It’s our newest recruit, Holly’s turn in the spotlight this month. Here, she delves deeper into her career trajectory to date, passion for gaming, and hopes for the future of the tech industry.

How did you first get into the world of tech?

I had been looking for a career change from hospitality after completing a master’s degree in business management and marketing. I knew I wanted to work in the technology sector, as I find the culture to be extremely collaborative and empowering – a world away from the stuffy traditions and hierarchy that I was used to.

I contacted a sales recruitment company that supports eager post-graduates to find the perfect placement, and they put me forward for a whole host of opportunities – including Vapour. As soon as I got talking to Tim and Carol, I knew Vapour was the organisation I wanted to work for!

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

I grew up around Windows 95 and 97, playing old MS-DOS floppy disks on a PC weighing almost as much as me! My Dad taught me a lot about how to get into the nitty gritty of these machines, and as soon as broadband took off when I was around 10 years old, I was hooked.

Now, when my parents have issues with their own laptops, they pass them to me in the hope I can get them up and running again. I should start charging them for the service really!

I’m also quite an avid gamer – indulging sometimes for whole weekends at a time.

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

I love building relationships, and believe that you work for people – not for organisations. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to meet such a great team of individuals, each an expert at what they do.

This position really is perfect for me. The combination of ongoing learning opportunities, coupled with the ability to chat to and meet inspiring people every day, is what makes me feel so fulfilled.

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

There are already great changes in the fabric of the tech workforce – with national and local organisations like ‘girls who code’ and ‘Northcoders’ getting females interested in IT and helping women to break into the tech sector.

A bigger variety of tech modules should be taught in both primary and secondary education, with areas such as coding being a separate subject and available at an earlier age. It is so integral to the way we live now, that education in the UK really needs to get a move on and catch up!

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

Vapour has the expertise to deliver what we do to the highest standard, always giving the best advice to clients and developing honest and sustainable relationships. We are innovative with the tools that we have, continuously finding solutions to meet such a wide variety of needs.

The way in which the team works together is also recognised by our clients, with our culture embedded throughout customer journeys as well as our own operations.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is...

entertainment on demand. It has completely disrupted and redesigned the way we consume media – giving power back to the consumer, providing such a rich variety of content, and allowing alternative creators to make a living from doing something they love.

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

a top-of-the-line gaming PC!

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

I have to agree with my colleague Sam on this one, and say Tesla.

The stirring disruption to an industry, that was so unsustainable just a few years ago, has been exciting to watch. Musk’s unabashed promotion of freedom of information will no doubt continue to ruffle feathers.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that...

tech solutions are always complicated and can only be understood by a select few.

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

connected, collaborative, and resilient. As seen over the last couple of years in particular, flexibility and future-proofing need to remain at the top of every business agenda to stay ahead of the curve.

Our head of transformation and operations, Carol McGrotty, makes up part of the 19% of women who work in the tech sector.

This month, she shared her thoughts with TechBlast on what it means to have a career in a typically male-dominated industry, insights into her own experiences throughout her 20-year tenure, and why females mustn’t underestimate their worth.

If you didn’t catch the write-up, now’s your chance…

‘I’m great at my job – and I’m not ashamed to admit it’

Carol McGrotty makes up part of the 19% of women who work in the tech sector, and says females mustn’t underestimate their worth.

I’m great at what I do – and I can confidently write that down.

I’m not boastful or arrogant, but I didn’t want to say, ‘my name is Carol and I have imposter syndrome’.

Estimates vary, but it’s thought that women account for between 19-26 per cent of the tech sector. Straight away, it means we’re a minority group – so it’s really important we don’t fall into the trap of underestimating our values and skills.

By way of background, I’m in charge of digital transformation and operations at a Yorkshire-based tech firm called Vapour Cloud.

I have a rich portfolio of experience which is continually expanding, a comprehensive network of industry connections, plus I’m incredibly tenacious and passionate. The fact Vapour sought me out directly to join the business in 2013 is testament to my expertise.

Yet, imposter syndrome has long been a struggle I’ve had to manage – and that’s something I see time and again in other successful women, particularly when speaking in public.

