It’s no secret that the global tech sector is advancing at an astonishingly rapid pace – not least in relation to the now integral role of digital transformation in spearheading growth and success. But no matter the size or scope or your organisation – or how sophisticated your innovation strategy is – the only way to drive significant change is to leverage the power of people.

So, to champion some of the industry’s finest talent, and gain insight into the minds of individuals from across the tech space, we’re inviting friends and partners of the business to take part in our quickfire Q&A.

This month, Sharon Annat, data analyst at leading shredder manufacturer UNTHA UK, takes centre stage…

Tell us about your role at UNTHA UK and the part you play in the tech sector:

My role is all things data. With a powerful software engine, Microsoft Dynamics 365, bringing increasingly more agility and efficiency to our specialist shredding operations, it’s my job to make sense of the data behind it. By providing dashboards, reports, and visualisations, our department leads and directors can proactively monitor daily, monthly, and annual activity to make data-driven decisions. These actionable insights are a critical source for us to cleanse data, further streamline processes, and optimise performance. 

What innovation was the turning point for your organisation, to get it to where you are now?

In the first instance, the introduction of Dynamics 365 in 2016 — the platform that leveraged our digital transformation. We were ahead of our time for an organisation of our size, which saw us garner acclaim in Digital Enterprise’s Top 100 three years running, including special recognition as one of ten Leading Lights in 2022. Then, the integration of Power BI empowered us with increased structure and visibility to enhance business intelligence.

And where’s next for your business?

At UNTHA, we pride ourselves on continual improvement, and this applies to our digital platform too. Bringing our remaining segregated processes under the Dynamics umbrella will enable us to further develop and strengthen our data analysis through Power BI. 

Finish the sentence: The biggest misconception faced by the tech sector is…

There are a number. However, the industry is always changing.  In line with International Women’s Day, I’d say one is that tech roles are male dominated. While the statistics support this notion as a whole, there is a growing number of women in tech roles today — many in leadership positions, driving companies forward.  As a mum to a daughter embarking on her own career journey, these amazing role models are essential for the next generation of young women, who are just starting out and forging their path. 

What do you think will be the biggest tech trend over the next 12 months?

The development of the data-driven business is upon us. Organisations are realising the value in their business intelligence to propel their company forward securely and effectively.  

Of course, AI is likely to play a key role in the coming months and years. However, as a mature analyst, I hope we don’t eliminate the satisfaction we experience from manually developing data, and never overlook the results humans can achieve with the support of innovative tech.  Automation that aids what we do is a positive benefit, role replacement is not. 

What top tip would you give to an individual trying to excel in their tech career?

If you’re embarking on years of study, choose a topic as broad as you can to allow you to diversify. What suits you now, may not in the future, so it’s great to have the ability to dip into other areas of specialism or branch out. Once you’ve found your niche, learn as much as you can and stay up to date with developments.

And, if the role is data related, KNOW YOUR DATA. It’s imperative that you have an understanding of your organisation’s and/or customer’s data before embarking on any development work. You have to be able to identify any rogue raw intelligence that doesn't have a place in your analysis. It’s all in the prep!

The next purchase on your personal tech wish list is…?

I’m not a huge techie, although a new camera would be very nice. Outside of work, I love the simple things in life — the great outdoors and fresh air. I think it’s important we nurture that balance in our lives, not least in a world so focused on tech and ‘the next big thing’.

And what is the earliest memory you have of tech in your life?

I think it was an Amstrad GX400 video game console. It’s the one with the little green square, that you hit against a wall like a game of squash. I’m showing my age now!

What is one long standing piece of tech that you are shocked is still used today?

Crikey, fax machines. 

If you are without the internet for an hour, what would be the first activity you resort to, to pass the time?

I’d do what I do now, and read. The feel and smell of a physical book is something you can’t get from a digital version, and it’s an immersive experience that I love. I have a very well stocked bookshelf.

Want more where this came from? Read our Q&A with Richard May, CEO of virtualDCS.

It’s no secret that the global tech sector is advancing at an astonishingly rapid pace – not least in relation to the now integral role of digital transformation in spearheading growth and success. But no matter the size or scope or your organisation – or how sophisticated your innovation strategy is – the only way to drive significant change is to leverage the power of people.

So, to champion some of the industry’s finest talent, and gain insight into the minds of individuals from across the tech space, we’re inviting friends and partners of the business to take part in our quickfire Q&A.

Up next, it’s Ben Thomas, director Of sales and marketing at Flomatik...

Tell us about your role at Flomatik and the part you play in the tech sector:

As the director of sales and marketing, I oversee a number of pivotal aspects of our business within the UK. 

Since our inception in 2007, where we were established to support ntl: (now Virgin Media) in substantial network projects, we’ve evolved into a market-leading full-service design and engineering provider. More than just a design and survey house, we offer a comprehensive suite of fibre services, aiding the progress of alt-nets, communication service providers (CSPs), and network investors across the UK.

What innovation was the turning point for your organisation, to get it to where you are now?

A transformative moment for Flomatik was the introduction of the Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) solution, focusing on design and survey capabilities integrated into the BT network. Our in-house innovation utilising QGIS was another significant milestone. This empowered us to train our personnel and seamlessly integrate with the tool, resulting in a more efficient software stack that removes impediments to transactions.

