Alum of the Month - April 2021

Freddie Quek

The most rewarding and important priority for me as a leader is developing the leaders of the future.
Freddie Quek


  • Programme studied: MSc Management of Information Systems
  • Year of Graduation: 1990
  • LinkedIn profile

Meet our April Alum of the Month, Freddie Quek. Freddie is Chief Technology Officer at Times Higher Education, responsible for data-driven products such as the World Universities Rankings and SDG Impact Dashboard which provides insights into universities’ impact in delivering the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. He is a global technology leader who has worked in Singapore, the US and UK, across automotive, higher education, publishing, loyalty, insurance, travel and financial services industries. He has Master of Science degrees from LSE and Henley Business School, and is an alumnus of Oxford University. In his spare time, he is a Research Associate at Henley Business School pursuing a Doctorate of Business Administration degree. He is also a member of the London Multimedia Lab headed by Professor Patrick Humphreys, LSE. 

Tell us about your career journey since graduating from LSE.

My career actually started while I was an LSE student. I worked part-time at a scientific publishing company. I witnessed how one of the oldest industries was completely transformed – from no computers or internet, to CD ROM, eBooks and digital products. I had the opportunity to build the first biomedical website in the world, as well as LSE’s first website. It has come full circle as I have experienced most of the publishing lifecycle – typesetter, data entry, software developer, author, editor, reviewer, publisher and now a researcher.

After three decades, I decided to explore other industries. In the last six years I have spent time across loyalty, travel, insurance, financial services, automotive and now education, and having experienced working across startups, scaleups to large corporations, and in North America, Asia and mainly UK/Europe.

What are your priorities as a leader in the tech space?

It may be ironic to say that what really matters is not the technology. It is more important to help your organisation and colleagues understand how technologies can bring opportunities and drive value. To back up what I say, in my spare time, I am doing my doctorate research into how tech leaders can help organisations to run and change their business at the same time. There is a rich body of research that shows how difficult it is to achieve this but yet necessary for an organisation’s long-term survival.

As a technology leader, I bring to my organisation a technology strategy that is aligned with the business goals. But the most rewarding and important priority for me as a leader, is developing the leaders of the future, because the best legacy I can leave behind is not the technology strategy that will become obsolete, but future leaders for my organisation.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career and what have you learnt as a result?

There have been big decisions that I have had to take to adopt new approaches, new technologies, and build new digital platforms, something that neither my organisation nor I have ever done before. I have been fortunate to have been supported by my bosses to use technology to solve business problems, particularly in an industry that is very conservative. What I have learnt is the importance to not find the easy answer, which is to stay in your comfort zone and do what you have always done. It is important to be brave to think and do differently, and give yourself and others permissions to make mistakes because this is how you learn to make more right decisions in future. We cannot avoid making mistakes when dealing with the unknowns, but as a leader if you have made more right ones than wrong, then I think it is a life well-lived!

Personally, having spent three decades in the publishing industry and to leave it all behind to try other industries sounded like quite a crazy thing to do. What I have learnt is that we should be proud of our legacy, but we should be brave about the future, whether it is for our organisation or for ourselves as individuals. We are capable of doing unknown stuff so long as we are willing to have a go, rather than being put off by the fear of it. As the saying goes, fortune favours the brave. I now wish I had been braver and started experiencing the wider world sooner!
What do you consider to be your greatest achievements? 
I am fortunate to be able to help the publishing industry to ride the wave of the digital technological innovations to transform from print to digital, including Reed Elsevier and Wiley. Jargons such as agile and NoSQL that are now taken for granted, they required a lot of learning and doing on the job, and mistakes in the early days.
But I like to think my greatest achievement is yet to come. It is important never to stop learning, which is why I am a professional as well as a life-long student. 
As a result of COVID-19 you have become an ambassador for Project Global Impact, supporting a charity S.E.E.D., and championing digital inclusion for disadvantaged school children in the UK. How do you see the role of technology in our society evolving?

The pervasive nature of technology means that it impacts all levels of society. On the one hand, it is a great leveller. For example, how the internet becomes so integral to the way we store and find information. It is also a great enabler to achieve the basic human right to communicate especially with mobile devices and social media tools.

As a society and an individual, we have a responsibility to use #tech4good. This is what I learnt and cultivated during my time at LSE, about understanding the social impact of technology. I am fortunate to be involved in a number of initiatives working with others to help those who are in need, particularly addressing #digitalinclusion by #joiningthedots with technology leaders’ communities and other organisations in the UK.

This year we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of LSE. What is your fondest memory whilst you were studying with us?

From the outset, LSE was like a mini United Nations, students from various countries with different cultures. I learnt from my Greek course mates that throwing plates on the ground is fun and not a criminal offence.
But it is the connections I made that are long lasting and continue. I have come back as an Executive Student, worked with the Management department on a Sourcing Strategy for my company, my co-author and cohort is a professor at LSE, and today I am still working with Professor Patrick Humphreys who was my boss as well as my PhD joint-supervisor.