Describe your role in no more than 100 words.
I am the CEO of the business so generally responsible for strategy, executing on our long-term vision and ensuring the ship is sailing in the right direction.
What is it the company does?
We define ourselves as a post-PC technology consultancy which means we specialise in strategy, design and build of software primarily for mobile and connected platforms. We are increasingly doing work with smart devices, Internet of Things and wearables and have just started our foray into VR/AR.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I started working young and got my first job just off high school working primarily as a freelancer. I moved to the UK in the late 90s to study and continued my passion for work mostly as a freelance programmer. I have been self-employed for most of my life but I never really wanted to run a company to begin with.
When I got married in 2005, I moved from the South of UK to Newcastle and it was isolation more than anything that led me to my first job. I was in a new place with few friends, no business network (which was all down South) and little appetite to spend time building a network.
It was at this time that I found a role at one of Newcastle’s fastest growing digital agencies and was exposed to the service industry and digital. I was one of the early team members and it was great being a part of a company that was growing rapidly and was the talk of the town. However, despite my commitment and my eagerness to contribute more, I felt there was a clear lack of progression for me in that company due to most of the senior positions being taken and the culture taking a nosedive.
At this stage, I felt the real urge to set out on my own and create an organisation that had great culture and people at it’s core. It was also where I met my co-founder Mark Forster, and the rest is history.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Being a great leader can’t be summed up in short sound bites. Great leadership is a mix of humility, self-awareness, putting others before self and holding true to values. It is also important that great leaders can be articulate and communicate effectively with their team. Finally, leading by example is the best way to get people to follow you.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
I think the biggest challenge has been learning everything on the job. I came to the industry not knowing much about software beyond being a good programmer. I also had no business training so I had to learn everything first-hand including accounting, sales, leadership etc.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Is it cliché to say I don’t really feel too much stress in my job? I love what I do and even on my worst day, my job is miles better than anything else I could be doing right now.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
The fantasy version was I really wanted to be an astronaut. Space and science fascinates me and I dreamt about being the first man on Mars. As I quickly realised that this might be more challenging than I thought, my second dream was to become an entrepreneur. I’m living my dream!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I hate office politics and gossip. It’s difficult for me to summarise how much I abhor it. I don’t mind a bit of light-hearted humour and people talking but I have no tolerance for idle destructive gossip. The primary way I try to solve this is to encourage radical candour and wherever I see issues cropping up, I wade in and get people to talk to each other or bring it up in a public forum. This can be very uncomfortable but I believe leads to an open and trusting environment.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Our aim is to be the largest post-PC technology consultancy and app developer in the UK in 5 years’ time. We are well on the way in that mission and are now the UK’s largest independent app developer.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Just do it. The biggest challenge I see with aspiring entrepreneurs is hesitation and self-doubt. No one is saying you will be a success on day one but if you don’t get on the first step, you will never climb the ladder.
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