Disruptive cloud technology specialist Vapour has made a number of team changes to support the company’s progress towards £7m turnover, as announced last month.

Long-standing operations lead Carol McGrotty – who has been with the business almost since its inception – has moved into the new role of head of transformation.

The promotion – in what marks her 20th year in the telecoms sector – will see her assume responsibility for all aspects of Vapour’s service delivery. Managing the technical, field and administrative teams, she will define the operating model and capabilities required to run successful TechOps and business support functions, in an ever-changing technical climate.

“I met Carol when we both worked at Virgin Media Business, and her tenacity to get the job done was outstanding,” explained Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer. “She built relationships in our complex space and found ways to devise processes that meant nothing ever slipped, but innovation wasn’t hampered either.

“As soon as we could afford her, we brought her into the Vapour team – and she’s played a demonstrable part in our growth and quality standards, ever since. She’s worked her way up, devised processes we never knew we needed and, ultimately, transformed the company. Now, she’ll play a crucial part in delivering those same benefits to customers.”

Carol has been quick to build her growing team, with Adam Greenhalgh joining the business as service desk lead, and network engineer Richard Sasu enhancing Vapour’s technical capacity.

The arrival of a new account manager, Avaya engineer, and pre-sales engineer are also imminent.

Carol elaborated: “As we push for further growth, it’s important that we press on as one unified team, with one consistent strategy and one shared goal. We laid the foundations for this in 2020, focusing highly on our culture, values, employee engagement, wellbeing and succession planning. Now we’ve got the ingredients to be able to accelerate everything – to achieve operational excellence, superior customer experiences and the personal growth of our teams.”

“I’m passionate about seeing more women in tech too, from apprenticeship-level roles right through to seats at the boardroom table,” Carol continued. “This shouldn’t need to be such a focal part of the industry’s agenda, but for as long as there’s work to be done – in terms of all forms of equality and diversity in our space – I’ll keep banging that drum!”

In keeping with its promise to seamlessly deliver the hidden technologies that drive powerful businesses, Vapour revealed its new-look proposition last month. A fresh identity for the company was used to announce three exciting industry collaborations with Tech Data, Fortinet and Veeam.

It’s Paul Goodrick’s turn in the spotlight this month. ‘Goody’ has been part of the team since the early days of Vapour, so has a deep-rooted understanding of what makes the business tick. Get to know him a little better, in this quickfire Q&A…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

I worked with Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer at another technology company, and when he founded this business, I came on board here.

I knew Vapour would flourish because of the attitude, product set and customer focus. We were cloud-first too – challenging, ambitious and highly experienced in a complex world full of myths and misunderstandings.

And what is your earliest memory of tech in your life?

Television as a child. I always wanted to know how the image could move when there weren’t actually people in the box. Also, radio-controlled cars – as a young lad, I had an obsession with them and how they worked without a cable!

What’s the one quality you need to thrive in this environment (especially at Vapour)?

As part of a fast-paced organisation, you need to know what you are doing, be a strong team player, work well with colleagues, and go that bit further when needed, without question.

You also need a rhino-thick skin for all the teasing!

And what is the one thing you would change about the tech sector?

Nothing really – it’s a sector changing beyond recognition from year to year, so I’d say there’s enough evolution there already!

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

Because we are a relatively small business with a substantial presence in a big arena, we can offer a game-changing technical service while still being personal. As a customer, you can talk to anyone you like here, from a junior apprentice to the CEO. We are here. Can you imagine speaking to the CEO of BT if you needed to? I doubt it!

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is... the silicon chip.

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a high spec Meade telescope.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is... Vapour!

The biggest misconception in the channel is that... business has slumped drastically due to Covid. Companies have a next-level appetite for digital transformation, so organisations with the right proposition, are thriving.

By the end of 2020, our tech will have made organisations far more... resilient to the changes in the workplace due to COVID restrictions. It is now abundantly clear that staff can work from home in more sectors than we’d have ever thought possible in 2019.

For our last employee interview of the year, it’s Tim Stableford’s turn in the spotlight. He’s a relatively fresh addition to the team – new to the industry too – but his incredibly switched on attitude means he’s made a big impact in only a short amount of time.

