Hi! I'm @Stef

Photo of Stef on a run

Stef Lewandowski

“Lev-un-dos-key”

Tech lead and digital product maker

I’m an experienced early-stage startup tech/product lead with a mix of overlapping skills in software development, design, and business model innovation.

Throughout my career, I’ve sought to find repeatable ways to discover new opportunities, prototype and develop early-stage tech startups and scale them to have an impact on solving problems the world faces.

My main skill, and what I focus on continually improving, is being able to take the nub of an idea, test it, hone it, rapidly build a working first version and then iterate to take the idea from "zero to one".

Work

On Deck

I work at On Deck, a cohort-based learning platform for people with ambition. Think a cross between an accelerator program and an MBA program and you might not be too far wrong. I currently lead the Data team as well as helping from a product point of view in the No-Code team. We're using no-code tools extensively, which has given the team an ability to operate at pace across all parts of the business. This kind of approach comes with some challenges and unusual architectural decisions, not least in wrangling all of the data that these services generate into a "single source of truth" for reporting and operational purposes. I'm currently leading a small team of data engineers and data scientists to do just that!

Prior to this (and my work helping to set up Oak National Academy during the Covid lockdown - see below), I’ve instigated and led venture building and "labs" initiatives to explore business opportunities in a diverse set of industries: sustainability, finance, supply-chain, logistics, e-commerce, education, urban mobility, car sharing, data analytics, tech recruitment, culture and more. I've been co-founder of a handful of tech startups, a design studio, a record label and assorted other ventures along the way.

You can read about my work history on my Linkedin profile.

Brands I’ve worked with

Accenture
BBC
Channel 4
Coca-cola
Comic Relief
DHL
ING
Jaguar
Land Rover
Red Bull
V&A
Vivienne Westwood

Life

Stef and family

I live in Frome, Somerset, UK with my wife Emily Quinton, our four children and our pup, Yuki.

Writing

I write articles and essays, mostly on Medium, although you'll also find my words on Lifehacker, Quartz and elsewhere.

Here are a few of my most popular posts.

Speaking

I speak on a variety of topics: creativity, startups, innovation, experimentation, inspiring the next generation with the possibilities of technology, "sketching with code", and my personal journey aiming to create something every day.

I always aim to be useful, relatable, light-hearted, honest and inspiring. And above all, jargon-free!

If you'd like to book me, I'm represented by Speakers Corner in London.

Stef was great, delivered a great presentation and the audience found it very engaging. He received high praise and was a very approachable guy.

Accenture

He was provocative and challenging at the same time as being positive and inspiring. He fulfilled his brief completely and was very flexible in the lead up to his keynote - flexing the content and checking with me that he was getting the messaging right.

Unlocking Potential

Code

Javascript
Next.js
React
GraphQL
Node
Serverless functions
Cloudflare Workers
Cloudflare KV
Redis
Fauna
Apollo
Hasura
Postgres
Vercel
GCP
Bigquery

If you were to ask me my preferred tech stack right now, I’d say some of these would be in the mix.

In the past I've worked with a wide range of languages, Ruby, PHP, .Net, C++, Java, but nowadays I've found that I'm most productive with this particular stack for the kinds of projects I work on.

Running

Photo of Stef in front of a local mural

I started running as a complete beginner in September 2019 having not done really any organised exercise before. The daily walk to and from work was about it!

I used the Couch to 5k app to steadily get my stamina up, and kept going after I hit the 5k target.

Just over a year later I ran the virtual (because of Covid) London Marathon in a time of 3:52 🎉

There's a thread on Twitter that I made along the way, and I'm currently gathering all my Strava posts into a website that shows the journey from beginning to end.

If you're thinking "I could never run a marathon", I hope this shows that it might just be possible!

Non-profit

Oak National Academy

In my previous software leadership role, I helped the UK education sector respond to the challenges presented by COVID, by helping build an online learning platform, Oak National Academy for students to learn from home and in other settings when they're unable to attend school.

Our tiny tech and product team built and released the first version in a week, and the service has now scaled to support 2.5 million students per week to learn from home. The wider team and partners have produced almost a full national curriculum of video content and resources (~10,000 video lessons) across most subjects and made it all available for free (including finding a way to make it free to access on a phone) via the web.

I'm a Clore Fellow and am always interested in the intersection of modern technology and culture. The leadership fellowship I undertook exposed me to the needs of cultural and creative organisations and I've since been involved with several non-profits.

I sit on the industrial advisory board of University of Birmingham School of Computer Science and I have a history of volunteering for tech-focused and social good organisations.

I've been a school governor at two schools, and was chair for three years at Heber Primary School in South London, where I learnt a lot about good governance.

All of our work on Oak National Academy is under the wing of the Reach Foundation, a UK charity.

Through my running I raise funds for autism charities including the National Autistic Society and Ambitious about Autism.

Awards

2021

Digital Leaders Impact Awards Oak National Academy

2020

Tech4Good Awards Highly Commended
Oak National Academy

2014

Clore Prize
Awesome Box

Hospital Club HClub100

2012

Business to Arts Award: Best Creative Staff Engagement
Accenture: Festival of Ideas

2011

Europa Finalist
Aframe

Nokia Pitch 'n' Win
Go Genie

Smarta 100 Winner
Aframe

White Bull "Bully" Winner
Aframe

Finalist for Guardian MEGAs — Disruptive Technology
Aframe

2010

NUJ Regional Journalism Awards – Highly Commended
Help Me Investigate

Best Investigation at the Talk About Local Unawards
Help Me Investigate

2009

Top 5 in the Observer / Courvoisier The Future 500

2008

Webby Award
First Light Movies

Webby Award Honoree (NetArt)
Name in Lights

Webby Award Honoree
The Big Picture

Joint-winner of inaugural Guardian Innovation Awards (‘MEGA’) for Best Independent Blog
Created in Birmingham

Joint World Record holder!? (With many others) The Big Picture

2007

Finalist for Royal Television Society Innovation Award – User Generated Content
4tips (Maverick TV)

British Council Digital Pioneer

#20 in the Birmingham Post’s Power 50

2006

Alumnus of the Year, Birmingham University

2005

Birmingham Creative City Awards Small Business of the Year
3form

Birmingham Young Professional of the Year

Channel 4 Ideas Factory Creative Class Award Winner
3form / Type Records

Champion of Industry, Mustard award
3form

O2 / Arena magazine – Shortlisted for Entrepreneur of the Year in Birmingham

2004

Mustard Award for Best New Start-Up in Birmingham
3form

Birmingham Creative City Award for Outstanding Innovation
3form

2001

Gold Award for Best Non-Profit Organisation Website – World Media Festival Hamburg
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery website / 3form

2000

NASTA winner - Best Title Sequence
Robots in Disguise

Contact

Here’s how best to reach me if you’d like to chat.

@stef

Direct message me on Twitter. I find this is the easiest way for me to chat.

hi@stef.io

If you’re not on Twitter, you can email me.