Overcoming cancer twice as a teenager led Jack Mason to not only pledge 10% of his working day to a children's cancer charity, but he allows each member of his team to do the same with a cause they care about. Jack talks to BQ about leading his business, Dreamr.
What is it the company does?
Dreamr creates apps for businesses that feature aspects of tech such as machine learning and augmented reality (AR), for a broad range of sectors including fitness, fashion and education.
We are based in the heart of innovation in Manchester city centre at No.1 Spinningfields. We believe technology has the power to inspire and enrich lives in a positive and meaningful way, and our mission is to create the most innovative and thought-provoking products in the world.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
After I finished my degree in Business Enterprise, myself and business partner Mylo Kaye launched a website design business under the name Bamboo. Our first client was a balloon company, which paid us £500 and paved the way for future development. I believe the company still has the same website to this day!
Although the website business was successful, we were both hugely interested in and excited by future tech, and when smartphones became part of everyday life, we decided to branch out into app development and - inspired by John Lennon’s Imagine - changed the business name to Dreamr.
I initially assumed the role of business development manager at Dreamr, taking care of all operational processes. In reality, I took responsibility for everything which wasn’t actual coding or design.
I quickly grasped the principles of design and the key elements crucial for making mobile applications which would delight clients and help Dreamr push the boundaries of what was possible with technology.
Once Mylo made the decision to leave Dreamr to focus on his charity, Pledge, I grasped the opportunity to take the reins and steer Dreamr into the future, and became CEO of the business in 2018.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Three things - I believe that good leadership means hiring top quality people, trusting them to make good decisions in line with the business objectives, and ensuring the wellbeing of the team with initiatives that benefit them and others.
I have personally overseen the recruitment of some key top-level roles which have helped Dreamr meet demand and strengthen the support it offers to clients. I strongly believe in hiring a top-quality team with skillsets different to my own, so they learn from each other and grow together.
I don’t believe in micro-managing, and much prefer to engrain the company goals and objectives into the team, and let them make their own decisions in line with the overall mission. I also believe in being open to suggestions from my team members and quickly implement any creative ideas which will benefit the business or boost staff morale and happiness.
One initiative that really sets Dreamr apart - and one which is close to my heart - is Pledge 10%, a scheme which has seen our team members spend ten per cent of their working hours volunteering in homeless centres, working with local donkey sanctuaries and helping to keep Manchester tidy.
Since becoming CEO earlier this year, I cemented my support for Pledge 10% by launching a manifesto for all staff members to follow to ensure they can give ten per cent of their work time to working on these charity projects which spark their passions and touch their hearts.
After enduring two battles with cancer as a teenager, I spend my Pledge 10% time as a trustee of Kidscan, an incredible Salford-based charity that helps children with cancer and supports their families.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
Growing an amazing team, fast. We’ve hired rapidly over the last nine months, and now boast a team of 21. Finding great talent is always a challenge, but it’s even harder trying to find a Dreamr, with that quirky edge!
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I am a huge lover of holidays abroad, and regularly journey to far-flung places such as Mexico to recharge, get away from the screen and have fun. I also enjoy mountain biking in the hills of the Peak District - we are lucky to live somewhere with access to such wonderful countryside, right on our doorstep.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an archaeologist! I was inspired by Jurassic Park and always had a fascination with dinosaurs. When I grew up a little more I always wanted to be in business with my own chain of hotels.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Micromanagement, and smelly food! I struggle a little with people who aren’t as driven/motivated/passionate as I am, but it isn’t a pet hate as such.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
In five years, I’d love to see Dreamr expanding globally with offices abroad, with augmented reality and artificial intelligence at the forefront of what we do. Dreamr Ventures will have approximately 15-20 investments, which would be an inspiring legacy to leave the tech and business community.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Work hard – not easy! But look after yourself and take regular 'you' time, it’ll help you regroup and come back to work recharged with a stronger sense of purpose.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
I wish someone had told me about the importance of surrounding yourself with passionate people whose skills complement your own, rather than mirror them. You can’t all have the same strong suits, so it’s important to grow a team of people who are better than yourself at certain aspects of the job.
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