It’s Amanda Harrison’s turn in the spotlight this month…

Sharing her nostalgia of playing Pac-Man on a retro Atari games console, to creating new gaming memories with her son using virtual reality tech, Amanda shares her hopes of demystifying the complex jargon within the sector to make it more inclusive, and why sometimes it’s all about asking the right questions to ensure your solutions aren’t just ‘off the shelf’ one size fits all.

The floor is yours Amanda – your 60 seconds start now…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

It was a bit of a fluke really it was my first full-time job when I left school. I started in a customer service role discussing billing, services, fault troubleshooting, and general enquiries. I loved working with people and quickly realised I enjoyed learning about the technical side to the role too. I was given the opportunity to go out on site visits with engineering and networks teams so I could see what the job truly entailed – I was even able to help pull out fibre optic cable in the middle of Glasgow City centre! I was hooked from then.

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

Atari games consoles my favourite was Pac-Man, I absolutely loved that game.

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

Adaptability. Tech is ever changing alongside customer needs and expectations. Change is something that you need to be good at handling, and it makes the job so much more exciting.

At Vapour we are always learning about new innovations and developments, constantly looking for better ways to do things and disrupting the status quo.

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

Jargon, there is way too much of it. It can sometimes make it hard to break down the barriers for people to adopt new technology. If it was made simpler – so that everyone could understand – everyone could benefit.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

We have years of knowledge and experience in the technology industry, and we are passionate about what we do. We’re a great team that loves to get under the skin of our customers, to ensure we can support them in the best way possible. And our services have gone far beyond the conventional voice and data solutions you typically see in the industry.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is...

Satellite navigation, as it means I never have to worry about getting lost or trying to read a printout of AA route finder on a long car journey! It’s made travelling so much more direct and straightforward.

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

A virtual reality headset so that I can start to enjoy gaming with my boy.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that...

You have to order off the shelf. We can tailor solutions to fit various requirements – it’s all about understanding what you want the technology to do. At Vapour we ask the right questions so that we can personalise our offering. That’s when things become really powerful and often effortlessly simple too.

By the end of 2022, our tech will have made organisations far more...

Flexible, with the ability to work anywhere, any time. The pandemic has pushed this technology forward, but many organisations are still not using the cloud to its full potential when it comes to security, agility and conveniency. I’d like to see more of this going forward, as many companies only have a ‘sticking plaster’ at the moment.

He’s the newest face at Vapour’s HQ, and news of his appointment caused quite a stir in the tech industry when we revealed he had become our senior account director. So, we’ve mixed up our regular Q&A this month, so you can discover what all the fuss is about.

Glenn Ollivant, it’s over to you…

What’s your biggest achievement to date?

In a work capacity, it has to be securing one of TalkTalk’s largest single converged international network deals for data and voice services.

In a personal sense, I’m a very proud father of three amazing girls – Betsy (11), Imelda (9), and Nell (7). Kids keep you young, tired and poor – but it’s all worth it!

Name one thing people might not know about you

I did plenty of travelling during my 20s and had some crazy jobs along the way – one was plucking chickens! Even some of my closest friends don’t know that.

Tell us a fact about yourself that might surprise people

I’ve been a governor at our children’s school before – that always makes my friends laugh because they can’t picture me in that setting. I did that for three years before work and travel made it hard to fully commit to, but I’m still very active with school particularly their team sports.

Describe what you get up to on a typical weekend

There isn’t really any let up for us at the weekend – those days went years ago! I coach Betsy and Imelda’s football team so we’re either playing or training early, then we’re off to some other sort of class or child social engagement. I always make time for a Friday night pint though to decompress with the family. And Sundays are all about doing something together – often a walk, food, then a good film to finish off the weekend.

What’s the best piece of tech you’ve ever owned?

It’s got to be the first-generation iPods – downloading all that music (legally) blew my mind at the time! It’s crazy where we’ve got to now, across all brands, tech and devices though.

What sparked your interest in working in the tech sector?

It would be very crude to say money, but I genuinely wanted a better job, career options and lifestyle. It seemed a fast paced and cool place to work compared to where I came from – selling stainless steel! They’re chalk and cheese!