And where’s next for your business?

Looking ahead, Flomatik’s circular economy approach is really gearing up for 2024, emphasising the recycling and re-use of redundant infrastructure. Rather than leaving equipment idle or disposing of it, we're dedicated to sustainable practices, aligning with the broader industry trend of environmental responsibility.

The biggest misconception faced by the telecoms sector is…

Consumers' understanding of their current broadband setup and usage. Many believe they are already on fibre so can be reluctant to change — which isn’t helped by the constant influx of jargon. Providing clear, accessible information and maintaining dialogue throughout every corner of the industry is therefore key to driving progress.

What do you think will be the biggest tech trend over the next 12 months?

I foresee significant strides in home technology, particularly in improving connectivity with WiFi 6/7 and turning unreliable infrastructure on its head. Simultaneously, a growing need for more efficient power utilisation for all devices will emerge, aligning with the broader sustainability focus, especially in the face of increased demand driven by electric vehicles (EVs) that need greater — and more sustainable — capacity from the grid.

What top tip would you give to an individual trying to excel in their tech/telecoms career?

The ability to understand and meet customer needs is paramount. It doesn't matter what tech you’re interested in, you need to focus on what customers want if they’re ever going to invest in it. Or, do what Apple did and create something that nobody knew they needed in the first place.

The next purchase on your personal tech wishlist is…?

An app that means I don’t need to maintain multiple passwords. It’s a simple one, but something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. 

And what is the earliest memory you have of tech in your life?

I vividly recall the Motorola battery phone — my first company phone that was, at the time, a cutting-edge device. Despite its novelty, the call charges were exorbitant, and looking back, it was nothing but a giant brick! It marks a memorable era in the evolution of mobile technology.

What is one longstanding piece of tech that you are shocked is still used today?

I’m amazed that the landline has survived. What’s more, I can’t believe some CSPs still charge for landline services! To me (and most people), they’re near enough redundant with the strides technology has taken in recent years. There are so many cheaper and more reliable options out there now.

If you are without the internet for an hour, what would be the first activity you resort to, to pass the time?

My go-to activity would be a run, but any exercise would suit me. Beyond being a good routine and great for physical health, the mental wellbeing benefits really stack up. Studies have even shown that resistance training can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in women.

It’s no secret that the global tech sector is advancing at an astonishingly rapid pace – not least in relation to the now integral role of digital transformation in spearheading growth and success. But no matter the size or scope of your organisation – or how sophisticated your innovation strategy is – the only way to drive significant change is to leverage the power of people.

So, to champion some of the industry’s finest talent, and gain some insight into the minds of individuals from across the tech space, we’re inviting friends and partners of the business to take part in our quickfire Q&A.

Up next, it’s Nick Halliday, CEO at IDS Group

Tell us about your role at IDS and the part you play in the tech sector.

At IDS, we help provide stability and reliability in technology systems, using various methodology and approaches to ensure systems can scale and become more complex and integrated over time. 

As a CEO and business owner, I play a central role in leading our organisation through its next exciting chapter — whatever product, service, collaboration, or technical partnership we may be in at that time. It’s not just about motivating and engaging internal teams either — it’s just as important to enthuse all clients and stakeholders to come on innovative journeys with us.

What innovation was the turning point for your organisation, to get it to where you are now?

It’s more of a slow build to success rather than a sudden turning point, but we found we were particularly good at inventing, innovating, and designing new Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products. Our tech-agnostic approach means we see our clients’ challenges from every perspective, and deliver solutions based on their specific needs. We can be brought in at any stage to help strengthen applications, maximise investments, and more.

And where’s next for your business?

More growth, both organically and through potential acquisition. We’re really happy with the clients we have and want to expand with them — strengthening our business even further, internally, will enable us to support their growth too. 

The biggest misconception faced by the tech sector is…

That you can have ’fast’, ‘cheap’ and ‘good’ all in the same offering, without some sort of compromise. Rarely is that ever the case. If it is, alarm bells should be ringing!

What do you think will be the biggest tech trend over the next 12 months?

People are looking for more and more monitoring, for enhanced efficiency and protection — including software tools/apps, better connections (IoT), more intelligence (AI), or better processes and systems to record events accurately (golden thread).

What top tip would you give to an individual trying to excel in their tech career?

Learn the basics in a split fashion — for example, gain ‘hands on’ experience in traditional software, and then apply it to emerging technologies. 

The next purchase on my personal tech wish list is…?

A small two-seater plane called an ICON Aircraft, that can land on water. It’s simple, lightweight, and, better still, costs less to buy and run than a supercar and only needs 20 hours training. What could go wrong ☺?

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

Being told by the newspaper industry that I needed to research what the internet could do to content — they were worried it was going to ruin the newspaper industry forever. Look how far we’ve come!

What is one longstanding piece of tech you are shocked is still used today?

A traditional TomTom sat-nav — and (I think) my mum still has one. With Google Maps and other in-built smartphone apps that easily route plan, I’d have thought they’d be redundant by now.

Finally, if you are without the internet for an hour, what would be the first activity you resort to, to pass the time?

Pen and paper. My notebook still has my more meandering thoughts.  So I would read through, plan, think and find more time to develop whatever I have scribbled down in there. 

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