The 37-year-old self-confessed “college dropout” talks about his journey from an unexpected job interview aged 19, to his rise through the ranks to help lead a business, and what keeps him at Infinity Works.
The first big break
In what’s been a meteoric career, it’d be easy to assume Ed Marshall had a plan from the very beginning. The truth is, his story is one about commitment, spotting opportunities when they present themselves, and an eagerness to push himself.
“Having always had an interest in tech, I enrolled at Leeds College of Technology in what was described as the ‘most advanced computing course available’,” he says. “But after completing my first year and feeling the course hadn’t quite lived up to its billing, I quit two months into my second year and took my chances in the job market.”
So, aged 17, Ed headed straight into the world of work and joined a small software company as a systems administrator. It proved to be a fantastic launch pad for him to establish himself and learn the basics. After two years, an opportunity came knocking and Ed secured what he still refers to as his first “big break”.
Ed’s older brother was working for an education company, Learndirect, and suggested he apply for a role that had become available. Speaking of the interview itself, Ed says: “I had no expectation beyond gaining some valuable interview and technical test experience – after all, the job paid three times more than my salary at the time and I was a teenage college dropout with limited business experience.”
But he obviously did something to impress and was offered what he still considers his first “proper job”. The role was for an application specialist, supporting an ASP application, which meant an exciting change in both job and city.
The seven years Ed spent at Learndirect coincided with a boom period for the company. Funding was healthy and lots of exciting projects were underway enabling him to build a solid foundation, delivering and operating production services over the internet. At the time, Ed was working on the largest online learning platform in the world with the infrastructure and challenges to match.
“I learned a great deal from my time at Learndirect. One highlight was probably braving the receding waters from the famous 2007 flooding in Sheffield, to restore service to our customers,” he remembers. “All the roads were closed and I arrived at our data centre to begin recovering our systems, only to be greeted by people sleeping on the floor, surprised someone had made it through. It was a very surreal event!”
The crucial moves and opportunities
Soon enough, Ed met his future wife, Elizabeth and traded one Yorkshire city for another, starting at SkyBet as a contractor in its Operations team in Leeds.
It wasn’t long before Ed was offered the permanent role of Operations Team Manager and took over operational responsibility for all SkyBet’s online services. The company was growing incredibly fast and after two years, Ed made the switch to Engineering Manager to lead a highly-skilled team with the sole purpose of transforming the technology available at SkyBet to support the company’s future growth and evolution.
During this time, Ed worked with a number of colleagues, who would later become the founders of Infinity Works, as well as meeting people like Ivor Caldwell, Pete Cotton, and Simon Roberts who were to become key figures of Infinity Works.
Paul Henshaw, who had already left SkyBet to co-found Infinity Works, approached Ed, and being intrigued by the opportunities that consulting presented, Ed made the jump to what was, at the time, a small consultancy, starting as a Principal Consultant.
I was the joint-second permanent employee in the company’s history – this should give you a good idea of just how far Infinity Works has come as there are now well over 600 of us!"
Ed worked across a number of customer accounts and with other principal consultants to help grow and develop Infinity Works; this group evolved to become the regional leadership teams today. Ed formed the original Leeds board alongside Neil Dunlop, Steve Anderson, and Clem Pickering.
Later, his work with one of Infinity Work’s long-standing customers, a large UK retail bank, saw Ed spending a lot of time in Edinburgh. Seeing the opportunity within the Scottish capital, he, along with the support of the founders, set up a new practice in Edinburgh in 2019. It subsequently led to significant growth in Scotland and the eventual opening of a new hub last year in Glasgow. “Establishing the early team in Edinburgh was a real highlight for me, only slightly tampered by the fact AirBnB failed to come good on its promise of a loyalty scheme!” Ed reminisces.
Following his stint in Scotland, Ed returned to England in March 2020 and still seizing opportunities, he soon stepped in as Technology Director for Leeds. He was on the rise and his influence was being felt.
Part of Accenture
Having been closely involved in the acquisition and integration into Accenture, Ed is now Managing Director for Technology at Infinity Works. Here he’s been defining the business’ strategy for the future, now as part of Accenture, which has led to taking on lots of new and exciting projects with customers with a much larger remit. “The UK and Ireland have been involved in some fantastic industries and technologies, and are ever evolving, helping both Infinity Works and Accenture define what’s next for the market,” he says.
Ed describes his experience of working for Infinity Works as being “overwhelmingly positive”. He explains: “Making the move to Infinity Works was a bold step, but I trusted the founders implicitly and always liked their vision for the company. Also, as it was still a new company when I joined, there was no real culture and I’ve really enjoyed playing my part in developing it throughout my time here.”
For Ed, it’s the incredible quality of the Infinity Works people which excites him most about the future. “They’re some of the most skilled and talented people I’ve ever worked with, and through their drive and capability, the company is always evolving. It’s fantastic to hear about and see some of the projects we’re delivering for our customers and the innovative solutions we’re developing for them,” he says.
The variety of projects Infinity Works gets involved in and the different industries it operates in has meant Ed’s been involved in some big innovation projects. The cloud migration for a leading bank, and its later deployment of its open banking platform to AWS using Lambda – being one of the first to launch production managed services using container technology and writing monitoring integrations for global customers in Golang – are some of his personal favourites.
Boundaries of key platforms and technologies are always being pushed."
Continuous learning opportunities
With Ed’s role and background being predominantly technical, he’s often asked how Infinity Works accommodates learning. He’s hugely passionate about how the business prides itself on encouraging community-based training through hosting events, giving talks, and deep collaborative learning. But there’s far more at Infinity Works that supports ongoing learning.
Ed explains: “For me, personal development is achieved through the act of doing, and nothing compares to the breadth of experience that consulting gives you. You can go from building a logistics platform for a tech unicorn, to migrating a data centre for an established industry leader into the cloud. The sheer variety of industries, technology, and people you get exposed to provides learning experiences that are far richer than you could ever get from off the shelf training.
“In the seven years I’ve been at Infinity Works, there’ve been many examples where I’ve been able to push myself in ways that simply wouldn’t have been possible in a traditional organisation. It’s because of this involvement that I’ve learnt so much and progressed to a senior leadership position today.”
Excited by the opportunities Infinity Works is providing for people to work with amazing businesses wanting to build amazing things, Ed’s looking forward to what the next chapter of the business’ growth story has in store.