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 Sharon McDermott, founder and managing director at Trenches Law
Tell us about your role at Trenches Law and the part you play in the tech sector.
As well as running the business as founder and managing director, I help to provide Trenches Law’s legal services as a qualified lawyer.
Essentially, we provide legal support for the tech and telecoms sector – drafting terms and conditions and negotiating them against a buyer or supplier, advising on GDPR and the emerging telecoms security bill, navigating contractual risks, plus supporting on any disputes.
We also manage the critical wayleave process for operators, including electricity wayleaves for electric vehicle charging points.
At the minute, we’re playing a key role in supporting operators and altnets who are installing their infrastructure to meet government targets – which stipulate that 85% of premises in the UK must have full fibre broadband by 2025. And our award-winning automation tool is a vital addition to support such needs.
What innovation was the turning point for your organisation, to get it to where you are now?
The automation tool that shook up the market in September 2020.
It interrogates Land Registry and other available databases to create and distribute tens of thousands of wayleaves on a daily basis – which ultimately accelerates clients’ builds.
And where’s next for your business?
There’s a real shortage of surveyors in the market at the moment, which means it’s taking so much longer for operators to be able to provide fibre – that’s where we come in.
We’re currently in the process of setting up a service offering, whereby the end-to-end fibre installation process in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) is undertaken by Trenches Law. This means that not only will we deal with the wayleave, we will also provide a surveyor to the MDUs to undertake a survey and agree the route of the fibre with the freeholder – allowing us to acquire the wayleave more quickly and use less touchpoints.
The biggest misconception faced by the tech sector is…
Number one, is that it’s easy to provide an infrastructure or electronic communications network.
Operators are building their networks and missing private land out – including MDUs – because it’s too difficult to get a wayleave. As a result, there are pockets in the UK where residents won’t be able to access broadband – this needs addressing sooner rather than later. Digital exclusion is a very real and worrying challenge.
Secondly, it’s that contracts don’t matter after they are executed. So many people store legal documents in a drawer never to be looked at again – but you never know when a dispute might arise. It’s so important to read through contracts and get legal advice before they are signed – even if that’s just a high-level, short-term risk review.
What do you think will be the biggest tech trend over the next 12 months?
A lot of mergers and acquisitions in the market – and we’re already starting to see that with the likes of Connexin buying Pure Broadband.
Operators are running out of space where they can build networks due to the increase in competition, so naturally there’s a lot of saturation with altnets at the minute. To overcome this issue, instead of going through guild, operators are joining forces to increase their ‘number of homes passed’ figure and drive higher value for money for investors.
What top tip would you give to an individual trying to excel in their tech career?
This works in so many industries, but as a leader, I’m a firm believer that anyone can achieve anything if they believe in themselves. So, if you wanted to be a lawyer, stick at it because telecoms is such a niche area, and you don’t need to have a traditional educational background to excel if you have the right drive and attitude.
Also, the way you act comes back at you in many ways – I’ve learnt how to do things or not do things from positive and negative people. So, my lifelong mantra has been to support others in any stage of your/their career. The reputation you build is so important and long-lasting.
The next purchase on my personal tech wish list is…?
I’m terrible at technology in my personal life – anything I touch, I break.
Above all, everyone knows how bad I am at charging my phone, so maybe a portable power bank would be a good idea.
And what is your earliest memory of tech in your life?
When I was around 21, I remember getting a tiny little grey phone – which I think came with my first car, for some strange reason.
I used to always see the field guys in my first job walking around the site with these huge mobile phones with massive antennas too – the opposite of mine but a similar memory. How far we’ve come!
What is one longstanding piece of tech you are shocked is still used today?
I’m surprised people still use hard copies of videos and DVDs – when nowadays you can stream anything, from anywhere, at any time.
If you are without the internet for an hour, what would be the first activity you resort to, to pass the time?
I’d go for a walk with my two dogs to the local pub – a Cavapoo and a Cavapoochon. They’re called Will and Luka, after two football players from Crystal Palace football club – my husband and son are big fans!