He’s come a long way since he first started using a Sony Ericsson Walkman – Tim, your time starts now…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

It was almost by chance that I found myself working in tech! Redundancy allowed me to take a step back in my career and evaluate where I wanted progress and develop. I saw the tech industry as an ever-growing market and something that I could see career longevity in, and I really liked the sound of Vapour, what the brand stood for, and the vision of the senior management team.

And what is your earliest memory of tech in your life?

A mobile phone (Sony Ericsson Walkman) that I got when I went from primary school to high school.

What’s the one quality you need to thrive in this environment (especially at Vapour)?

Adaptability – business challenges, market opportunities and tech trends are always changing, therefore we need to be able to adapt to reflect this evolving space.

And what is the one thing you would change about the tech sector?

It’s what everyone says but it’s true – fewer industry jargon.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

We listen, understand, and deliver tailored solutions to meet customer requirements. We don’t simply impose a particular technology on a business because it’s what we want to sell.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is…
the search engine Google.

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is…
an Apple Watch.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is…
Zoom, as they have really adapted to market needs, amidst the mass shift to working remotely.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that…
the cheapest price is always the best option.

By the end of 2020, our tech will have made organisations far more… versatile, efficient and future proofed.

Another new colleague has joined the ranks at Vapour HQ, following the appointment of Greeta Sagris as executive and team administrator.

With a strong project coordination skill set, Greeta is experienced in managing varied stakeholder requirements and expectations, among customers, colleagues, suppliers and partners alike. Most recently employed as property manager at a Huddersfield-based lettings firm, she is used to ‘juggling many plates’, keeping complex assignments on track and maintaining clear lines of communication throughout.

In her new role at Vapour, she will work closely with the senior management team in an executive position, bringing together a number of projects that will benefit clients, and freeing up SMT’s time to better support our sales and marketing team as we push for growth in 2021. 

She will also take on the day to day running of the office.

Elaborating on why she was attracted to the opportunity, Greeta said: “I’ve known of Vapour for a couple of years so have watched them, from a distance, until now.

“It’s clear how much they’ve invested in not only their tech stack and the development of the team this year, but also ‘doing the right thing’ during Covid-19. This was a strong pull – so many businesses talk about having authentic values, but sadly not all of them walk the walk.

“As we prepare for another wave of growth – evidenced not least by the recently completed scale up programme in association with Barclays and Cambridge University – I believe I can provide an extra pair of much-needed hands. I’m very process driven, hot on quality control and not afraid to roll my sleeves up. I’m really excited to be onboard.”

CEO Tim Mercer added: “If ever there was a year which proved the risk to set up Vapour was worth it, it’s 2020. When the business world spiralled into chaos due to Covid-19, we were there – delivering the same great technologies we’ve always focused on, to a now inconceivable number of businesses who have accelerated their adoption of cloud because of the mass shift to remote working, the pressure to boost productivity and the unswerving need to keep colleagues and customers connected, secure and engaged.”

“Because Vapour has always been committed to bringing enterprise-level solutions to businesses of all shapes and sizes, this meant digital transformation was within reach of organisations large and small – not just those with whopper budgets,” he continued. “But as we grow, it’s important that we keep investing in talent within our team too. Customers tell us our people are as valuable as our technology, so every hire is crucial. We’re delighted to have Greeta on board.”

Greeta (pronounced Gre-ta) has already set the bar high by showing off her baking talents, on day one. She’s yet to reveal her musical flair and ability to speak fluent Italian and Estonian! All in good time…

It’s James Hartley’s turn in the spotlight this month – here, he talks AI, Apple watches and the need to banish acronyms once and for all.

How did you first get into the world of tech?

I came back from travelling and got a job at Virgin Media Business as a telemarketer. I haven’t looked back.

And what is your earliest memory of tech in your life?

It was probably downloading music from the web – using dial up!!

What’s the one quality you need to thrive in this environment (especially at Vapour)?

Passion! We’re unbelievably committed to delivering the best solutions and service levels into the market. So many businesses talk about passion, but it’s just marketing speak. Not here.

