How Anyline CTO Christian Pichler is Mapping the Future of Mobile Data Capture

17/01/2022

For this very special blog, we sat down with our CTO, Dr. Christian Pichler! Read on to hear about his professional journey thus far, why a map on the wall explains his management style,  and how he’s taking on the challenge of leading Anyline’s tech team.

It was love at first sight…

Christian’s love for computer science dates back in the late 80’s when his parents bought their first computer. Slowly starting to explore the realm of computer science, he began experimenting with coding without even knowing how it works.

After high school, Christian did his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the Vienna Technical University. During his MSc, he worked for IBM in Austria and afterwards for the IBM research group in New York. But as he neared graduation, Christian intended on leaving Vienna and the world of academia behind. Looking back, Christian says his big break was driven by a bit of a coincidence.

“My academic adviser at the time offered me, or more likely convinced me, to stay at TU Wien, which I’m really thankful for. It was one of these coincidences, where I thought ok, let’s just try it.”

A PhD and a postdoctoral fellowship later, Christian landed a position with the Austrian government, working with the Ministry for Transport, Information and Technology. Perhaps the most interesting part about this time was his responsibility for the Austrian Space Applications Programme (ASAP) and Copernicus, the European space programme for earth observation, where Austria has great leading examples of space data applications. After leaving space behind and coming back to earth, Christian worked with Kapsch TrafficCom AG before joining Anyline in May 2020.

Mapping the journey ahead

Since taking over as CTO at Anyline, Christian’s number one priority has been people. He wants to build an environment for his employees where they know what to focus on and how to make decisions on their own. Pichler believes his role should be as a guiding hand, advising where necessary, while giving his team the space and freedom they need to thrive.

His second priority is providing the stability and rhythm his team needs so they can balance new innovation alongside filling technical gaps where necessary. He believes this is key to building a solid foundation for the future.

“For me personally, it’s about building structure, building an environment where we have happy people, who know what they are aiming at, and also creating an environment that attracts new talented team members.”

His current role also is about solving problems, making decisions and keeping the ‘big picture’ in mind when planning new projects. This, of course, shouldn’t be confused with micromanagement. Pointing at the map on the wall, Christian explains how as a CTO you have to know your landscape. You need to know what your continents are, which continents may collide and which continent to choose from to succeed. Building trustful relationships also takes a huge part in Christian’s role. He has to trust a person’s expertise on a certain continent to be in full control of whatever is happening, while still knowing what’s going on.

When you treat a problem as a puzzle, the pieces fall into place

After a varied career across different industries, what drives him forward to the next challenge? His answer is pretty simple. Driven by a passion for all things tech and computer science, Christian is in his element when finding the gaps, and then the solutions to close them. The best place for him to think about those gaps, however, is rather peculiar. For Christian, there’s no better place to dig into a problem than on his tractor.

He compares this process to doing a puzzle. First, you have to collect the pieces and put them in order. Even though you have no idea what the result is going to look like, you have to try different pieces, and at some point it will take form and simply make sense. With this approach, Christian and his team can look to each new challenge, embrace the unknown and find the method in any madness.

Freedom at work is built on communication and trust

As a manager, Christian aims to provide as much freedom as possible. While he and his team are goal-driven, these targets are built through strong communication with each team member, so they can build their working styles around achieving them. To this end, Christian favors flexible working hours, as long as his team is available for colleagues and within the business hours.

This is based on his own experience, as he’s often found that taking a break or going out for a walk can be the perfect remedy for solving that intractable problem.

“Ultimately I want my team to come up with ideas and put their opinions on the table on what they think makes sense. I think freedom leads to a lot of exciting ideas.”

A second, but equally important factor for Christian’s management style is trust. Over the past year, the whole world has moved to working online and from home – and giving team members the trust to complete their work where they are comfortable has also worked out for the Anyline team.

Focusing on the future

Looking forward, Christian sees that the possibilities for mobile data capture are limitless. Right now, we are only scratching the surface of what will be possible in the next decade – but for today, the most important thing is focus. Returning to the map.

Christian concludes that we need to be continually surveying the landscape to be aware of what is next on the horizon. This is why clear guidance is key. Since you can never do it all, you need the right direction to define your focus. Therefore, Christian’s role is to give his team the confidence to know what their focus is, and to not be distracted by anything else.

“We all have a lot of ideas and we should follow them, but we should do so in a systematic manner. Not just catching every opportunity we get to do something, but to think quickly, take a step back, breathe, think and then act.”

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