Digitization is changing our working world from the ground up. This is why new job descriptions are emerging. But what is hidden behind the designations? We want to make that tangible in “And what are you doing?” Today: Thomas Bedenk, Vice President Extended Reality at Endava.
Responsibilities as Vice President Extended Reality
BASIC thinking: Hello Thomas, you work as Vice President Extended Reality at Endava. Describe to us in four sentences how you explain your job to new friends.
Most of the time I just tell friends that I help companies create virtual reality and augmented reality applications. This usually leads to curious questions and interesting conversations. In reality, however, my job is of course a lot more complex and diverse.
What tasks are in your area?
At Endava I am responsible for topics such as VR, AR, games and metaverse. This means that I help our various company departments internally as well as our customers externally to develop strategies and products.
In addition, I observe the latest developments on the market, support internal knowledge management and community building, and lead an interdisciplinary team that implements XR productions.
In our company structure, I belong to the Catalyst area, the consulting arm of Endava, so to speak, which includes experts from all technical, strategic and industry-specific areas.
What does a normal day look like in your job?
A large part of my working day consists of communicating with colleagues, partners and customers from all over the world. The exciting thing is that there are different topics every week and you always get to know new people.
In concrete terms, this involves, for example, discussing and adapting strategies, putting together teams for projects and networking contacts, reporting on current developments or examining inquiries and tenders. Another important task is the management of my direct team.
This means a lot to me, especially because many of us have been working together for many years and there is a great bond of trust between us. I also regularly give talks at conferences, write articles for our Endava Blog (for example this one on the topic of Metaverse) or attend trade fairs.
Der Start in den Tag als Vice President Extended Reality
What do you start the day with?
First thing I do is make myself some coffee and help my kids get ready for school. I’m also enjoying the days when I can bike the kids to school.
Since I continue to work from home a lot, I’ve made it a habit to do a little Virtual Reality Fitness in Beat Saber every day. I’ve loved this game since I first tried it at the 2017 Game Developers Conference.
At the start of the working day, I first plan and prioritize my day – what are the most important tasks today – check my e-mails and LinkedIn and see what news and developments there are around XR.
How do you personally define and interpret your job as Vice President Extended Reality?
It is important to me to be a reliable and open contact person for all questions relating to XR at Endava and thus to help both Endava itself and our customers advance. I also try to create conditions for my team that make their work easier and support them in their professional development.
I also get my personal motivation from helping to implement really innovative and forward-looking projects. By that I don’t just mean commercial success, but also projects that make digitization sustainable and humane.
For example, we implemented a project in which we reconstructed buildings destroyed in the war from Instagram photos and made them three-dimensional in VR. Another very interesting project was “A(R)dventure” for the Center of Science Activities (CoSA), the implementation of an interactive augmented reality museum tour on science topics for young people.
Integration into the corporate structure
How is your position integrated into the company structure? Say: Who do you report to and with whom do you work?
As already described, I work very intensively with different people in the company. These are, for example, Tahsin Avci, who is responsible for the games area on the commercial side, or Joe Dunleavy, our Head of Innovation, who is based in Ireland. I report to Oliver Baier, who heads up Catalyst Europe at Endava.
The role of Vice President Extended Reality is interpreted differently in every company. What perspectives are you missing out on that are fundamentally part of the job profile?
With a job like this, many factors naturally play a role and it is hardly possible to compare working in one company with another. The size and the focus, but also the type of company, play a decisive role here.
For example, we are not a product company, but a service provider that supports customers in the implementation of their projects. Both have their advantages in my opinion. Since we do not build or market our own products, in our position we gain a lot of insight and experience from a wide variety of industries, for example, and always learn from this for other projects.
Fun and gratitude at work
What do you enjoy most about your job?
For me, two aspects stand out in particular: on the one hand, working with so many people across so many borders and topics, and on the other hand, the challenge of helping to define a new medium from scratch.
In my role, I connect people with a wide variety of backgrounds both internally and externally, which gives me insights and perspectives into almost all sectors and industries. It’s always interesting to see how things work behind the scenes and to analyze where to start with your work.
For example, it was very exciting to see real Siemens gas turbines from the inside when we were developing these VR and AR training courses to work with. But projects like Volkswagen’s first trade fair appearance at the Geneva International Motor Show 2020, streamed in real-time 3D from the cloud, are also a lot of fun.
Virtual reality and augmented reality are already being used effectively in more and more areas, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a lot to discover. We are just in the process of designing and defining this new digital medium. I am fascinated by how we can harmonize business, technology and the human component here.
What are you particularly grateful for?
Above all, I am pleased that I have been working with my outstanding interdisciplinary core team for more than five years, which I can rely on in every situation! When you master challenges together over the years and repeatedly celebrate big and small successes, it creates a strong bond.
Now how do you become Vice President Extended Reality?
In the digital industry in particular, there is often no longer a classic form of training. How did you get your position?
I’ve been involved with digital productions for over 25 years now. I started around 1996. At that time I was developing computer games and programming and designing websites while I was at school.
Later, during my studies – media design and human factors – I repeatedly initiated projects and, as a freelancer, also programmed applications or developed corporate designs for increasingly large customers. I also worked on digital effects for cinema films for half a year. For me, these were many instructive years as a designer and programmer.
In 2008 I founded the game studio Brightside Games with fellow students. We recognized the opportunity very early on to develop games exclusively for digital distribution on consoles or later also in the AppStores. I was able to learn a lot about the games market, running a company and building teams.
Not a straight career
I also started teaching at universities. Admittedly, one of the goals at the time was to attract the best talent to our company. I was interested in VR and AR right from the start and also played a role in my studies, which is why I delved deeper into the topic from 2015 and gave more and more lectures on it.
At one of the countless networking events in Berlin, I met Frank Zahn, who was looking for support for a VR production for VW for his digital agency Exozet. We built on that and explored a new business area for the agency. Exozet has been part of Endava since late 2019 and I am no longer Director Immersive Media, but VP Extended Reality.
As one of more than 11,000 employees instead of “only” 250, your own role naturally also changes.
As you can see, my career wasn’t exactly linear and nobody could have foreseen it. I think my openness to new things and the ability to combine the technical, creative and business levels have led me on this path.
What tip would you give to newcomers or interested career changers who also want to become Vice President Extended Reality?
Be open to new things and try to really get to the bottom of things. Don’t just look at them superficially. Don’t hide and communicate openly and honestly. Don’t be afraid of budgets, KPIs or business strategy. And I think it’s definitely worth looking into psychology and human behavior.
This helps me in areas such as team leadership and communication with colleagues, partners and customers, but also in getting the best out of our digital productions. The future will be shaped even more than today by the relationship between people and technology.