And what is the one thing you would change about the tech sector?

Less acronyms! I know all my colleagues say it and I share their frustrations. There’s something wonderfully clever about keeping things simple, especially when speaking to customers and concentrating on what matters – how they will benefit.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

We have our own end to end cloud infrastructure and are agile enough to tailor our solutions and services to every specific customer need. This is pretty rare – certainly in the cloud field, and especially while delivering genuinely great, personable customer service.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is… the internet. That or the radio.

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wish list is… an Apple watch.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is… Peak AI in Manchester. There are lots of brands in the AI space but they’re doing some incredible things with household names and comparatively unknown disruptors.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that… price means value.

By the end of 2020, our tech will have made organisations far more… efficient, productive and ready for the new norm.

We’re already well into Q4 of 2020, which shows just how busy things are at Vapour HQ. But what’s been going on behind the scenes over the last three months, and as we prepare for the final weeks of the year, where will our attention lie? Tim, it’s over to you…

The start of July feels like a lifetime ago, so reflecting on what has happened over the past three months, is actually not an easy task.

We’ve always been a fast-paced business, but due to the events of 2020, we’ve ramped things up even further. In fact, it feels like we’ve crammed 12 months of work into three, so it’s unsurprising that everything feels a bit of a blur.

Going ‘back to school’

Myself, our head of ops and compliance Carol, and our sales manager Alec Stephens, successfully completed our scale up programme in association with Barclays Bank and Cambridge Judge Business School last month, and I think it has played a big part in giving us such a great deal of energy, over the last quarter.

We’ve got big plans as an organisation, and I truly believe that Covid-19 has not derailed these. In fact, if anything, it’s brought the future into sharper focus. As a team, we’ve talked more than ever before; we’ve been sharper on the organisation and delivery of huge tech projects we’ve wanted to get over the line; and we’ve been clearer on not just where we want to be, but how we want to get there.

Going ‘back to school’ to formulate our thinking, was fairly daunting, not least because of the volume of work we had to undertake (and we don’t believe in doing anything half-heartedly!) But I’m incredibly proud of the plan we have compiled and the feedback from the course tutors. Now all eyes are on us implementing it, into 2021 and beyond.

Welcoming new faces and new fixtures in the calendar

There are a couple of new faces at Vapour HQ since my last post, with the appointment of James Hartley and Tim Stableford, and boy have these chaps made an entrance! We’ve another colleague due to arrive in mid-November too, plus talks are already underway about some potentially exciting hires for 2021. Just you wait and see…

This boost to our capacity – and hunger for our cloud tech knowledge – has seen us launch a new series of virtual events. We began our Webinar Wednesday initiative in September, and feedback to date has been really positive.

Focusing more on the sharing of insight as opposed to selling our solutions, the sessions have seen us cover everything from our cloud subscription service for Avaya, through to an effective remote working tech stack and 10 steps to building a disaster recovery strategy. I’m particularly excited about welcoming Tom Davies, CEO of Robiquity, to the mic, for our 4 November slot. There’s still time to sign up for this free event, if you’d like to learn how robotic process automation (RPA) could benefit your business in 2021.

Between the Eyes podcast goes live

I’ve gone live with a new podcast series too – Between the Eyes. We’re now on season two in fact, with the first episodes having proven a massive hit, taking us up 200 places in the entrepreneur chart, to position 30 in only a couple of weeks!

Designed to encourage straight-talking conversation that I think is so often lacking from modern debate – not least in the tech sector – the show covers the stories of real people who have overcome adversity, achieved great things and/or made some pretty tricky decisions along the way. If you haven’t heard what all the fuss is about, I’d love you to have a listen. We cover everything from leadership to lacrosse, and futurology to foundation for men!

Doing our bit

Elsewhere, we talk a lot about being a principled company that truly cares about people – a commitment that admittedly feels a little trite in the business space nowadays. But we know it’s an authentic part of who we are, and I think there are some wonderful examples of that passion, in action, in this last quarter.