In such a male-dominated industry, it can be difficult not to buy into the messages circulated by others, and the need to constantly remind myself of the value I’m bringing to the table becomes tiring at the best of times.

In my case, I joined the tech sector in 2000, swapping my career in insurance to help deliver projects to enterprise and public sector customers, whilst also contributing to process improvement workstreams and breakthrough product launches.

With a strong network of female leaders around me from the outset, my own drive and curiosity quickly translated into a desire to follow in the footsteps of my own mentors and empower a similar culture of inclusivity as my trajectory developed.

But while I’ve undoubtedly had an easier ride than most as a woman in the tech realm, many doubts have still managed to cast a shadow on my success.

Luckily, I can’t recall any direct examples of misogyny, but walking into a professional event as the only woman in the room naturally induces immense pressures to prove my worth – without coming across as ‘too much’, ‘challenging’, or being seen as a ‘diversity hire’.

For a movement that was created to address the lack of female representation throughout the industry, I fear that ‘women in tech’ can actually sometimes play into many of the shallow debates and preconceived ideas about gender.

But in the split-second of struggle, I remind myself just how necessary it is the bang the drum for all forms of equality and diversity in our space.

By nature, interacting with a more diverse team forces individuals to consider viewpoints beyond their own – and often, women maintain a ‘softer’ skillset that affords a crucial element of control and rationality.

The trouble is, such excellence is seen as so much of a pre-requisite for women, that it is undervalued, whereas it can feel that men are often considered to be exceptional in their role if they master the art of communication, for example.

In such a fast-paced industry, built on the need for constant innovation, women’s innate ability to ‘put the brakes on’ and look at the wider picture – accounting for everything from feasibility and longevity, to external viewpoints and impacts on ESG factors – is key. Your tech strategy shouldn’t just be based on ROI, after all.

It goes without saying that mentorship from female leads will continue to play a significant role in closing the gender gap, but more importantly, it’s about facilitating a career path with ample progression opportunities – with education on what this might look like being the starting point to incite and inspire change.

In a generation so involved in tech, such a limited number understand what a career in the industry actually means – with visions of laptops and IT hacks dominating the perspectives of our younger generations.

Allowing college students to spend time with engineers and experience different departments to expand prospects and ignite passions they might not have previously had continues to be a major driver in broadening horizons.

Careers in beauty and cosmetics, nursing and midwifery, and teaching, are all options – just as they are for young male students. And only by facilitating these ideas can we achieve the dream of complete gender parity in any and all industries.

Organisations need to take a leaf out of Girlguiding UK’s book. In a bid to involve more girls in technology – after research found more than half (52%) of girls and women between the ages of 11 and 21 believed that STEM was for boys – a whole host of new activities have been introduced to the curriculum. New additions will see Rainbows embark on an app-related course, Brownies learn coding, and Guides delve deeper into the world of chatbots.

With such initiatives, we can break gender biases from an early age and empower girls – and boys – to think about their interests, and eventually career prospects, with a more open mind.

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.

At the beginning of 2021, the rebrand and repositioning of Vapour marked a significant turning point in the nearly nine-year journey of our company. Fast forward to 2022, and the investment is still proving to be as crucial as ever in helping us dominate the conversation in a crowded sector.

But for head of transformation, Carol McGrotty, it’s people that play the most crucial role in branding transformation success. In an exclusive webinar hosted by legal professionals, Mills & Reeve, on February 9th, she delved deeper into driving innovation at Vapour through brand and highlighted the importance of employee buy-in…

Although the decision to embark on a digital transformation project can be driven by a whole host of challenges – from rapid growth and emergence into new sectors, to a pivotal change in business perspective – it’s often the people behind the organisation who act as a catalyst for change.

Only by undertaking an honest review of a brand’s current positioning and identifying a need for transformation, can real evolution take place – innovating just for innovation’s sake will not only burn a hole in your time and resources, but it will also result in a ‘paint job’ finish that makes no commercial and/or cultural difference.

