It’s Debbie's turn in the spotlight this month. Having recently returned to the tech sector after a break, she’s keen to change the number of complex jargon and acronyms that make our world a daunting and sometimes inaccessible industry. With a keen interest in new innovations and how things work, the self-confessed music lover has a new ‘Sonos’ speaker on her tech wishlist, claiming it provides a more immersive experience that can’t be beaten!

Debbie, your 60 seconds start now…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

Back in 2003, I started working as a customer service advisor for a local cable TV company. As the company progressed and tech developed mainly around customer relations, retentions and customer experience, my roles adapted to suit, and I was able to become more exposed to the world of technology. I’ve always had a keen interest in technical developments and love to know how things work.

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

Back before vinyl came back into fashion, I had a stereo with a turntable and cassette deck – I must have been around 10 at the time! I didn’t have any cassettes though, so I’m glad to see they’re making a comeback.

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

Passion for what you’re delivering, believing in the products and service you provide, and having the confidence to push to get the right results. At Vapour, we strive to overachieve on customers’ expectations, and I think that’s such an important quality.

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

Acronyms – the number of acronyms has increased exponentially, and having recently returned to the tech sector, Even I have had a lot to catch up on!

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

The staff and our passion for everything Vapour is trying to achieve. We see outside the box to ensure customers get the right solution. We aren’t afraid to ask ‘why’.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is...computers. They changed the world from getting cash out of a hole in the wall in the 70s to advancements in medicine and manufacturing

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a Sonos Sub! I love music, and Sonos has thought of everything for music lovers. They’re able to make the experience totally immersive.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is...  Amazon, if we can class them as a tech firm – they’ve been a godsend this past 12 months.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that...you have to be a ‘techy’ to understand technology!

By the end of 2021, our tech will have made organisations far more...agile. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we live, and it’s no longer enough to just continue with the same digital structure that once existed. People are going to demand more flexibility and agility – which is where we come in.

Next up, we’ll be featuring service desk lead, Adam Greenhalgh, so keep your eyes peeled in October!

It’s Mark Taylor’s turn in the spotlight this month. Born right at the start of the tech boom, with access to PC and video games from a young age, Mark’s passion for the dynamic technology industry, and how it can be used to create so many opportunities within society, continues to develop.

Over to you Mark, your 60 seconds start now…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

Some years ago, I started reading more into AI technology and its capabilities. I’m fascinated by what AI can do, and what the industry is expecting / predicting from this type of technology in the future. The evolution of AI creates so many interesting opportunities for everyone in society!

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

As a keen PC gamer when I was younger, I played anything from ‘The Sims’ to strategy games like ‘Age of Empires’. I think I was born just at the right time, at the start of the tech boom that has developed into what it is today.

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

A collaborative nature – whether you’re working with a customer, your own team, or another stakeholder, it’s important to work together to explore the options and find the best solution.

In an industry as dynamic as the technology sector – which continues to evolve and change - this is especially important. At Vapour, we share ideas and support each other to ensure we’re delivering the best possible solution and services to our customers.

What is the one thing you would change about the tech sector?

Access to the industry! Both knowledge of, and access to technology can sometimes be limited depending on a person’s background or upbringing. Introducing more people to digital platforms and skillsets supports the development of education within society, helps connectivity and the sharing of information across the world, maximising the capabilities of tech even further.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

Vapour is more than just a provider of tech solutions - we stand out as a true partner in the tech space. We communicate and ask questions to understand customer needs, and delve into not only what, but also why they need a particular solution.

We’re about building a more personal relationship too, ensuring the customer feels they can come back to us long into the future, as their requirements change and develop, which I think is increasingly important.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is...

The internet.

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is...

Either a decent pair of speakers or a PlayStation5.

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

Google.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that...

‘One size fits all’ - An organisation’s tech infrastructure and requirements can change depending on a multitude of factors - their industry or sector, company size, and even key challenges. It’s about understanding and consulting on where tech products and services can be of benefit.

By the end of 2021, our tech will have made organisations far more...

Knowledgeable and efficient.

Cloud technology specialist Vapour has welcomed five new faces into the team as the straight-talking firm pursues its ambitious £7m growth targets.

Bolstering the sales team is business development manager Dan Needham, who joins the business from Manchester-based Cloud Technology Solutions (CTS). With a strong enterprise background – particularly in the SaaS environment – his area of expertise is the more unusual technical sell, with a key focus on people-led digital transformation projects.

He’s joined by fellow business development manager Mark Taylor – a technology agnostic salesperson who comes from a more varied sales background, as Vapour pursues its mission to boost the efficiencies, scalability and security of UK organisations.