For example:

These are just some of the things that matter to our colleagues, so they’re now permanent fixtures in everyday Vapour life.

Exciting projects

Oh, and then there’s everything we’re working on for clients, which is last but absolutely by no means least. Away from all things Covid-19, we’re working on some really cool projects for clients in the automotive, construction and healthcare sectors at the moment, and we’re particularly excited to reveal details of a comms automation project with machine agents and NLP at its heart – watch this space!

With so much packed into July to September, many of us are getting ready for a recharge, but there are just nine weeks of 2020 remaining and some exciting opportunities left to grasp, so we’re aiming to go out on a high.

We’ve just launched our A-Z of Workplace Technologies in 2021 – a phenomenal piece of work which isn’t just a testament to the efforts of the Vapour team, but the many partners and friends of the business who are each genuine experts in their own fields. I think this has the potential to be a real must-read for so many organisations next year.

Nobody has a crystal ball, but given the rate at which a number of companies have undergone digital transformation this year, I think we’re going to see further great changes afoot in 2021. The adoption of video in only a matter of months is what many technologists expected to see over three to five years, for example, so it’s a very interesting time to be in this space, as we look ahead to the next quarter and beyond.

When it is time for that recharge, I will relish the opportunity to reboot over Christmas with the family – especially the two little people for whom it’s all about. Oh, and I’ve an expedition to Spitsbergen to prepare for, on the fringe of the Arctic Ocean. But more about that next time…

There’s a lot to do before the year is out. Stay safe everyone

This month, we hear the wise words of Blaine, as he talks slideware, shiny boxes and why he couldn’t live without his sat nav!

How did you first get into the world of tech?          

I joined British Telecom as a graduate recruit and was posted with the datacomms product team, merely by chance.

And what is your earliest memory of tech in your life?

A colour TV in the late 60s!

What’s the one quality you need to thrive in this environment (especially at Vapour)?

Tenacity.

And what is the one thing you would change about the tech sector?

I know it’s a recurring theme when colleagues complete this Q&A, but, without a doubt, I wish there was less slideware from companies who promise solutions they cannot deliver.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

A dynamic organisation that punches well above its weight to provide effective solutions while delivering an attentive level of partnership that many bigger players cannot match.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is…GPS. My sense of direction is appalling, so it has personally saved me many hours of wandering around and reduced my carbon footprint.

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a new mobile (Samsung) as my contract is due for renewal.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is... Huawei, for the level of global controversy surrounding it.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that... the commodity purchasing of ‘best of breed’ products (services) leads to the best IT environment.  Integration is the key, not the shininess of the boxes.

By the end of 2020, our tech will have made organisations far more... able to cope with the changing priorities and work patterns that come from this current pandemic.

There’s another new face at Vapour HQ, as Tim Stableford has joined the company as account manager.

With four years’ experience in the B2B sales environment, Tim is no stranger to developing customer opportunities.

He has held roles with Fuel Card Services, where he was responsible for lead sourcing, sales, relationship management and the handling of ongoing customer queries, on some of the brand’s 55,000 active accounts.

From there, he became a business consultant for a resourcing firm specialising in talent within particularly technical sectors including automation, electronics, oil and gas, and more.

Brought in to support the ongoing growth of Vapour, he will be an early point of contact for new enquiries and will also assist existing customers with the ongoing optimisation and evolution of their cloud solutions.

“While this role represents a step into a new sector for Tim, he’s already known among many of the organisations we are working with or looking to target,” explained Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer. “ He joins the company at a time when the modern workplace is in a massive state of flux. Business needs are changing on a daily basis and often the problems that now need solving – with the help of clever tech – are new to customers.

“Now, more than ever, we’re demonstrating the ‘art of the possible’ when an IT director gets in touch. So this is a great time for Tim to learn exactly what we can do and why interest in Vapour is so hot at the moment.”

Adding what attracted him to the job, Tim Stableford elaborated: “When COVID-19 hit, my job ground to a halt and I have really missed speaking to customers on a daily basis. I enjoy getting under their skin, working out what they need, and then exploring how we can help. This role – and the timing of me joining Vapour – is therefore perfect.

