Can you describe what Cloud9 Insight does?
Cloud9 Insight is a Microsoft Gold Partner that works primarily with SMEs to support their business transformation, often at a growth stage of their business. Typically projects are business led, underpinned by a Microsoft cloud based technology such as Dynamics. We are very much purpose driven with a strong culture to invest in people and have won awards in recognition of our success in this area. Following this success and due to popular demand we have invested in the set-up of a Government Approved Apprenticeship provider – Vantage Academy.
How did you become involved in the tech/IT sector?
I accidentally fell into the IT sector – working initially for a Project Management software company. I stayed in the Tech sector and hit gold when I went to work for IBM, who heavily invested in training me. I gained experience as a consultant and also completed the much coveted IBM Sales School. Following this in my next role at Xansa (formally Druid) I was generously sponsored to complete a certificate in Management with the Open University and then complete an Open University MBA, which I would recommend to anyone interested in Strategy or setting up a business as it covers a broad range of topics. Not having an undergraduate degree, this MBA has helped increase my credentials but also expanded my way of thinking about the business world. Luckily for me, having a degree is not a pre-requisite to work in the tech world – where the pace of change is so fast that its critical to learn on the job, which is another reason why apprenticeships are so relevant to this sector.
How did you grow your company?
One of the biggest costs for a services business is the people. Initially I was able to grow the business by leveraging external expert consultants who were happy to work ad hoc as Associates where they were only paid for billable work done. I had the domain expertise on delivering successful CRM projects, and the approach of using very high quality consultants allowed me to scale profitably. I made a decision to employ apprentices which helped me grow as their additional help freed up more senior people’s time for activities that were able to accelerate the business growth.
Another turning point in our business growth was adopting a recurring revenue model to offer support to clients post project which offers unlimited training and changes during the implementation of Dynamics Customer Engagement. This recurring revenue has created a stable foundation on which to accelerate growth of the business and that growth is continuing to accelerate with expected organic growth this year of 70%+.
I am making significant investments in creating a personal and guru brand which can support both Cloud9 Insight and Vantage Academy. This is reaping significant rewards in our marketing, including an invitation to be interviewed on BBC Live News as well as speaking opportunities. The hidden benefit is that it has made attracting talent easier.
Tech still seems to be male-dominated. Have you encountered any barriers as a woman in the industry?
I believe I am generally made to feel ‘special’ as a women in technology as we are often a rare breed. I do not believe I have been disadvantaged by my gender, perhaps if anything I have had positive discrimination. I believe strongly in positivity and I believe what you think often manifests itsself, so I would ask women if they feel disadvantaged what is your frame of mind, do you sub-consciously create negative outcomes? Are you asking for a salary that you truly deserve, as our male counterparts certainly will be? I would say know your value, and focus on using your voice to make a difference.
How can we encourage more girls to choose IT as a career?
Young girls should definitely be encouraged to work in the Tech sector as there are a broad range of careers on offer from consulting, to support, HR, sales and marketing to name a few. I would go beyond just encouraging them to work in tech and say aspire to be an entrepreneur. Technology is underpinning many areas of change in the majority of industries. There are not many professions with this cross industry impact, combining people and creativity skills which many woman have in abundance.
I believe that the work places that are going to be more successful in the future are those that place the highest levels of importance on employee engagement and focus on culture. Women have an equal role to play as leaders and often have an advantage as they typically have great emotional intelligence. Technology is used by a diverse number of users, and those developing it need to represent this diversity. I would encourage girls to consider an apprenticeship route into tech as this will not only give an immediate income but also give useful and transferable skills. Tech has higher earning potential than any other job I know that does not require a degree.
What advice would you give a young woman starting out in IT?
My advice is to value your differences. Know that people want to help you, so ask for it. Know that most men won’t feel threatened by you and will want to help you as their ego is less when dealing with a women - make the most of it! Secondly have one or more mentors to help you reach for the stars. Don’t hold back – everything is possible and remain positive and focused on your dreams.
Cloud9 is a Microsoft Gold Partner who specialise in helping small to medium sized businesses grow by implementing and supporting Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM and other complimentary cloud technology. www.cloud9insight.com