Sales support coordinator Becky Pritchard completes the new line up of faces added to the commercial team. Having previously worked for Next Generation Security, and Safe & Secure IT Solutions, she has a strong account management skill-set.

The growing complexity of Vapour’s cloud toolkit – enhanced in recent months with the development of a dedicated SD-WAN proposition for hybrid working, to name just one new solution – has seen the company appoint David Parsons as solutions engineer. A talented cloud specialist with 13 years’ experience working for Managed Service Providers (MSPs), David bridges the gap between Vapour’s sales and engineering teams, and has fast become the ‘go to’ voice for ultra-technical projects – particularly for clients completely rethinking their cloud-first networks of the future.

The fifth addition to the business is cloud UC engineer Ronnie Paton – a former military serviceman who developed a career in the telecoms space upon resettlement into civilian life. He supports the presales team with their growing workload, as well as helping to look after Vapour’s cloud communications solution.

The hires coincide with Vapour’s relocation to Heritage Exchange – a converted textiles mill on the outskirts of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. The extensively refurbished space was purposefully designed to give the growing team a fresh and more collaborative workplace on their return from extended periods of working from home.

Commenting on the hires, Vapour’s head of transformation and operations Carol McGrotty, said: “We’ve been extremely open about our plans to expand to become a £7m business by the end of our 2021 financial year, and people will prove crucial to this. We’re as known for our team as we are our toolkit, so these five hires have been made at pace, but with extreme precision.”

CEO Tim Mercer added: “Now everyone is talking about cloud-first infrastructures, we’re a safe pair of hands, making the complex simple, clever and powerful. We’ve worked hard to hand-select talented individuals who care as much about busting jargon as our existing committed team.

“And things seem to be paying off. We recorded as much monthly recurring revenue in Q1 of 2021, as we did in the first half of 2020, and it’s double the amount we achieved in the second half of last year. I don’t think that’s bad, given economic turbulence caused by the pandemic.

“There are three product launches on the horizon too, so we need to be ready for the next chapter of growth.”

It’s David Parsons’ turn in the spotlight this month. Get to know our solutions engineer, as he shares why Acorn had him hooked on IT from such a young age, and why he believes problem solving is key for a career in tech.

59, 58, 57…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

I entered the technology industry in my first job – working for a dictation company transitioning customers from tape to digital devices and software management of the recordings.

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

My Dad got me interested in computing from a very young age, loading software from tapes onto an Acorn – now I feel old!

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

Anyone who has been successful in technology has a drive to learn and to challenge themselves. Exams and training are useful, but an individual’s initiative to work out a problem on their own and learn from it, is what really makes a good engineer stand out.

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

Investing in technology is a lot like investing in people – you cannot invest once and expect everything to run smoothly for years. Demands and expectations are always changing, as is the landscape and what is available. So, a continuous development approach is vital to avoid being left behind, or being hit with an unexpected problem and avoidable costs when things do go wrong.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

We have a clear vision of the sort of company we want to be.  Our focus is always on the customer, finding solutions to real problems and delivering the best levels of service.

Complete the sentences:

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

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a new TV.

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

The biggest misconception in the channel is that... Product and price are everything.  Finding a partner you can work with to build the right solutions and a high level of service, is far more important.  The art of IT is not in the product, but in the delivery and support of it.

By the end of 2021, our tech will have made organisations far more... intelligent and mobile.

It’s Ronnie Paton’s turn in the spotlight this month. His entrance into the world of tech started with cable TV and fast-forward to 2021, the next 4K offering is on his wishlist. Learn all about our new recruit and cloud UC engineer, in his quick-fire Q&A.

Ronnie, your time starts now…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

It all started when I completed a course surrounding the installation of cable TV, as it was just being rolled out in the UK.

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

I am of an age that means I can remember the world without the internet. And so, my earliest memory of tech is military radios – if you could call them technical?

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

The ability to listen to what is being said and explain the solution to everyone at a level they understand, is key.

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

The use of TLAs (three letter acronyms). I believe they’re over relied on, and that some people try to confuse others by using them to hide their lack of knowledge of what they are explaining.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

Vapour has the ability to build a comms platform around the customer’s needs, rather than the customer having to work around the comms platform.

Complete the sentences:

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

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a 4KApple TV.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is... YouTube. Without it, lockdown would’ve been very boring for sure!

The biggest misconception in the channel is that... everything is difficult, therefore it must be expensive.

By the end of 2021, our tech will have made organisations far more... flexible and secure.

A recent Tech Nation report exploring the topic of diversity revealed that 77% of UK tech director roles were filled by men, and only 19% of the workforce are women.