For Vapour – and any other business – this is no overnight process. Prepare well and give the project the time and attention it deserves – rather than treating it as a sideline objective – and company leaders will soon reap the benefits of streamlined operations, enhanced company culture and improved bottom line.

For Vapour’s own strategic roll out, we devised a ‘365-day plan’ which was broken down into three smaller, more manageable stages, to enable us to analyse every facet of the brand’s evolution and maintain momentum from start to finish.

Customers also play a pivotal role in driving transformation, particularly when it comes to such jargon-filled, technical industries. Not only did we want our rebrand to demystify cloud technology and restore that ‘human touch’ we set out with, we also wanted our reputation to extend beyond our ‘toolkit’ to showcase our team, and help attract and retain the best talent.

Therefore, gathering insight from our colleagues and customers on wider perceptions of Vapour was an essential part of the process – unveiling a concerted recognition of passion and talent, while addressing an apparent confusion over visual branding and restrictive product names. Putting the customer at the forefront of our ambitions meant we could also preserve the longevity of our digital transformation and bolster our sense of authenticity by giving them a stake in mapping out our future.

But a considered approach to driving innovation doesn’t just involve the rigour of senior level employees and customer insight – every colleague with a passion for the idea is able to tell the story upon launch. Think of them as your business’ most important ambassadors, and encourage them not only to embrace this new chapter, but to openly share their ideas to help spearhead further innovation.

To hear more of Carol’s expert advice, and to catch up on commentary from other industry peers, watch the webinar in full, here.

Vapour’s head of transformation and operations, Carol McGrotty, will take to the ‘virtual stage’ next month, when she participates in a straight-talking webinar about the topic of brand in tech.

Organised by the team at legal specialist Mills & Reeve, the sixty-minute online event seeks to delve into the fundamentals of building a successful brand and protecting it – not least to mitigate the risks of imitation.

With over 20 years’ experience in the tech industry, Carol will share her own perspective on the rebrand of Vapour – which not only gave the company a fresh visual identity, but further served as a mechanism to completely reposition the brand in a crowded space – and speak on the role of authenticity in personal branding.

Also joining Carol on the webinar will be Lesley Gulliver, managing director at The Engine Room – the strategic brand consultancy responsible for taking Vapour on this journey last year.

Head of intellectual property litigation at Mills & Reeve, Claire O’Brien, completes the line-up of panellists. She will share her expertise on intangible business assets, as well as how to safeguard them to protect long-term viability and set your organisation apart from competitors.

Commenting on the opportunity to be involved in the webinar, Carol said: “There are so many difficulties for women trying to emerge into the tech industry – I think it’s crucial to offer guidance and be unapologetically visible to show that it doesn’t have to be male-dominated. Breaking past the struggle of ‘imposter syndrome’ can be a challenge, but owning your expertise is just the first step to enhancing your personal brand and differentiating you from the crowd.”

To register for this free webinar, taking place on Wednesday 9th February at 10am, sign up here.

The second quarter of 2021 has flown by quicker than the first, and so much has happened here at Vapour, including some new appointments and an office move over to Lindley in the heart of Huddersfield. Let’s look back at our media highlights from the last three months – click the links throughout to enjoy our coverage.

The launch of our Technology as a Service offering

In June, we launched our TaaS offering, supporting customers with the consistent delivery of high-performance technology, applications, and endpoint security, with proactive device imaging for a seamless user experience. Not only that, but with environmental pressures mounting, we predict the compliant handling of redundant kit will prove particularly popular. With hybrid working set to continue, these solutions can be tailored to customers’ individual requirements with an affordable fixed price per user, which makes a really exciting and flexible service.

Vapour continues to grow with 5 new recruits

Over the last few months, we’ve had some fabulous people join our straight-talking Yorkshire tech team. Our ‘Five key recruits’ announcement was picked up across the press as we continue to progress towards our £7m growth targets. We’re as known for our team as we are for our toolkit, so these five hires have been made at pace, but with extreme precision, as we work hard to hand-select talented individuals. Read the full story over at UK Tech News.