“It’s clear that Vapour is a disruptive brand changing the face of what’s possible in the tech space. Many businesses in the channel are quite traditional in their approach, but I think our vibrancy – not to mention the level of cloud engineering capabilities within the team – means Vapour has really shaken things up.

“In only a week I’ve already been talking to businesses about remote working security strategies, next level unified communications and automation projects – and I’m just getting started.”

We look forward to seeing where Tim can take his role. If you want to learn more about him, why not connect on LinkedIn?

Jason is the latest Vapour colleague to step into the spotlight, and did you know, he nearly became an accountant rather than a cloud specialist?! In this quickfire Q&A he talks tech, trust and not taking himself too seriously…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

Many moons ago when I was training to be an accountant, I started to use PCs and learnt to program.

And what is your earliest memory of tech in your life?

A BBC Micro Model B at Primary School

What’s the one quality you need to thrive in this environment (especially at Vapour)?

I think you need a good work ethos, the ability to bounce off other members of staff and a commitment to building solid customer relationships. A great sense of humour helps too!

And what is the one thing you would change about the tech sector

There are a lot of businesses that sadly claim to be able to deliver something, when in reality they can’t.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

We have a great close-knit team which gives us the ability to understand and deliver customer requirements efficiently and professionally. I think this in itself creates a crucial sense of trust and enhances our relationship with them.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is... the internet.

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... nothing! I’ve just upgraded my iPhone, so I don’t plan to buy anything else at the moment.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is... VMware.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that... the space is crowded with organisations doing the same thing. I actually think there are too many players BUT not enough doers.

By the end of 2020, our tech will have made organisations far more... flexible in the workplace.

Elland-headquartered tech firm Vapour Cloud has partnered with Champion Health, to roll out a digital assessment programme to support the health and wellbeing of staff.

The move comes as Vapour opens its doors to enable a safe return to work for employees who want to come back, following the COVID-19 lockdown.

A 30-minute confidential health questionnaire has been deployed to the whole workforce, to better understand their current physical and psychological health. Covering everything from nutrition, hydration and physical activity to anxiety, depression and stress in the workplace, the findings are instantly summarised and given back to every individual in the form of a personal health report.

The aim is to encourage them to think more closely about their own wellbeing and take steps to optimise their wellness levels when working in the office or from home.

The company-wide results have also been collated anonymously in a more detailed document with measurable actions, for Vapour’s senior management team to review and implement as the weeks unfold. At an employer level, the goal is to improve the organisation’s agility and resilience to the current health crisis, better protect the workforce and mitigate the threats to business continuity.

The process will be repeated in three months’ time, and again six months after that, to continually monitor what is a movable situation. This investment will see Vapour accredited as a ‘Champion Employer’ for the next 12 months.

Commenting on the roll out of the health assessments, Vapour’s head of operations and compliance Carol McGrotty said: “The psychological impact of lockdown, social distancing, work-life juggles, loss of loved ones and general anxieties surrounding the pandemic, have all been widely documented.

“So, as we continue to think about our true duty of care to staff – beyond simply legislative compliance – we wanted to ensure we provide a safe environment for colleagues to review their mental health. And of course, we’ll implement as many improvements as we can, to strengthen our collective wellbeing.”

When considering the reasons for investing in the Champion Health programme specifically, Carol added: “We’ve followed Champion Health’s story from the very beginning, as founder Harry Bliss has been speaking to our CEO Tim Mercer for some time about the savvy use of tech for good in the workplace.

“Harry’s model helps to uncover and proactively address health issues which may otherwise remain unidentified. His stats show that in a typical organisation of our size, four people may have thought about taking their life at some stage. This shows how crucial it is for employers to sit up and pay attention to what remains a relatively untapped form of ‘first aid’.”

Champion Health was founded by Harry Bliss, who lost a close friend to suicide in 2018 following an acute bout of workplace stress. Harry will feature in an upcoming episode of the new podcast series – Between the Eyes – produced by Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer, due for release in summer 2020.

Vapour also published a ’30 days to improved mental resilience’ resource on its website, earlier in the spring.

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