Vapour’s CEO Tim Mercer was invited to attend the much-talked-about Comms Vision event delivered by Comms Dealer at the beautiful Gleneagles venue in Scotland last month.

Here are his top 10 takeaways from the two-day discussions:

  1. Cyber security was the number one topic of the entire event, I would say. Our lives are becoming increasingly connected and with that comes risk, particularly in the home. IT security should therefore be considered a process, not a product. There isn’t a quick fix, particularly where human error is involved. It was interesting to note that while customer service is something I would hope everyone cares about, it gained only a couple of fleeting mentions – particularly on day one. Let’s not lose sight of why we’re all here!
  1. When it comes to people management, there are a number of issues keeping tech firms awake at night, including diversity, hybrid working, mental health and the cost of living crisis. The biggest concern from the last 12 months, however, has been recruitment. Businesses therefore need to think carefully about how they attract and retain top talent moving into 2023 and beyond, and how the attitudes and behaviour of colleagues throughout entire organisations can influence whether a company is a great place to work, or not. Culture is undoubtedly key – something panellists repeatedly agreed on. Corporate values can’t just exist to tick a box.
  1. While many people love the flexibility of remote working, it should not be forgotten that for others, it can cause increased anxiety, especially when it comes to holding meetings on platforms such as Microsoft Teams. It’s important to keep talking to colleagues about how they feel. Also, while hybrid working policies may feel to contradict flexibility – the very reason hybrid working is so popular in lots of cases – they can give definition that better sets out the expectations of everyone involved.
  1. While conversation surrounding net zero is mounting – something nobody would dispute – a third of people in the room admitted that they do care about the topic, there are more pressing priorities on their strategic agenda at the moment.
  1. The channel is optimistic about the year ahead, on the whole, with 85% predicting some degree of growth.
  1. The date for BT’s switch off of their 35-year-old network – 2025 – is looming. Porting and provisioning is difficult and time consuming, so the channel must ensure it’s ready. The consensus seemed to be that the Government has to work harder in terms of communicating the change too.
  1. Mobile is taking priority over fixed line connectivity, and while 5G progress has come a long way, with BT aiming for 50% of all coverage by 2028, infrastructure on the whole still requires some work.
  1. There was a fantastic talk about the role of anthropology at the heart of a successful business strategy, with some incredibly interesting insight into why one athletics club in Kingston, Jamaica, produces most of the world’s best sprinters. The conversation centred on the notion that, usually, people – in all walks of life including their careers – reach an acceptable standard then stop trying as hard. Elite performers, on the other hand, have a deliberate practice that makes them continue to succeed when others typically stop – they want it the most. Thank you Rasmus Ankersen, for your brilliant presentation.
  1. We shouldn’t confuse great talent with the right talent needed for a particular role. The story of American football was eye-opening here. Athletes attend camps every year where they are tested on everything from their speed and how high they can jump, through to their IQ. However, the tests don’t delve into the true detail of the person, and arguably, in the middle of a game, when milliseconds matter, IQ and speed become less important. The ability to see and feel the game, and react quickly, is critical, and these star players are quite different.
  1. Thank you also to RPD Development – another brilliant session, this time on the topic of innovation. I found this talk particularly interesting because of the speaker’s backstory – a teenager influencing millions of dollars of R&D design in the robotics industry before he’d even sat his GCSEs (because customers weren’t aware he was still in school!) His session shed a superb light on the role of culture, mindset and internal PR in driving true innovation within organisations.

Vapour’s head of transformation and operations, Carol McGrotty, recently took part in a Q&A session for a feature on women in tech, with PCR magazine. If you missed it, you can read the article in full here...

1. Please could you provide name, job title, company

Carol McGrotty, Head of Transformation & Operations, Vapour

2. What is your professional background and how has this contributed to your current working position?

I joined the tech sector at the start of 2000, following a seven-year period working in insurance.  Initially, this was in a provisioning role delivering projects to enterprise and public sector customers, whilst also contributing to process improvement workstreams and new-to-market product launches. 

Having curiosity, a drive for purposeful transformation and a collaborative approach within the industry are still fundamentals in my position at Vapour today, as much as they were back when I began my tech journey.

3. What are your experiences of being a female tech leader?

For me it has always been a very positive experience, and I often refer to the fact that I am lucky in this regard – on reflection I wonder why this is, as surely it should be the norm for all females in this industry. When I started out in tech I had some very strong, knowledgeable and inspiring female leaders around me – who also then became my mentors.  Having had this grounding from the start of my career in tech has made me feel extremely passionate about being the same to other upcoming females.

4. What challenge have you encountered, if any, being a female in the tech sector?

Not so much of a challenge, but as I attend events, meetings and focus groups, I can often be the only female in the room.  At first, I could have seen this as a challenge – coupled with making it clear that you aren’t in attendance simply to take the minutes! But this is where relationship building comes to the fore, as does knowing your topic well, showing passion, listening to other peoples’ view points, and not trying to be someone else. As a female in tech if you’ve earned your right for a seat at the table, then you absolutely should be there.

5. What are your interests and passions in regards to working in the tech channel?

A key part of my role at Vapour is promoting our culture, leading by example on our company values and behaviours, and encouraging and supporting our teams in doing the same – through initiatives, committees, focus groups and sponsors. This aligns to another of my real passions, sustainability – not just at Vapour, but also within the industry as a whole and among our clients, by supporting their digital transformation with sustainable decisions.  Our ESG strategy and execution is paramount.

6. How can the channel drive greater diversity in the sector?

We need diversity in the sector from the floor level to the boardroom, to ensure there are a diverse range of views – this is particularly the case in tech, where innovation plays such a vital role.  Having this as a value and behaviour within the business, shows the support that comes from board level, and the role everyone can play.  By opening up discussions at department meetings, and even having a committee in place to be involved in driving change where needed, it is important to think outside the box to accommodate everyone, and continue to push for diversity and consider all needs.

7. How can the channel look to attract more females into leadership positions in the channel?

There is evidence to show that having females in leadership and board positions can improve performance and attract more female talent into businesses, particularly in roles that would previously have been deemed male-orientated such as engineering. 

Having policies such as split maternity/paternity leave, advertising job salaries to be transparent and ensuring female mentoring programmes are in place, all helps, as well as supporting on leadership and training programmes, and reviewing how job adverts are written (in less masculine language). Our male colleagues can be allies in this too – it is not just a female subject to drive and champion.

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