Kicking off fundraising initiatives for Borne

We’ve set our sights on our boldest fundraising target yet, aiming to raise a staggering £23,000 for the charity committed to preventing premature birth – Borne. One of the first fundraising quests comes from CEO Tim Mercer, who has pledged to donate up to 24 days of his time to deliver digital transformation sessions for organisations large and small. We have a whole year to raise money for this fantastic charity, so be sure to follow our journey.

Inspiring women in tech

Our head of transformation, Carol McGrotty, was recently interviewed by WeAreTechWomen as part of an inspirational feature which shared insight into her career in the sector, key advice for her peers, and her go to resources for support information. For Carol, it’s about providing ways to help attract a wider talent pool, and that’s where culture comes into play. You can catch up on the piece, here.

Make sure you stay tuned for more news from Vapour HQ.

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, our green-fingered finance manager Jill steps into the employee spotlight. She began her career in banking back in 1980, when she saw the opening of London’s first skyscraper, but her role with Vapour means she now calls Yorkshire ‘home’.

With a passion for helping things grow – whether on her allotment or within the four walls of Vapour’s HQ – she’s a self-confessed ‘non techy’ with a firm eye on our future…

How did you first get into the world of tech?

As an Ops Manager for the University of Manchester Incubator Company (UMIC), as it was known then.  I looked after start-up spin out and spin in tenants.

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

Mid 80s during my banking career – IBM screens with green digit data! But I can also remember my first ‘laptop’ as a mortgage adviser – we wheeled them around on trolleys!

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

An absolute focus on the client – both in terms of what they need as a tailored package of services for their business, and how we can grow the relationship.

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

I’m not personally a ‘techy’, so from a user point of view, understanding all the acronyms!

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

We concentrate on the client!

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is… the smartphone.

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a smartphone with upgraded camera.

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...  delivering unified comms is simple.  I am really in awe of my techy colleagues!

By the end of 2020, our tech will have made organisations far more... green. It’s been an extremely challenging year for the business community and we’re only half-way through. But there are some unexpected pleasant surprises to come from lockdown too. For example, it has proven we can all be greener!

Many traditional and somewhat archaic working patterns – including travel to the office and meetings – have changed dramatically, and I see this being the ‘new normal’ now. Organisations are collaborating differently, which has improved the work-life balance for many, and the environment has benefitted too.  Vapour can help make this continue, with powerful tech that keeps people securely connected with colleagues and customers, wherever they may be.

It’s Carol McGrotty’s turn in the spotlight this month – find out what Vapour’s head of operations and compliance would change about the tech sector, why she couldn’t live without her Sat Nav and her thoughts on embracing female talent in the sector…

How did you first get into the world of tech? 

It was fate that led me to a secondment role in January 2000 with NTL (now Virgin Media Business). I stayed there for 12 years and then the opportunity with Vapour Cloud came along.

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

I’m not sure that this technology really changed the world, but when we got an electric typewriter in the house, we definitely thought we had moved with the times!

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

Innovation.  At Vapour we are always curious – and looking for new ways to surprise and delight – as well as finding even better methods of doing things.

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

When it comes to embracing female talent in technical roles, there is still a way to go. The key for future generations is encouragement at both school and apprentice level.

Why do you think Vapour stands out in the channel?

We have a reputation for working closely – and becoming entwined – with our partners’ sales and marketing teams, which leads to great success rates. We also offer key tools, systems and workshops to third parties – making us different.

Complete the sentences:

The best piece of tech ever invented is...  the Sat Nav. I’d be lost without mine – literally!

The next purchase on my (personal) tech wishlist is... a Fitbit Charge 3.

A tech firm that has really stood out for me in the last 12 months is... Spearhead Interactive. Its demonstration of the interactive experiences that virtual reality offers – witnessed at Vapour’s Innovation & Disruption events – was very impressive.

The biggest misconception in the channel is that... the industry should be avoided because it’s challenging. This should be a motivator for workers and not a deterrent – it’s why we are so passionate about what we do!

By the end of 2020, our tech will have made organisations far more... private and secure through cloud-based technology – the Vapour network ensures that customers have excellent end-to-end private connectivity.

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