We’re in an environment where we’re moving very fast to innovate our products and separate ourselves from Thomson Reuters. We’re rethinking how we do deployments. It’s gonna be really fast paced, engaging work, using cutting-edge technologies and applications. The applications we chose to run our business on are top of the line and best in breed. It’s exciting to work on those applications and see how they interface.
I think the environment here, with change, we’re on the upswing of the cycle of excitement, whereas I think for a period there was concern and confusion. We have unknowns. You can start to see around the office the excitement level is back up. I’m excited to see what’s next. You can see people taking leadership roles in the office and helping others see that good path forward.