There’s no doubt there’s still more that needs to be done when it comes to encouraging a fairer gender split throughout the digital landscape.

It’s a subject that’s close to our hearts too and one championed by Vapour’s head of transformation Carol McGrotty. Selected for WeAreTechWomen’s ‘Inspirational Tech Advocate’ Q&A, she discusses how we can all take responsibility for being more inclusive, and why you don’t necessarily have to have a specific degree to be successful in the tech sector.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

As head of transformation for disruptive cloud tech firm Vapour, I’m responsible for looking at the business at a higher level and piecing together all our departments to achieve true company growth.

The business is almost eight-years-old now and I’ve been here since just after its inception. I’m process-driven and people-orientated, so I’m passionate about making sure we keep playing to our strengths, exploring what we can do even better, and getting our culture and values right so we can drive forward collaboratively.

2. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Definitely not! I originally wanted to be a midwife when I left school. Thankfully, I can look back and say things have really worked out for me and I’m proud of the role I play now.

I’ve spent 20 years in the telecoms tech sector and once I was learning the trade, I soon felt like I was contributing to something. In terms of Vapour, I could see its vision when I joined, and I wanted to make my mark and build an exciting career for myself with a progressive company.

3. Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

It’s probably more of a personal one, but I can be quite harsh on myself. For example, I can make ten decisions in a day, nine of which are successful but for that one that perhaps didn’t go quite according to plan, I’ll dwell on it. I have to tell myself that nobody has all the answers, and as long as my decision was considered and well-intended, I can learn from it.

4. What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Moving from operations manager to head of operations and compliance was a defining moment. It was a huge shift in mindset because I was responsible for an entire department. It also led to one of my biggest successes to date – completing a scale up programme, in association with Barclays Bank and Cambridge Judge Business School, alongside Vapour CEO Tim Mercer and sales manager, Alec Stephens.

5. What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Finding a role that’s not ‘just a job’ and instead something I can add value to. I’m a big advocate for taking on a role that feels ‘right’ and being part of a company that shares the same vision, and invests in its employees. Thankfully, that’s what I’ve got with Vapour. 

6. What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Technology is forever changing so it’s important to be agile to stay ahead of the curve and provide customers with the support they need – which constantly evolves. Having a flexible approach when offering solutions is so important in this sector, alongside not being afraid to take on fresh challenges and being calm under pressure.

7. Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I do feel there are obstacles. Fortunately, I’ve never felt this but I’m well aware that females in our sector have experienced difficulties when it comes to breaking through. The numbers speak for themselves in terms of how many men are in technology compared to women, so this has to change.

When it comes to career guidance, are girls provided with the information they need to truly engage with the prospect of enjoying a career in tech? We have a responsibility to support this via jargon-free explanations as to what it means to work in digital, underline the vast benefits and really get across the impact that employees make. 

8. What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Exploring apprenticeships or accelerator programmes could be great places to start for companies. We also offer job visits to try and spark interest in people progressing a career in technology.

It’s about providing ways to help attract a wider talent pool and that’s where culture comes into play. If an organisation is committed to building an environment that’s forward-thinking and inclusive, it’s more likely to get a greater level of diverse applicants when its next job vacancy comes around.

9. There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Role models and strong influences that young girls and women can look up to are so vital. We’re seeing more females on boards and in director roles now which will definitely help. It needs to continue though, and we all have a part to play in this.

10. What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Well, of course WeAreTechWomen’s resources are fantastic! I’d also recommend Disruptive.Live for in-depth interviews and Technology Reseller is a really engaging publication. Let’s not forget the ‘Between the Eyes’ podcast either that’s hosted by Tim [Mercer]. He invites guests to talk on his show about everything from business development to wellbeing.

This month, it’s Becky’s turn in the spotlight. Our new recruit holds a plethora of experience within the industry and is a customer service champion – who knew how influential her memories of using dial-up would be.

Becky, your time starts now…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

I started in cyber security around eight years ago as a telemarketer. From there, I’ve worked through the ranks – including presales and sales support, internal account management, account management and customer relationship management.

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

Using dial-up to create websites on my mum’s massive computer and hearing the synonymous noise when someone tried to use the phone!

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

Communication is key. Also, keeping up with ever-changing solutions is so important – doing your homework is crucial in the tech industry.

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

Definitely the industry jargon!

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

It’s an exciting company that knows what it’s doing, and is keen to bring new solutions to the market. 

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is... my iPhone – I couldn’t live without it!

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a Smart TV.

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

The biggest misconception in the channel is that... you have to be a ‘techy’ to work in the industry – when in reality it’s not like that at all!

By the end of 2021, our tech will have made organisations far more... secure & up to date.

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.

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