It was the best decision I ever made – it’s been both incredibly challenging and rewarding in equal measure. And now I’ve come full circle, working for the chap that gave me that first shot!

You receive an email from your dream client… who would it be and why?

I’m a big sport nut and sport documentary fan, and I’m particularly obsessed with Michael Jordan. Throughout my life I’ve had a 23 jersey and pair of Jordans, but after watching “The Last Dance” on Netflix I became even more obsessed. Just everything about him strikes a note that hard work really pays off – I really admire the way he trained and demanded so much of his teammates. He would have some great stories to tell, I’m sure – particularly about Rodman. Hopefully, he’d need a bit of disruptive cloud tech too!

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?

If it’s a movie about my life we’ve got to get the accent right, so being a proud northerner I’m going to say Sean Bean. I’d like to say Daniel Craig but I’m not sure he’d nail the twang!

If you were in charge of Vapour for the day, what would be your number one rule/objective/goal?

Ensure we deliver on the expectations we set our clients and partners. If we don’t look after them at every single touch point someone else will, and we could potentially lose them forever.

Describe your job/company to an alien

Assuming they understand my fairly broad Yorkshire accent I’d say very fast paced, disruptive, and genuinely keen to make our technology uncomplicated, so that we remain easy to deal with.

Every year, Vapour pledges to fundraise for a worthy cause. So, for the next 12 months, the company will dig deep for the charity committed to preventing premature birth – Borne.

And all sights are set on the boldest target yet – a staggering £23,000!

From sponsored treks to corporate auctions, the team will leave no stone unturned on the mission to fill the coffers. In fact, a jam-packed agenda of activities will be revealed as the weeks unfold, with something for every single colleague to get involved in.

“Ever since the company was founded, we’ve been determined to exist for far more than commercial gain,” explains CEO Tim Mercer. “And over the years, we’ve learnt that giving back isn’t just the right thing to do – it brings us together as a team too.

“That’s why some of our fundraising efforts will centre on pushing ourselves and taking on personal challenges or feats of endurance. At the other end of the scale, we’ve also come up with ideas that are, quite frankly, pretty daft, so we can have fun at the same time as doing something good.”

Reflecting on the reasons for choosing Borne – an organisation dedicated to saving lives, preventing disability, and creating lifelong health for mothers and babies – Tim adds: “Our families are what we seek to protect the most, and with premature birth an ongoing problem that nobody understands, there seemed no better cause.

“It is the leading reason for childhood mortality in the world today. More significant than infection, trauma or cancer, it affects some 15 million babies across the world every year – including nearly 60,000 in the UK. So, we want to do our bit to help stop babies being born too soon. And we hope we can drum up a fair amount of support for our varied efforts.”

Want to donate? Check out our JustGiving fundraising page.

Follow Vapour on social media to watch the team’s fundraising efforts unfold:

Twitter

LinkedIn

Instagram

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.”

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 Salim Ramzan’s turn in the spotlight this month. An Acorn Electron kickstarted his love for gadgets, and now the Computer Science graduate is one of the most technically respected members of our team. Get to know our senior network engineer a little better, as he talks everything from self-discipline to SD-WAN…

How did you first get into the world of tech?
I’ve always been fascinated with technology and gadgets from a young age, so I decided to study Computer Science at university.

And what is your earliest memory of tech in your life?
I can remember using an Acorn Electron games console – it used a cassette to load the game which I recall took forever (if you were lucky!!)

What’s the one quality you need to thrive in this environment (especially at Vapour)?
Be a team player – that involves being proactive, self-disciplined and positive.

And what is the one thing you would change about the tech sector?
There’s not a lot I’d change, to be honest, but I think we’ll continue to see plenty further developments as the sector – and wider business community – recovers from Covid-19.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?
Because we provide diverse and innovative offerings that don’t are far more than gimmicks – they really meet today’s business needs. Cloud, connectivity and voice has been our mainstay since 2013, but our toolkit has now expanded significantly!

Complete the sentences:

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

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

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

The biggest misconception in the channel is that virtualisation is the same thing as cloud computing.

By the end of 2021, our tech will have made organisations… far more secure and geared up for new challenges and opportunities.

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.

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

sign up for latest news
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.